The Practice of Listening

 “In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion, and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and “For to me, living is Christ” (Phil 1:21).” 
–Dallas Willard

When I was in junior high, I had a conversation with my father that changed the course of my life with God. In those days, you might say I was an “energetic” young man. I was easily distracted. I forgot important information and left a multitude of chores and projects half-finished.

A pit formed in my stomach when Dad said, “I want to talk to you about something.” My parents divorced when I was very young, and I lived with my mother. I sat next to my dad at the large dining room table. The smell of dinner lingered, and the clink of dishes being washed served as a backdrop to his words. “Jason, I want you to come and live with me,” he said, explaining that he saw his own struggles in my tendencies, and he wanted to help. 

I said, “Yes” immediately, and told my mom that night. I can still feel the awkward silence hanging in the air as I walked down the hall to my bedroom. I thought the awkwardness fade, but it didn’t. It swirled around every interaction with friends and family. It was in the back of my mind in class and during track practice. I started to doubt my decision. 

That weekend, my father saw my uncertainty. “I want you to go home and pray about it,” he said. “And I want you to listen. What is God telling you?” This is the first time I remember anyone telling me God actually speaks to us, and if we listen, we can hear from the Lord.

How often do you listen in your prayers? Have you ever heard the voice of God in a gentle invitation, in a thought or question that clearly wasn’t from you, or a feeling of love, conviction, peace, or clarity?

In the pages of scripture, hearing from God is normal. It is expected. From Adam to Noah, Abraham and Moses, Deborah and Gideon. God spoke to Saul, David, and Solomon. God communicated with the people of Israel through Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the other prophets.

God revealed to Anna (Luke 2:36-38), Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), and John the Baptist (John 1:21-34) that Jesus was the Messiah. God directed Philip to find the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), Peter to visit Cornelius’s house (Acts 10:9-23), and Ananias to go to Saul (Acts 9:10-19). God directed the missionary journeys of Paul. At one point he planned to head west with Silas and Timothy, but Acts 16:6 says, “the Spirit of Jesus did not let them.”

The normative experience of those who follow God in Scripture is that God speaks, and those who listen will hear. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Why do we so often live as if prayer is a one-way communication? 

When my dad encouraged me to listen, it changed the way I prayed. I heard a response. I wish I could remember exactly how it happened, but somehow in my prayers I heard a very clear word, “It’s going to be all right.” I know that’s not a particularly clear word, but I knew, somehow, I knew, that God was saying to say with my mom. That is the first time I remember hearing from God, but it would not be the last. 

How have you heard the voice of God? Would like to learn how God speaks in our everyday lives? Do you long to hear God more frequently or more clearly? Would you consider joining us for a one-day conference, Listening in an Age of Distraction, on March 2. To learn more or register, visit wcreek.cc/listeningconference

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