another brilliant guest post by Dianna Cash
If I had to give my listening prayer journey a starting point, the first mark on the timeline would be at a women’s retreat a few years ago. The whole retreat centered around the book Invitation to Silence & Solitude by Ruth Barton (I HIGHLY recommend it!)
We talked in depth about listening to God and being quiet before Him. We talked about how awkward that is at times and how wonderful it can be! We were blessed with a few hours of “silence” on the second afternoon of the retreat – the whole purpose of the silence was to put into practice what we had been talking about.
In the weeks and months following the retreat, I slowly worked though Barton’s book – at a pace that was tremendously slower than I was accustomed to. I let God set the pace. I would get to the end of a chapter and ask God if I could move on to the next one. Sometimes the answer was “yes” – other times it was “re-read this one.”
I just continued practicing daily, and I participated in our church’s weekly time of Crave and also in our church’s annual Prayer Weeks, which are far more about listening prayer than everyone “getting in a circle and praying for one another”. (I must clarify: there’s nothing wrong with getting in a circle and praying for one another… just wanted to emphasize that this was another place of getting to practice my listening skills).
The more I’ve gotten to enjoy listening prayer, the more I’ve realized that it’s not so much about the words that God speaks or the instructions He gives (though those things are wonderful!!). It’s about the relationship… it’s about the intimacy… it’s about me knowing Him a little more.
And in knowing Him, I learn more about who I am. I learn more and more about how to be His child.
I want to hear from the Lord. I want to know His voice.
So what does that look like? How does one learn to listen to God? For me, it looks like coming to God and asking a question – sometimes a specific question… sometimes a generic question…
My favorite questions to ask Him sound something like this:
- “God, what are your thoughts towards me?” (based on Psalm 139:17-18)
- “God, what do you want me to know today?”
- “God, what do you want me to do?” (either in general…or in a specific situation)
And then I listen as He responds and I write down what I feel like I’m hearing.
Often the thoughts will start coming and I know they aren’t from me. How do I know they aren’t from me? I’m not completely sure other than I’ve learned what my thoughts are like and what His thoughts are like!
So, I just start writing – and usually it happens that the “next thought” won’t come until the first part is written….even thought I want to “get ahead” and hear the whole of what the Lord is saying, He won’t give me the second sentence until the first one is written down (I like this – helps me know that it’s from Him and not just from me!).
It’s definitely been a journey of learning His voice… and discerning His truth… a journey of learning how to differentiate from His thoughts and my own… a journey I am happily still on and hope to always be on!
There are times when I hear “wrong”… and that’s okay, because it’s not about ME hearing correctly… it’s about His desire to be in communication with me and my willingness to participate in the relationship.
As we listen, we learn His voice. We learn to recognize what He is saying… and we practice… we get more comfortable with the quiet and more familiar with the voice of our Father. But we always keep in mind that He speaks in a variety of ways. He speaks in different ways to different people – and even in different ways to the same person… because He’s longing for us to be in communication with Him, dependent on Him – not depending on a system or formula for hearing Him.
Fun fact: the writing of this little two-part series was a result of listening prayer! Nick asked me about writing something on listening prayer a while back… and I’ve just been waiting for “the right time” (I wonder how long it’s going to take me before I realize that often the “right time” isn’t something that’s coming… it’s just something that IS).
Today, I was spending some undistracted time with God and as I was wrapping things up, I simply asked “what do you want me to do now?” And, quite honestly, I was really hoping that I wouldn’t hear anything – cause I was hoping a nap was in my future! But I really didn’t think that was going to be the response because I had half-a-dozen other things that needed to get done…
But I asked (and I’ve learned that you really shouldn’t ask a question if you’re not willing to receive a response!), and the answer was “work on the listening prayer post.” Then came the choice – do I do the thing I think I’m hearing God tell me to do? Do I do one of the other things on my to-do list? Do I forget it all and just do what I want to do – take a nap? Choosing to obey the instructions we’ve now heard just heard while listening… now that’s another blog post altogether!!