Friday, March 26, 2010

Partnering in Prayer - A Lenten Devotion - Day 38 - Listening

Day 38 – Friday
Many persons, ordained or not, live in a fairly constant state of noise, with their unresolved past and the uncertain present breaking in on them. They lack a still center and it is only for such a quiet point that we can listen attentively. When I was in my first parish, which was located in the middle of the city, a constant stream of indigents came through. One came into my office and wanted to tell me his story. I sat is if to listen but was deeply troubled inside over some issue now long forgotten. I remember I was fiddling with a pencil. The young man stopped his story, looked at me and said, “Young Father, the least you can do is listen.” He was right. There was no still center in me.
--From Spirituality for Ministry by Urban T. Holmes III

“Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).”

“God is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him (Habakkuk 2:20).”

If you love someone, you want to listen to them. You want to hear what they have to say. You want to know them in a deep and personal way, and the only way to do that is to listen to them.
All of us know people who talk, talk, talk, and aren’t really interested in listening to the other person in the conversation. They’re very tiresome people, aren’t they? Through their constant talking, what they really communicate is that they are the most important person in the relationship. What they’re really saying is, “I want you to know me, but I am not very interested in knowing you.” When you do get a word edgewise, they are pretty likely to interrupt you with their response, even before you’re finished with what you’re saying. They lack a still center where they’re content to be still and hear what the other person has to say.

How often do we do that to God? Every time we pray and don’t take time to listen, we become that hyper-talkative person. How would it be if we were actually still before God and paid attention to what He had to say?

At our prayer breakfast last Saturday, we talked about the difference between reflexive and reflective listening. A reflexive listener listens with her reflexes. She’s always thinking about what she’s going to say next, in response to the speaker. She’s not really focused on what’s being said. A reflective listener, on the other hand, takes time to reflect on what’s being said. She may even reflect, or repeat, what she thinks she’s heard back to the speaker for clarification. The reflective speaker actually wants to understand.

When you pray, do you take time to listen to God, or do you just say your prayers, say “amen,” and then you’re done? Why are you praying to begin with—to have God know you more? He couldn’t possibly know you more than He already does! You’re praying so that you can know God more. And for that, you’ve got to listen.

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (1Samuel 13:10).”

1 comment:

Joanne said...

Enjoyed your comments on listening! Perhaps you'd appreciate a recent book called "PLEASE LISTEN TO ME! A Christian's Guide to Reflective Listening" by Dick Fetzer. It's an easy-read how-to guide for those who genuinely desire to share the love of Christ with those around them by becoming effective listeners. Find it at or at various online bookstores.