Listening as Prayer

The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
Deuteronomy 30: 14, 19

Many of us have only known prayer to be a one way conversation. We talk and God listens. But prayer is meant to be a two way conversation. Sometimes we talk. And sometimes we listen.

It is true that the biblical text urges us to pour out our hearts to God. It is true that we are invited to bring all our fears and concerns, all our needs, and all our mixed up feelings to God in prayer.

But we are also invited to listen to God. We are invited to listen for the courage and comfort we need. We are invited to listen for the wisdom and guidance we need. We are invited to listen for the correction we need. We are invited to listen to the Voice of unfailing love.

What an astonishing thing it is that God speaks to us. That God enters into direct, intimate conversation with us.

To hear God well we need to do a few things. First, we need to acknowledge whatever fears we have about hearing what God might say. We might be so convinced that God will shame us or threaten us or ask us to do what we don’t want to do, that we may be afraid to listen. It is helpful to acknowledge these fears to God and to a close friend. It is helpful to begin to pray for the healing of these fears.

It is not necessary, however, to wait until our fears are resolved before we invite God to speak to us. God longs for us to listen to guidance, comfort, correction and love. But God often waits for us to turn, to choose, to invite. Our invitation creates an opening in our hearts and minds to receive whatever it is God has to say.

Having invited God to speak, we can begin to actively listen for God’s voice. Unfortunately, many of us have difficulty listening to other people. And whatever makes it difficult for us to listen to others is likely to also get in the way of our efforts to listen to God. What we will need to do is to gradually put aside our own agendas and enter the world of the Other. This requires us to make space for the Other to speak, quieting our hearts and minds and bodies.

As we sense that we are hearing God’s “still, small voice” we need to do what we can to listen well. When we listen to a friend, we sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret what we have heard. So we check to be clear. And so it is as we listen to the Spirit. We might ask God for confirmation of what we are hearing. And, we might seek the counsel of a trusted spiritual friend.

But listening to God does not require that we go through difficult religious rituals. This text from Deuteronomy reminds us that “the word is very near” us, “it is in our mouth and in our heart.” God’s voice of unfailing love and wisdom is in our heart. May we learn to listen well.

Thank you that you love me.
Teach my heart to trust your love.
Free my heart to respond to your love
with love.
And as I learn to rest in the intimacy
of your love for me
and my growing love for you,
may I learn to listen to your voice.
May I hear whatever you have
to say to me today.
Give me the grace to make space for you to speak.
Give me the grace to receive your words,
your guidance, your wisdom, your correction, your blessing.
May I listen well to your voice today.

Prayer suggestion:

Take some time to acknowledge whatever fears you have about listening to God. Talk to God about these fears, asking God to teach you that God’s voice is the voice of unfailing love. Then, as you are ready, invite God to speak to you about whatever God might want to say to you today. Ask for ears to hear and a heart to receive God’s voice of love. Then sit quietly for ten minutes or more, gently bringing your wandering mind back to God’s loving presence. Continue to listen throughout the day. Write about anything you sense God might be saying to you. Share what you sense with a trusted spiritual friend.