The Needful Thing
Last week, we discussed the prayer-filled, contemplative life. The contemplative life acknowledges the importance of a personal relationship with God and the intimacy gained through focused attention on Him. Fulfillment of this life involves both love for God and the desire to be in His presence continually.
For many believers, such a pursuit necessitates a return to our First Love (Rev. 2:4) and the desire for “the needful thing” (Luke 10:42). Both can only be found in fellowship with Infinite God. So today we will spend time looking at a key practice in the prayer-filled life—listening prayer.
Listening prayer is about joining with God at the “heart”. By heart, I’m not speaking about the emotions only, but that “intuitive part” which instructs the mind and the will. It is a place of union with God.
In listening prayer, we exchange our “intermittent” requests for “continuous” dialogue with the all wise, all-powerful God. Through the eyes and the ears of the heart we see and “hear” God—who He is and how He operates.
Listening prayer was a new experience for me. I admit my prayer life was one-sided—asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7). I invested much time in learning what I thought was the “right way” to pray. I followed the PAPA prayer formula. I prayed the Scriptures. I employed the ACTS model (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplications). While I wanted to better communicate with God, I failed to realize what God wanted. God was not concerned with “correct communications” but God did desire “attentive conversation” with me.
Barriers to Listening Prayer
Hindrances to listening prayer are generally found in two areas: the desire for an “experience” versus the “presence” of God and the modern split between “head and heart” knowledge of God.
In our society, we are accustomed to being “stimulated” by what we are doing. Unfortunately, that is how we judge whether something has really happened. We expect to hear God speak in a loud, audible voice. That is not necessarily how God may choose to communicate. Remember Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Most Christians today suffer to one extent or another from “post-enlightenment” mindset—the split between thought and experience. This split in most Christians is characterized by an acceptance of their conceptual knowledge about God as reality while they simultaneously deny the primary ways of knowing, loving, and walking with God. This is more intuitive than rational. As a result of this split, even committed Christians, do not believe in Christ’s real presence with and within them.
We must be careful to guard against these hinderances to true intimacy with God.
Where to begin?
How do we begin to incorporate listening prayer into our life?
First, we must believe that God desires to communicate with us (Gen. 35:13). God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children. We cry “Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6) knowing He hears our every word. `
Secondly, we must know that God wishes to be in relationship with you (James 4:8a). By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means to restore that which was loss in the Garden of Eden—fellowship with mankind.
Thirdly, we must declare our intentions and ask to hear His voice. Hearing God is not natural (remember we loss that in the Garden), so we must be intentional (Matt. 11:15). Initially, we may need to set aside time, to listen for His voice, perhaps during our morning or evening devotional time.
Finally, we must invite God into time with us and expect to hear (1 John 5:14). We may receive a fleeting impression, an image, even a scripture or a song. Don’t ignore it! Write it down, then ask God to explain what we experienced. This is where our journal comes in handy.
Time to begin!
Listening prayer is not a method, but a walk with God where we intentionally listen for His voice. It’s more than “doing”, it is about “being” aware of His presence. Listening prayer is about inviting God into the daily rhythm of our life knowing that He speaks to us continuously. It is an exciting time of fellowship and discovery. It is what God has always wanted.
 Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal, Leanne Payne