Listening as spiritual discipline

Listening can feel like a lost art in a world hard-wired for instantaneous distractibility.Β It takes intention and deliberation to swim against the tide of constant stimuli and noise.

It doesn’t necessarily come easily to switch off to some things in order to be switched on to the best thing. And our definition of ‘best thing’ will vary tremendously according to the priorities we pursue and what has first claim on our heart.

I think God knows when we particularly need to seek Him out and fires the desire within. He’s always alert to the sound of our voices, hearing tears as prayers.

It takes prayerful, persevering, persistent practice to achieve successful listening to God. Click To Tweet

When we do pause and quieten our souls, it makes us aware of how little we may actually listen well, how often we can tune out God’s voice.

I recently woke up to the realisation I wasn’t spending so much quality time with God as I used to. Extra busyness was pushing my prayer/contemplation time into a smaller corner than before.

Extra fatigue (somewhat aligned to said busyness) was also affecting how much I felt I could press pause on life and spend myself freely in God’s direction.

So when I woke earlier than usual a week ago, and sensed a gentle invitation to stay awake and not remain snuggled within the soothing warmth of my bed covers, I decided to heed it.

The house wore morning chill. It was strangely quiet, although each home has its own idiosyncratic creaks and groans.

I saw snow softly falling as I pulled curtains aside a little to let in enough natural light to see by, sat cuddled up in my fleecy dressing gown and opened books before me.

The snow alone made me pause with wonder because winter has been mild and ground has swiftly lost any white covering.

snow - listening - WoJBells didn’t ring, nor angels sing, but I sensed a gentle lifting of my spirits as a weight of worries became released and burdens were shared with the One who is our chief Burden-Bearer.

We need listening time, hearing and receiving from God in order to be able to keep on giving. Click To Tweet

Because running on empty isn’t good for body or soul.

Sometimes when I take this special listening time out I receive a prayer whisper to record.

Sometimes it’s as if I sense a smile and a holy hug, or I gain a new insight.

But I don’t want to come to God just because He offers some reward or is a listening ear for my outpourings and requests.

I want to primarily come to God because I desire to spend time with Him alone. Click To Tweet

And because He deserves my undivided attention, focus, worship and praise.

There is healing, Β joy, rest and peace to be found in God’s presence, often indiscernible at first but still present, ongoing, life transforming.

If we take time to journal our journey we will find rich treasure to savour at a later date. Many of my old entries still speak to me today and are fodder for the blog.

It’s worth making listening into a spiritual discipline, making time to be centered on God alone.

Listening alertly to God will involve learning to sit comfortably with silence, to make quiet our friend. To still heart and mind in His presence.

And as you do so, you will find that even when those times drop off a little, they become far too precious to stop altogether.

What does listening as a spiritual discipline suggest to you?

How hard do you find it to switch off, and what helps or hinders the process?

29 Comments

  1. That big-eared bunny is so meaningful, Joy. The way those ears stand up and lean forward shows his attentiveness. Your message fits so well with it as to how we we need to be still and attentive as we listen to and receive God’s voice. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with that word “discipline.” Maybe because of past experience, I connect it too much with legalism. Like you, I want to come to God because I desire to and because He is so worthy of our attention. This has been a prayer of mine – that I would “desire to” and not just do it because I “should.” Does this make sense? I don’t mean that we shouldn’t intentionally set aside time. God’s Word has power and isn’t based upon how much we desire to read it. This sounds all mixed up, but I’m hoping you understand what I mean. Blessings and hugs to you!

    1. Trudy, I’m sorry if the word ‘discipline’ is one that makes you feel uncomfortable. I didn’t intend for it to be taken as a legalistic practice because I think that’s at odds with the freedom we have in Christ. Perhaps we can see it instead more as a suggestion for the spiritual life? Like a helpful hint rather than a ‘have to’ harassment that could leave us feeling inadequate. In sharing what helps me, I only long for others to be similarly encouraged and blessed. Yes, coming to God because we desire to for its own sake alone, and because He is worthy of our time and attention, is one of the best ways to relate to Him. Rules and regulations can feel stifling but there is freedom to express our faith in a deeply personal way as we live by the law of Love. I see your tender heart and desire to draw closer to God. If sitting quietly in His presence helps you to do that (as it does for me) then by all means carry on and call it what you will. I usually express it as contemplative prayer. Forgive me for any mix up here by the use of different terminology. Blessings and hugs to you, dear friend.

