One of my prayers lately is simply this: “God, please make me a better listener.” It’s not that I don’t listen to my family or friends — I do! — but I’ve realized how much I need to grow in this area.
The thing is, it bothers me if I know someone I’m talking to isn’t really listening to me. Sometimes my husband’s mind seems to wander, or a child isn’t paying the least bit of attention, or a friend is so intent on how she’ll respond to me that she’s not actually hearing what I have to say.
Each of us longs to be heard. We want to be the focus of someone’s attention. We ache to be understood.
That’s a gift I want to give to those around me, but there are a couple things that trip me up. Maybe you can relate?
First, my brain is working on so many levels that it’s hard to focus on what someone is saying. It’s a bit like having too many files open on my laptop or too many apps open on my phone. There are too many trains of thought open in my brain. I’m mental multi-tasking to the extreme, which slows me down and distracts me from the person in front of me.
Second, my desire to fix things sometimes gets in the way. Inherent in our DNA as women is the ability to be problem-solvers. We instinctively fix things for our children, our family, our friends or colleagues. Too often when I’m talking with someone, I’m already thinking of ways to fix their situation. Distracted, I fail to really listen to what they’re saying. Most often they don’t want advice. They merely want to be heard. I let them down.
The still, small voice
Not only do I want to become a better listener with people; I want to listen with greater sensitivity to my heavenly Father.
God shouts. His voice thunders. (Psalm 29) But He also whispers. He whispered to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:12)
God’s word speaks to us, so I look for His voice there. He does not lead contrary to scripture. His character does not change but His ways of working are always changing. Too often I expect Him to work in the same way He has in the past. I fail to be open to the fact that He might do something new in a new way! “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” (Psalm 40:3)
Today I’m asking Him to help me intentionally look for His whispers. When I run, I ask Him to whisper to me through the tiny plants that are beginning to burst forth with joy announcing, “Spring is coming!” I ask Him to open me up to another way to look at something.
Just this week I was stuck, not knowing how to fix a writing project. I “chewed” on it too much. Finally, I simply gave it to Him and a couple of days later I sensed a very simple, creative answer. It was not a lightning bolt; it was really His whisper. I recalled a particular verse that spoke to my problem — a verse I was familiar with but had never applied in this manner before. It was a new insight.
He hears us
Our heavenly Father is the best listener of all. He is the only one who completely gets you and me. He understands us better than we understand ourselves. (Psalm 139) He delights in us. He wants us to cry out to Him about anything.
He listens with completely focused attention. He does not get distracted. He is thrilled when we speak to Him. I picture Him waiting with open arms for me to run to Him, crawl up in His lap, and tell Him what is on my heart.
I don’t want to miss out on His whispers. I want Him to speak to me. He loves to speak to you and to me.
“Call unto me and I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
Here are 5 practical things that will help us become better listeners to those around us, and to the whispers of our heavenly Father:
- Do not look at your smart phone when in conversation with another person. That communicates that they are not as important as whatever might be on your phone. Look them in the eye when they are speaking. Train and expect your children to do this as well. (Leave smart phones in another room during meals.) This is one way of honoring and loving another person.
- Pray for God to help you focus on the people He brings your way each day; practice quieting your brain so you can clearly see them and hear what they are saying.
- Recognize that people may not want your advice as much as they want you to hear them. Pray for wisdom to discern when you need to provide ideas and when to stay silent.
- Spend time in God’s word every day so you can hear Him through scripture. Morning is best because then you have the whole day to walk in what you have heard from God. Read a Psalm and ask God to speak one word of truth to you that you can meditate on during the day.
- Ask God to make you sensitive to His whispers this day. Look for Him. Listen for Him speaking in nature, through others. It’s often in the little things that we will hear His voice.
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