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 always had the impression that prayer was mostly about talking at God…with words. And this process, for reasons I’ve shared during my last few posts, didn’t work that 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.
Meditating on words and phrases from scripture or imagining God can be helpful in listening in listening prayer. Deep breathing, quoting short scriptures, soaking in quiet worship music, or time spent in nature can also be helpful. I'll go into some of these more in upcoming weeks.
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. Sometimes critical and judgmental. Sometimes lenient on sin. 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.
And here's a great book about Listening Prayer for anyone who wants to learn more.