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Friday, July 8, 2011

Shut Up and Listen!

You don't believe because you're not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.  ~ John 10:25-30

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a church where prayer was mostly about talking at God…with words. And this process, for reasons I’ve shared during my last few faith posts, didn’t work out well for me. So I’ve been blogging about different tools to add to our prayer and devotional times to help us better tune into the spiritual world and truly communicate with God.

This week I want to talk about the simple process of listening to God with our inner ears. Considering the fact that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, you’d think we’d want to stop and hear what he has to say. I mean, I could spend hours talking to him about my problems. Maybe that would make me feel better. Probably it would just get me more worked up. Besides, he’s already intimately acquainted with me. So wouldn’t it be better to listen and hear what he wants me to know.

Yet don’t most people spend 90% of their prayer time spouting lists at God, or worse yet, trying to order him around and inform him how he should fix the world. I’m sorry, but this strikes me as a terrible plan.

So why don’t people spend more time being quiet and still and listening to God? Maybe because it can be a little scary. Maybe because we’re afraid we’ll fail. Maybe because it requires a loss of control. But listening to God is the most life-changing kind of prayer there is.

Some of the techniques I’ve shared recently like meditating on words and phrases from scripture or imagining God can be helpful in listening. Deep breathing, quoting short scriptures, soaking in quiet worship music, or time spent in nature can also be helpful.

Perhaps the most helpful tool is journaling. By writing down the thoughts, feelings, and impressions that bubble up from that well deep inside of us, we allow them to flow free. Choose not to analyze, but just to capture it all on paper. Then later you can compare what God has spoken to you with the word of God or share it with a spiritual advisor.

What will God’s voice sound like? Fair enough question.

God rarely speaks in an audible voice. You have to quiet your own thoughts to hear his still quiet voice deep in your heart. And it does tend to feel as if it come from somewhere in your chest. God’s words will often take you by surprise and sound like nothing you could have come up with on your own. There is a sense of “flow.” They will bring peace and comfort. They will sound of authority. Even if they convict, they will do so with love and compassion. They will strengthen you and give you hope. They should always align with scripture and will sometimes even take the form of scripture.

Our own thoughts usually come from somewhere in the vicinity of our head. They tend to be logical and predictable. Most of us are pretty familiar with our own thoughts. They often run in circles and get us nowhere.

Satan’s voice can be the trickiest, but you’ll quickly learn to tell the difference. This voice brings negative emotions: fear, anger, hopelessness, condemnation, bitterness etc… It might sound good on the surface, but you can tell it by the fruit it produces. It accuses and twists the truth. Satan loves to use words like “always” and “never” and work you into a frenzy, the opposite of the peace of God. His words twist in your gut and can feel like they come from that area. Rebuke the devil in the name of Jesus when these thoughts attempt to invade.

Don’t focus on Satan, though. Focus on God. He is the good shepherd and his children know his voice. Spend time with him. Learn to listen to him. Use the tools that best help you to relate to him and hear him speak.

So the next time you pray, remember, stop talking so much and listen already.

What helps you listen to God? How do you identify his voice? Have you ever tried keeping a prayer journal?


  1. I recently heard God speak to me--It was 4th of July and I was leaving the grocery store, on my way to a friend's house when I noticed a Boston Terrier running in circles in the middle of traffic. I stopped the car and checked his collar for tags identifying an owner but found none. Not knowing what to do I got back in my car and drove on, not wanting to be late for "my plans." I prayed, asking God to keep the poor little animal safe, to send someone to take care of him. That's when I "heard a voice" in my chest say, "That's you, Allison." I turned around and got the dog, bringing him to my house. The next day I made contact with the owner through a cool website called Fido Finder. I knew I had made the right decision, that I had listened to God, as soon as I heard the woman's voice overcome with emotion on the other end of the phone. She could barely speak, "Thank God! You have no idea how much he means to me." I knew then that God had convicted me of more than rescuing an animal. "You answered my prayer," the owner said as I handed her her cherished pet and "best friend." I was struck by how busy I get with my idea of what my day should look like, by how quickly I could dismiss what God puts in my path and by how satisfying it is when I actually participates in His plan. I'm enjoying your posts Dina--and I'm on chapter 6 of Dance of the Dandelion and thoroughly enjoying it! You've done a fine job.

  2. What an awesome story, Allison! My daughter and I both have what we call the "dog rescue anointing." It's become a regular gig for us, so watch out :)

    Glad to hear your enjoying the book too.

  3. Allison, your story brought a tear to my eye!

    Dina, I wanted to tell you how encouraged I have been by your prayer posts. Praying is something that I find so hard, often I feel like I'm just talking to the ceiling. Which makes me feel terrible because I think that I'm failing as a Christian :( Using some of the techniques you'd mentioned, especially the one about visualisation, have really helped me. Thank you so much!!

  4. I'm so glad to hear that you're being blessed, Laura Elizabeth. It really makes my day. It's so neat the way God can bring people together like this through the internet :)

  5. Keeping a prayer journal wrought the greatest change in my prayer life. Maybe because writing things out forced me to slow down enough to listen for His response.
    Great post, Dina! I, too, am enjoying this series on prayer!

  6. Thanks, Niki. And I mentioned this on Inkwell, but I don't journal everyday. It's more like a tool in my prayer toolbox for when I need it. I tend to journal when I need direction or I'm feeling confused.

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