Prayer Tips: Listening
One of the basic components of our prayer life is listening to God. Part of learning to “pray without ceasing” is learning how to listen to God. It is important to spend time in prayer sharing our thoughts, feelings, and requests to him. It is important to share our gratitude through praise and thanksgiving. However, listening to God is just as important to our prayer time and spiritual growth. It might not seem like it, but actively listening to God in prayer is a necessary part of our call to “pray without ceasing”.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some things that might be helpful to you as you incorporate listening to God in your prayer life. Use the suggestions that are helpful. If something on the list doesn’t help you listen more intently to God, then feel free to dismiss it. So then, here are my suggestions to help you listen to God through prayer.
Find A Quiet Place: Like any normal conversation, too much noise can be a distraction. You need to find a place that is quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions. You aren’t likely to hear God if you are hearing everything else around you. Distraction keeps you from being fully and actively present. Eliminate as many distractions as you can. Finding a comfortable spot seems like a small thing, but if you are distracted by your discomfort, you will be inclined to focus more on that than hearing from God.
Ask God to Speak: Ask God to speak to you before you enter into a time of listening. If we are to make petitions to God in our prayer life, make asking God to speak to you as you listen for his voice one of them. Don’t be afraid to take a faith risk on this point. God is in the business of answering prayer. You should trust that he wants to speak and that he will. He wants us to hear him, but sometimes we just aren’t asking. Don’t miss out on hearing from God because you are afraid to ask.
Learn to Discern God’s Voice: You are inundated with voices from all over the place. Family, friends, social media, television, books, and the news all contribute to this. Sometimes those voices align with God and sometimes they don’t. It can also be difficult to discern God’s voice from our own internal voice. It takes practice to know when God is trying to tell us something. Practice distinguishing God’s voice from all the other voices that are coming at you. You will probably make mistakes. I know I certainly have. It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice to get this right. I know many folks that have spent a lifetime working on this and still get it wrong sometimes. Be patient, and trust that even if you make a mistake, God can still use that mistake for redemptive purposes.
If you have questions about whether you are hearing God’s voice, then take these things into consideration. God will not lead you to do anything contrary to his Word. He will lead you toward finding peace, rest, and hope in Himself. God will lead you to take faith-filled risks meant to stretch you to grow in your faith. God will lead you away from sin and move you towards holiness. He will push you toward using your spiritual gifts and the fruits of the Spirit.
Use these things as a benchmark. If you hear God suggesting it is ok to sin, you aren’t hearing from God. If you think God is telling you that everything with your life or faith is fine just as it is, then you aren’t hearing from God. There is always room to grow and be more like Jesus. If you believe God is telling you it is ok to be unkind or unloving to others then you aren’t hearing from God. If you believe that God is telling you that things are hopeless, that you can’t be forgiven, or that God can’t possibly love you then you are not hearing from God.
Pay Attention To Patterns: If you tend to hear the same things over and over again, that is a pretty good indicator that you should step out in faith in some way. For example, if during your time of listening to God you notice that a particular circumstance comes to mind, there is usually something to that. Perhaps God wants you to lift that situation up in prayer. Perhaps he wants you to intervene more directly. Be attentive to repeated patterns as you listen. Then, don’t be afraid to step out in faith and act as you sense where God is leading.
Read The Bible: God can certainly speak to us through our Bible reading. But, he can also use your Bible reading to help confirm what you are hearing when you listen during prayer. God will not tell us anything that contradicts the scriptures. As you listen, make sure everything lines up with scripture and is in line with what God has revealed to us already in his Word.
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. I know they have been of help to me as I strive to listen more intently to God speaking into my life. I pray that you will find your time alone praying by listening for God’s voice to be a blessing and to bear fruit in your faith journey.