The Spiritual Discipline of Listening
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5
My husband is the kind of person who hops out of bed and gets his day started right away.
I learned pretty quickly if I leave the dishes in the sink from dinner the night before, if I’m just patient and wait it out, he’ll get his “dish fix” on first thing in the morning and we start the day with clean dishes and an empty sink.
I usually have a slower start to my day, but I generally wake up thinking about something.
My favorite way to process is to talk. So he’ll be banging around the dishes (I’m not complaining) and I’ll be trying to talk to him and tell him about whatever I woke up thinking about.
This routine honestly doesn’t really work, because I feel like my sleepy voice isn’t able to compete with the running water and banging pots and pans so I don’t feel heard.
Eventually, when I realize how hard it is to muster up a loud enough voice to compete with the noise, I usually just retreat with my coffee to the living room until the sink isn’t running and the dishes are done and I ask, “can I tell you about something?”
My husband is the greatest and I have zero complaints about him doing the dishes and the amount of noise it usually involves.
But I do want to remind you of that feeling, the feeling of trying to make yourself heard to no avail, have you felt it before?
Maybe it’s your voice competing against screaming babies or noisy city traffic. Maybe it’s talking to a friend across the table whose eyes are glazed over consumed by a text message but you have something really important to say.
Do you know the feeling of fighting for someone else’s attention?
Have you had an experience when you were practically begging someone to listen to you but you just couldn’t compete with the other noise and distractions?
I think we put God in that position every day.
Often, when someone says, “I can’t hear God’s voice,” my first thought is, “you aren’t listening.”
I know that’s really hard to hear, because I’ve been in that position before.
But here’s the thing, we know God is a living and active God. We know He loves us, and therefore of course He wants to speak into our lives. When Jesus left He told us that it would be better if we had His Spirit than if He stayed.
Having His Spirit speak into your life is more powerful and impactful and better for you than if Jesus were physically beside you guiding you and walking with you. I didn’t make that up, it’s straight Bible. (John 16:7)
God is eager and willing to speak to us, in fact, I think He’s often like I am in the morning with my husband.
He isn’t always going to grab our attention by sending lightening bolts down from heaven.
His voice is gentle and soft, and it’s our job to be disciplined in listening for it.
Here are a few simple steps to take to be disciplined in listening:
Put down the distractions
I can’t help but be entirely convinced that God is often speaking to us, but sometimes I wonder if He gets tired of competing with all of the other noise in our lives.
I wonder if we feel like God has abandoned us, when really He’s sitting in the living room with His coffee ready to share insights on our lives and impart wisdom and peace into our spirits.
Maybe, we’re too consumed with distractions to be pursuing a conversational relationship with God.
If you want to hear God’s voice, get focused.
For me personally, I’m always convicted when I think about if someone came and watched me for a week of my life and tallied up all of my activities, what would they think I cared about the most?
I would love to proclaim proudly that it’s always Jesus, but some days it just doesn’t look that way.
We can’t put the Holy Spirit on a schedule and we can’t expect Him to work around the manmade rhythms we’re trying to force Him into.
That’s why making time is so important.
Maybe God will speak to you immediately, or maybe He’ll speak to you in an hour. I don’t know, but I hope you’re patient and disciplined in listening.
Get in the Word
This one is of HUGE importance. I can’t say it enough.
The Bible is living and active. It’s not just any other book. It is God’s primary way to speak to us and if you don’t read it, you are missing out on an opportunity to listen to Him.
It’s difficult to recognize a voice you have never heard before.
The more you know what God sounds like, which is clear throughout the Bible, the more likely you are to recognize His voice when He has something specific and personal to say to you.
Listening takes discipline and it takes practice. I’m assuming you are eager and yearning to hear from God today, but if you aren’t, and you’re wondering why it even matters, here’s the thing...
God is always listening to us.
He set the example and He set the bar high. If we want to be more like Jesus, we have to become better listeners.
He was listening and attentive and He actively pursued opportunities to listen to the Father. We should do the same, even if it takes a sacrifice, even if it feels hard or uncomfortable at first. Because eventually, it will transform us and make us into catalysts for transformation in the world. Amen?
-If an outsider looked in on your day, what or who would they think you listened to the most?
-Do you have a practice of listening to God? If not, how could you start making it a habit?
-Think about what makes your life feel "noisy." How can you shift your focus to God's voice?
Identify one way you could implement the three practices above this week (put down the distractions, make time, and get in the Word).
God thank you for always being attentive to us and for being a God who is eager to listen to us and hear from us. Help us to be a reflection of you, as we seek to listen to you this week. Guide us into practices that will help us to create a habit of listening to your voice. We want to hear from you. Amen.
P.S. Don't forget to subscribe! Did this free weekly devo bless you? Pass it on to a friend or two + spread the word!