For me, this practice seems to usher me from the outer courts into the most holy place of His presence. It is uncomfortable, unnatural and a matter of great discipline…at first. Then, it is all you want. The rewards are immeasurable.
Just writing about it makes me anxious to get to my prayer closet.
Saints have called it holy listening.
“My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
Do we know the voice of God? Can we hear the gentle whisper as He passes by? To stand on the edge of glory and have to pull a cloak over our faces like Elijah, we must – we must learn and practice listening.
In a loud world, even the quiet ones struggle with this. Our minds run too quickly.
“After we have entered our secret place and shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is pray. We cannot seem to get our minds into good working order, and the first thing we have to fight is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is overcoming this problem of our idle and wandering thinking. We have to learn to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful, deliberate prayer.” -Oswald Chambers
Concentrate: to be directed for a single purpose; to give attention to
We have possibly heard all of our believing lives how prayer is meant to be a conversation instead of a monologue. Yet, still – we seem to do all of the talking.
What unsearchable things is God waiting to tell you and I?
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jer. 33:3
Listening in stillness is a beautiful act of faith because it is expectant. You bring your heart to the Lord and wait. It is, in fact, a silent declaration that you believe Him. He says He will speak and we are believing He will.
Early in my faith I thought only some believers “heard” from God. I have since learned – in applying His Word – that He speaks to all of us. The difference is the willingness to listen.
Some tips as you begin this journey:
- Have a journal or notebook handy. When wandering thoughts invade, such as what you need to be doing, write them down as an act of dismissal. It helps you to release those thoughts knowing you can look back at the paper. Then turn your mind back to the Lord. This journal is also, and more importantly, for your notes during prayer time. I will often get a song or a single word and write it down to review or study later.
- Experiment with silence versus worship music. There are times when worship can help usher our minds better into the throne room. I’ve found, though, that it is best to use this as a warm-up. Songs themselves can sometimes distract from what He is trying to say.
- Do not worry about doing it “right.” As I began this process, I would pay too close attention to the last thing I said before going silent. I smile as I remember that. He knows all. He is pleased when you come to Him. There is no program here. Practice is progress. It may just be a matter of retraining your mind to be comfortable with silence so you can focus better.
- Do not be discouraged. God loves you. Believe that He is reaching out to you in that love.
- Put on your spiritual glasses. As we draw near to God and live in his will, we can better recognize Him all around us. Look around you at work, in the store and at home. Look expectantly for signs of His presence. He is always working – not always visibly – but always absolutely.
- His Word will confirm all truth. If what you sense or think you hear from the Spirit does not match up with the Word of God, it is not from His Spirit. We must be students of the Word and remain in counsel with mature believers to discern and confirm direction from the Lord.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20 (NASB)
As we worship and obey the Lord in spirit and in truth, we prepare the table of our hearts for a feast with the Divine. It is through listening that we open wide the door.
We know from the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything under heaven….a time to speak and a time to be silent. May we come before His holy temple in humble adoration and declare:
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Sam 3:9
This is part of a series on Prayer. You may begin here.