The Listening Life, Part Three

May 5, 2016Janet Wingard

(this is part three of a three part blog. Go here to begin the series)

We are created to be God-listeners. What is more remarkable to me and even more awesome to consider, is that God listens to us. In fact, He is a God who bows down and listens to us. Ps. 86:1 David prays, “Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help.” In our imagination we can see the Master of the Universe bending his neck so the servant David can speak into His ear. God is a God who listens! Adam McHugh in The Listening Life put it this way, “Listening is not something that becomes necessary for God only after the world is created. Listening is who God is. In God’s very being, communication does not move unilaterally but flows back and forth and around the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The triune nature of God puts listening right at the center of the universe. God is love, and love requires listening.

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we are called to love, and if love requires listening, we need to become God-listeners.

We all know that the best way to get to know another person is by listening to them. The more we listen, the more we know about them. It’s in listening that we gain access to their mind, discover who they are and begin to understand their heart.

And just as this is true with the relationships in our lives---listening to God, is the only way we will truly know Him, too. Yet, in our prayers, we do most of the talking. Listening is an afterthought. Prayer without listening is a one-sided conversation. I imagine if we could sit at the feet of Jesus this morning, we would be far more interested in listening to what He had to say, than monopolizing the conversation.

If God loves us enough to listen; maybe we should love enough to listen, too. And that brings me back to the beginning of my quest. Perhaps praying without ceasing is continually listening. Listening to the whispers of God as I’m reading His Word. Keeping a soft heart, so I don’t develop spiritual deafness; listening to Scriptures so I learn to recognize God’s voice; immersing myself in a listening community; and finding God not just on the mountain tops but in the walking in between. In a world that has fallen from a natural listening relationship with God, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to reopen our ears---for He helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us we know not what to pray (Rom 8:26). The Scriptures also give us examples of God listening to the contrite, the humble, the poor, the sincere…and it seems that God’s ear is inclined towards those who are listeners themselves.

I would contend that prayer without listening is not truly prayer. I took an unscientific survey of our men’s and women’s Bible study groups. The elders were also included when I asked them to describe in a few words What is Prayer? 

From the survey results, most of us have approached prayer the way I did. Thessalonians 5:16-18…not only tells us it is God’s will for us to pray without ceasing. This command is sandwiched between His will for us to rejoice always, and His will for us to give thanks in all circumstances. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I wonder how our relationship with God would be---how He would change us---how much better we would be at loving Him and loving others---if we approached prayer with a listening life. Maybe we should reverse our prayer priority and adopt more of a ratio of 20% praying and 80% listening. Missionary and prayer warrior Andrew Murray said, “Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God’s voice is its most essential part. Listening to God’s voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine.