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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 electrical balance.

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 familiar.

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



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