      1. Oh Joy, I certainly didn’t feel you meant “discipline” as a “have to” harassment. I didn’t feel you have any reference at all to legalism. I’m so sorry. It’s entirely something I feel, not something you bring out. I’m afraid I explained myself wrong. I love this – “Rules and regulations can feel stifling but there is freedom to express our faith in a deeply personal way as we live by the law of Love.” Amen! You explain it so well. Blessings and hugs to you, too, my friend!

        1. Sorry for the delayed reply, Trudy. Our different time zones and periods of wakefulness can make responding quickly challenging at times. Words can be tricky things, can’t they? They carry an emotional weight with them we don’t often realise. There’s no need for you to apologise, sweet friend. You are being true to how you see things, just as I try to be too, and that is a good thing. But knowing what people really feel and mean can be hard to discern in the internet because there is always room for some confusion. If only we could have coffee together and ‘read’ one another’s eyes and heart! I’d love to do that. Thank you for taking something away from here that has blessed you. You are always in my thoughts and prayers. Xx

            1. Me too, Trudy. I’ve a feeling the drinks would grow cold as we would be too absorbed in our conversation! Meanwhile I will sit and sup and think of you when I lift my coffee cup. Your words matter to me and are always welcome here. Bless you, dear friend. πŸ™‚ Xx

  2. Joy, great post! Listening really is an art form. We were on similar pages today. I wrote about my Lenten discipline of praying through my Facebook friends list. Prayer and listening really do go hand in hand, don’t they? Blessed to be your neighbor at Coffee for your Heart today.

    1. Tara, I don’t pretend to have mastered the art of listening to God but I am thankful for the things I am learning about it. I loved your post too! You share some really pertinent points about prayer. It would be good to connect with you on Facebook and be friends there as well. Is it easy to find you? Blessed as always whenever you stop by. πŸ™‚ x

  3. Thank you for the gentle reminder to be intentional in sounding time with God. Listening is a lost art but with that said, we were never meant to go through life without pausing and quieting our souls. I know how pleased God is when we stop and invite him into our days. I admit that there are periods of time that I am not very good at this either. Your words draw us back to what is important-God. Blessings, my friend!

    1. Mary, it’s so true that “we were never meant to go through life without pausing and quieting our souls.” And the more we do so, the more we will become rested, refreshed and restored by God’s grace. I’ve needed to do that a lot lately. If I can share what helps me to draw closer to God and thereby encourage others on their journey, then that is what I hope to do. Many blessings to you! πŸ™‚ x

  4. Just the words I needed today, thank you, Joy. And a rabbit too. πŸ™‚ You paint a picture with your words I can see as you settle in for deep quietude, and then you give me a glimpse of your roof (your shot?)β€”so arresting for me, and personal, as if now I’d recognize your home if I chanced down the street.

    1. Laurie, I feel blessed to see you here and to have caught your words just as I was about to close the laptop and settle down for the night. I’m so pleased this spoke to you. The rooftops are a view of neighbouring houses I captured out the window. Our home is harder to see the snow on unless I went outside! And it vanished so fast you’d hardly know we had any by afternoon. I’m needing that deep quietude which snow brings as a breath to slow us all down a while. May you experience it too as you lean into silence and deeper contemplative listening. πŸ™‚

        1. Isn’t Spring wonderful? Laurie, I love how you describe its emergence so poetically here: “the buttercups are showing their faces.” Lovely! My hope and prayer is to have some needful strength and energy soon to see those sights for myself.

  5. I appreciate the encouragement to take that time, Joy. When I wake up earlier than usual, it most often becomes extra time to get things “done” but I love your alternative of waiting and listening. Thank you.

    1. April, waiting and listening during those rare times when I wake early enough tend to be because I am too weary to do anything else except slump in a chair. I think God honours each moment when we lift our hearts and thoughts to Him. There are opportunities for sacred spaces in our days whenever we deliberately look for them. Our challenge is to be able to attend inwardly and being obedient to that inner tug toward sensing God’s presence. So often sleep and fatigue get the upper hand with me until almost lunchtime, and I have to seek other pockets of prayer elsewhere in my day when I’m a bit more alert! Thank you for stopping by. It’s lovely to see you here. πŸ™‚

  6. Thank you for this beautiful post and encouragement. Oh how we need to do this, just as Jesus did: draw away into the silence to be with our Father. I miss it when I make myself too busy. For me, being outside helps to still me before God: in the forest and dunes. I also love to be up before my family for some quiet…I haven’t done that enough lately. Thank you for this encouragement to sit in His Presence.

    1. Welcome, Anna! It’s good to see you here. Jesus is our example in all things, and if it was a necessity for Him to “draw away into the silence to be with our Father” in the midst of life’s busyness, then how much more so for us. It’s good to hear how you connect best with God in the still embrace of creation. Spending time in that way is a soul soothing rarity for me and all the more precious for it. Blessings on your weekend. May you find some sacred spaces in which to hear from God in the week ahead.

        1. Thanks, Anna! I’d love to see you here again. Please feel free to return, stay a while and dig into the archives. I hope you’ll find something there that speaks to you. πŸ™‚

  7. This is a discipline I need to work on. Time with God, listening, is the key to so much in my life. I know this, and yet I let so much get in the way. Thank you for this gentle reminder to sit at His feet. Blessings on your weekend, friend.

    1. June, I think your listening with intent comes from a deep appreciation of created things. I see you paying close attention to our external world because it so wonderfully reflects God’s grace and glory. You see it, capture its beauty and pass it on to others. Because I’m confined to the house a lot of the time, it means I live more interiorly as a result. Your posts call me to listen better to life outside my window. Thank you, friend. Have a blessed weekend.

  8. It’s so important to take the time to be still and listen to what God is saying. I have to admit I’ve struggled with this more than I care to admit lately. But I continue to hear Him whispering to my heart to come. He is ready to receive me with open arms.

    1. Barbie, it’s something we all struggle with, especially in extra busy seasons when we actually need to be still and listen more intently yet find ourselves distracted in so many ways. I’m currently slowing working through your beautiful ‘Coffee Talk With Jesus’ book and finding it reaping great blessings as well as some challenges as I respond to the questions. Remember how this book was birthed as a result of listening closely to God and know that you haven’t lost the art. As you say, He is still whispering an invitation to you and His arms are always open to love and embrace us. Weekend Whispers alone reveals your heart’s hunger to hear from Him. It isn’t a law-driven practice but a drawing near stemming from love, devotion and need. Praying for you to hear anew. Blessings and hugs!

  9. Joy, this is so lovely. You would enjoy (if you haven’t read them already) a couple of books I’ve read recently on listening. One is by Adam McHugh and the other by Keith Anderson.
    Blessings to you!

    1. Hi Michele. Thank you for visiting and for recommending some great books on listening. Adam McHugh’s name rings a bell. I hope to check them out soon. A lot of the impetus for my own listening has evolved through the practice of contemplative prayer. It’s a gift of grace in a busy world which can drain us so easily if we let it. Blessings of rest and rejoicing to you as you celebrate Easter!

  10. I think God knows when we particularly need to seek Him out and fires the desire within. He’s always alert to the sound of our voices, hearing tears as prayers.” I think this is true, too. I’ve also let some things push away my longer quiet times with God. Every time I try to start back, it goes okay for awhile and then things interfere. I’m so glad He gives grace. I want to make it more of a priority again. Blessings to you!

    1. Gayl, it’s all to easy for life’s many demands to drain our energy and distract focus, isn’t it? I believe there is grace for the seasons of extra busyness or challenge, because God reads our heart’s intentions and honours all leaning toward Him. Sometimes we think we have to set aside hours for prayer and Bible study. Although it is lovely when we can do that, it isn’t always feasible as a daily activity. Each moment whereby we notice God’s goodness, sense His presence, listen out for His voice and lift our thoughts heavenward, all count in the scheme of things. Maybe the key thing is to aim to live with a daily awareness and ask God to make us more sensitive to His work in our lives and discerning of our need of Him. May you rest in the finished work of Christ in setting us free from guilt and shame as you celebrate Easter. Abundant blessings to you!

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