A Listening Heart
During a recent devotional study, I was reading the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. In chapters 48-51, I was captivated by the number of times God said, "Listen to Me" or "Pay attention to Me" or "Listen to this." Eight (8) times in those three (3) chapters alone, He challenges us to LISTEN. When we feel as though God is not hearing our prayers, perhaps it is WE and not God who have the listening problem. Far too many of us have learned to pray by rote. "Rote" is simply mechanical or habitual repetition of something to be learned. To learn and do without thought of the meaning. We bow, perhaps even kneel, and then we immediately start talking as if our prayer time is designed to convince God to see things our way . . . "If it be His will." We do our habitual quiet time and then head out the door hoping that we will do things pleasing to God. Such action is akin to trying to assemble a F-18 without instructions. Perhaps our quiet time would be better spent L.I.S.T.E.N.I.N.G. God is aching to speak to those who will be still and listen.
So how can we become better Listeners? How can we get better at Hearing the Voice of God? Here are a few tips:
1) Start Training Yourself. When I first started riding in patrol vehicles with law enforcement, I was amazed at their ability to zero in on their own radio call numbers. Imagine you're in a patrol vehicle. Music is playing on the car radio. The officer has installed a CB radio for local contact with his teammates. You're having a conversation with the officer. AND there is his lifeline to dispatch -- THE radio. All of these things are producing noise in the form of speech. Right in the middle of your conversation, the officer grabs THE radio and says, 'Unit 117. Copy. 10-17." You ask the officer how he heard that radio call with all the other noise. His response is that he has trained himself to zone in his hearing on the words "Unit 117, dispatch." He developed a sensitivity to those words.
We must do the same with God. Throughout our lives, there will be countless voices trying to speak into our lives. Some will be positive and constructive and some will be negative and destructive. Some positive voices will occasionally speak words of compromise to us. That's why it is SO important that we train ourselves to hear the still, small voice of God, which will most often occur in the quiet and still of our solitary time in HIS presence.
2) Be Ruthless with Sin! Perhaps this should have been #1. Take a look at Isaiah 59:1-2. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin damages our relationship with God. We cannot approach Him with those things in our lives and expect Him to hear us or respond. So we must be ruthless every day to own our sins. Confess and forsake them. Make restitution and amends where necessary. Make life changes where necessary. And this includes sins of commission, sins of omission, and sins of attitude.
3) Ask God to Speak to You Before Asking Anything Else! Prayer is not about seeking answers or assistance. Prayer is, first and foremost, seeking God Himself. So ask Him to speak. Sit silently for 10-15 minutes and focus your attention on the Father. 15 minutes on your knees waiting to hear the voice of the God of the universe is not too much for you. In that process, He just might . . .
* remind you of some forgotten sin or
* tell you to open His word and read or
* direct you to some person or activity
that needs your involvement
Remember -- prayer is not about talking to God. It is seeking God, His will, His way, His time. It's conversation which involves listening as much or more that talking.
4) When You Hear, OBEY! The more often you disobey, the more difficult it become to hear His voice. And think about it! If you don't do the things that He tells you to do, why would He continue to speak to you? Listen, Trust, and Obey!
5) Ask Him to Speak to You throughout the Day! Just because you move out of your war room or quiet time doesn't mean that God will not continue to speak to you. So be sensitive to His voice throughout the day. It might come in unexpected ways (burning bush or still small voice), but listen and obey.
And one last encouragement. Quit playing it safe! We limit ourselves during a time when God really desires to do more than we could ever ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20-21) He desires to glorify Himself, to lift high the Name of Jesus, and to release His Holy Spirit to bring salvation to the lost, healing to the broken, rest to the struggling. We serve El-Hannora, the Awesome God, El-Gibbor, the Conquering God, El-Shaddai, the God Who Pours Forth Blessing, Jehovah Shammah, the Lord Who is Always Present. Let's live, pray, listen, and obey like we believe it!