PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
“Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.”
After identifying the dissatisfied longings of the human soul for more, God presents an alternative: listen to me.
In other words: I have what you’re looking for.
The promise that follows is compelling. Eat what is good, delight in the richest of fare, listen that you may live. Who wouldn’t want that?
Ironically, there’s much that has been said about hearing God. What’s been said on the topic reveals that our journey of hearing God’s voice is a bit of a mixed bag. God speaks in a variety of ways, through a variety of mediums, to a variety of people. Sometimes his voice is loud. Often it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s clear, and other times we struggle to hear his voice at all.
Leaning into our text today as our guide, I notice a few things.
The translators of most of our Bibles chose to use the word listen. Listening is an active process that involves bringing what is heard via involuntary perception to our attention. We are always hearing, but not always listening.
Take a moment right now and listen. What do you hear?
I hear the whir of my HVAC unit, the patter of rain outside, and the sound of my breath. None of these things began when I listened to them, but listening brought them to my conscious awareness. Listening often brings preexisting realities to our attention.
This reminds me of a ritual a small-group leader of mine once implemented. Every week at the start of our meetings, a member of the group was invited to light a candle as a physical representation of God’s presence with us. This wasn’t about summoning God’s presence, as if he needed to be invited to join the group, but recognizing that God’s presence was already among us. God’s presence is like the oxygen in the air, feeding the flame of the candle. It was our attention, not God’s presence that was ignited.
Certain things have a way of igniting our attention toward the voice of God. We ask God for discernment and direction and listen to what he wants for a particular situation or person. This isn’t a bad thing. Please continue to do so, and start if you don’t already! But if we only listen for God’s voice when we think we need it, I wonder if we might be missing out on all that he has to say.
In his well-known book Hearing God, Dallas Willard says “People who understand and warmly desire to hear God’s voice will want to hear it when life is uneventful just as much as when they are facing trouble or big decisions.”1
Listening in this way values who is speaking just as much, if not more, than what is being said.
This is abiding. This is friendship.
I love the way John Mark Comer describes the goal of listening to God: “Our goal is not to get divine fortune cookies about which way our life will go, but to follow the intimations of our shepherd, wherever he may lead.”2
The question for many of us is not one of desire, but how can I begin to cultivate this type of listening?
Like much of our discipleship journey, the growth process is not formulaic. But, there are a few practices that help to develop a posture that is leaned in, listening for the voice of God, wherever he may be speaking.
Read: Reading the Scriptures not only creates a context for hearing the voice of God, but also fosters familiarity with his voice so that it can be recognized, discerned, and tested if we think we might be hearing it somewhere else.
Reduce: Minimize background noise when doing mindless tasks like housework, running errands, or going on a walk. I typically pair these activities with music, a podcast, or an audiobook, but have discovered a unique receptivity to God’s voice in these spaces when I opt out of extra noise.
Reflect: At the end of each day, ask the simple question: “Did I hear God’s voice speaking to me today?” Whenever I engage in this practice, I am always surprised to discover God was speaking in ways throughout the day that I didn’t register at the moment.
Request: This may be obvious, but ask God to help you! The desire to listen to God in this way comes from the Spirit. We are not alone in our efforts. Spend a few minutes each day in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to help.
Today, let’s ask for this together.
Here I am Lord, I am listening—or rather—I want to listen. Help me, Holy Spirit, to desire to hear your voice when life is uneventful. Ignite my affection for you and my attention toward you. Open my senses to not just perceive your voice, but recognize it. Speak to me through Scripture, prayer, my community, culture, silence, creation, and even my unconscious. Whatever you want to say, wherever you want to say it, I want to listen. Amen.
Inviting the Holy Spirit to guide me, I ask myself these questions:
- What has my experience been listening to the voice of God? Do I have any questions about it? Concerns?
- Reflect on the idea of practicing attentive listening to God not only in times of need but also during uneventful periods. How might cultivating a habit of listening during ordinary moments shape my walk with God?
For the Awakening,
Anna Grace Legband
- Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 258.
- Practicing the Way Prayer Course: Listening to God.
FOR FURTHER READING
How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People by Pete Greig
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard