Listening Prayer

Listening Prayer

I thought I had ‘arrived’. It was my job, no my responsibility, to light the campfire. My teacher had been my dad. One of the things he emphasized was that a fire needs room. The kindling could not be dumped into the fire pit jumbled askew on each other. No, it needed to be placed, so that there was space between the pieces otherwise it would not ignite.

So it is with our relationship with God. We need space, room to breathe so that God can light our souls with fresh passion and purpose. Listening prayer is one way to place our kindling before God.

Be Hungry For God

Listening prayer is not intercessory prayer. It is not asking God to provide for ourselves or for others. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but we are talking about something different here.

Listening prayer is our pursuit of God, Himself. It is relational. It is a posture that expresses our hunger to know God and be known by him.

Craft a personal and enduring phrase that gives voice to that desire. Ruminate on it. Change it. Seek a simple and sincere expression of longing that draws your attention back to God. I am experimenting with: God show me the path of life and fill me with the joy of your presence (Ps 16:11 NIV).

Waste Time On God

I live a busy life. Maybe you do too. I am not talking about how many things I am trying to do in a day, although that contributes, I am talking about how noisy my mind is. My thoughts are a union station of ideas and feelings, coming and going. Tracks leading all over the place. Listening prayer is both the antithesis and antidote to business. It is the courageous intention of being still before God that we might be refreshed by God (Ps 46:10 NIV).

It is not ‘doing’ time but ‘being’ time. It is ‘wasting’ time with God, becoming quiet and responsive and allowing Him to bring forth the issues he wants to address. It is difficult to quantify this time. Start with 10 minutes. That likely isn’t enough if you like to control things, but long enough to realize how noisy and harried you are. I would hope long enough for God to stir within you a desire for more.

Shut Off To Open Up

The goal of listening prayer is to hear the shepherding voice of God, clear and personal, though not necessarily audible (Jn 10:27-28 NIV). Our spiritual perception is hindered by both internal and external distractions. Besides mental busyness, our spirit is impeded by critical and judgmental thoughts, and by fear, anxiety and bitterness. We need confess such inner dissonance. You might even need to keep a journal handy to jot down the distracting thoughts so you can let them go.

Spiritual hearing is enhanced by quiet. Search out a place free from external distractions (e.g., no devices, no connectivity, no interpersonal dialogue).

Determine To Say ‘Yes’

The reward we can bank on for ‘wasting’ time seeking God’s presence is to be refreshed and equipped for real life (Ps 62:5-8 NIV). We need to decide beforehand that we will say ‘Yes’ to God, that we will heed the guidance he gives us as we wait upon Him. His particular word to us is always good and true. We need not fear the voice of God, it will always direct us in accordance to His revealed Word and Gospel purposes.

Your Turn

What are some of your biggest distractions to ‘wasting’ time listening to God? What could you do about some of those?


  1. Dan Sebben

    Good timing on this last sermon…it is exactly the season I am in. I am waiting on God to direct my path in this next season of life…relying on Him to float my boat as I remain moored in the lock of His protection and sustenance. I started practising Listening prayer this morning…and am anticipating with excitement what God has in store for me in the months ahead.

  2. Mary Hemlow

    I too am anticipating what God will do through the practice of listening prayer. Just in the past few days, I’ve found it’s helped me think about what I’m thinking and comparing my thoughts to what God’s Word teaches. There’s a lot of self condemnation in my thinking. Then I go to blaming. God has provided forgiveness for all of it. He knows my past, present and future. Jesus died for all of it. He is healing me. He is able.

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