Listening is just plain difficult. I’m not referring to hearing, or the process of perceiving sound. I can hear just fine, but can I listen? It’s hard work! Listening well means letting go of what’s on our minds, being still and focused on someone else.
This year, I’m part of a 10-month internship called the Elijah Project at Mountain View Community Church in Fresno, Cal. The goal of the program is to call out, train, equip, and release spiritual leaders. We’re exposed to many areas of ministry – from evangelism and discipleship, to teaching and serving. Each intern also has specific areas of focus, depending on their strengths and interests. My areas of concentration are graphic design, junior high, and prayer ministry.
A couple months ago, Mountain View leaders asked me to help with a prayer training day at the church. The theme was “renew.” We focused on spiritual dryness and discovering how to listen to God through prayer. We spent time learning how to enter into God’s presence, how to work with God in breaking down walls that have kept us from intimacy with him, and how to deal with broken relationships and worries that steal our joy. We allowed the Holy Spirit and others to minister the love of God to us.
As I taught a session on listening prayer – asking God to speak, and then actively listening for a response – I started to wrestle with the difficulty of the task. Why is it so hard? What can we do to make it easier?
Tips to sharpen our listening skills
The first step is to become still before God. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” God speaks when we quiet ourselves and spend
time with him.
Another way to listen is to focus ourselves on receiving thoughts from God spontaneously. This means we must wait for God to place something in our minds, while not over-thinking or trying too hard. According to the International Listening Association, we listen at 125–250 words per minute, but think at 1,000–3,000 words per minute. No wonder it’s hard for us to turn off our minds and focus on what God is saying!
We can also listen as God speaks through his Word. As part of my session, I shared some Bible verses related to God speaking to people. I invited participants to look up the verses, and then asked someone to read them aloud. Several people responded with a short praise of God’s character. As each verse was read and prayed over, I was amazed how my faith was built up by hearing God through Scripture.
John 10:27 stuck out to me: “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (The Message). The more I practice listening prayer, the more I’m able to recognize God’s voice and follow him. My passion is to learn to be still before God and find joy in his presence – to grow in my understanding of his character, his ways, and his purposes. It’s also my goal that, as I quiet myself before him, I would continue to hear him in new ways and follow his voice.
–Julie Wiens is completing the Elijah Project internship at Mountain View Community (MB) Church in Fresno, Cal. For more information about the internship, please visit mountainview.org.