Praying is Listening
Part of praying is listening to God's voice. I am
astonished at the number of books that are written on the subject of
prayer that make no mention of cultivating the art of active listening.
Prayer is not just talking to God: praying is listening
as well. Prayer has been defined as 'conversation with God'. All polite
conversation is a two-way thing.
It is the same with prayer. We talk to God and He talks
to us. After you have talked to God, then before you rise from your
knees spend a minute or two (more if possible) letting God talk to you.
But how does one cultivate the art of listening to God?
And how do we learn to recognize the voice of God when He speaks to us?
A passage in a book called Creative Prayer by Mrs.
Herman (unfortunately now out of print) places the whole concept of
listening to God in clear focus. I quote the passage in full:
'The alert and courageous soul making its first venture
upon the spiritual life is like a wireless operator on his trial trip
in the Pacific. At the mercy of a myriad electrical whispers the novice
at the receiver does not know what to think.
How fascinating they are, these ghostly piping and
mutterings, delicate scratching and think murmurs - and how confusing!
Now he catches the plaintive mutterings of a P &
0 liner trying to reach a French steamer, now the silvery tinkle from a
Japanese gunboat seeking its shore station.
There are aimless but curiously insistent noises, like
grains of sand tumbling across tar paper: these are the so called
'static' noises of the atmosphere adjusting itself to a state of
Again, there comes a series of tuneless splashing - that
is heat-lightening miles away - followed by the rumor of a thunderstorm
in the opposite direction. Now he thinks he has got his message, but it
is only the murmured greetings of ships that pass in the night.
And then, just as his ear has begun to get adjusted to
the weird babel of crossing sounds, there comes a remote and thrilling
whisper that plucks at his taut nerves and makes him forget all his
newly acquired knowledge.
It is the singing of the spheres, the electrical
turmoil of stars beyond the reach of the telescope, the birth cry and
death wail of worlds. And when he is steeped soul-deep in I he spell of
this song of songs, there comes a squeaking, nervous spark, sharp as
the squeal of a frightened rat.
He decides to ignore it, and then suddenly realizes that
it is calling the name of his own boat. It is the expected message and
he nearly missed it.
In the same way the Christian who waits and listens for
the voice of God must learn to disentangle His voice from the other
voices that clamor for his attention - the ghostly whisperings of the
subconscious, the noise of traffic in the street, the sounds of
children at play.
To learn to keep one's ear true in so subtle a
labyrinth of sound is indeed a venture. It doesn't come easy but the
more we practice it the more we will be able to detect the voice of God
when He speaks to us.
But what does God's voice sound like? An old lady in
Wales told a pastor many years ago that God is Welsh. When asked why
she thought that.
She replied, 'Well, He always speaks to me in that
language!' Naturally God's voice will filter through our personalities
and will come to us in the language or the idiom with which we are most
But it is still God's voice for all that. God's voice is
like the voice of conscience, only richer and more positive. Conscience
merely approves or disapproves, but God's voice does much more. It
informs, instructs, encourages and guides.
It never argues but is quietly insistent and
authoritative. Not every day will the voice of God be equally clear.
The closeness of our walk with God will determine that, and of course,
the divine awareness of our need.
Jesus said in the New Testament that His sheep know His
voice (John 20.27). They do. You may be saying at this moment I have
been praying for years but I have never once heard the voice of God.'
Ah, but did you pray believing that God would speak to you?
It is possible to pray, and pray often, without such a
sense of expectation. Expect God to talk to you. Incline your ear unto
Him and in time you will not be disappointed.
Always keeping a Prayer Notebook handy