Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Listening, Dec 8
We can often catch ourselves saying, “I just wish God would speak to me!” He has and He does. He is always speaking (even through His silence) and He is always at work (just not in ways that we might expect). Christmas is a grand testimony to the voice and activity of God, and yet it is easy to miss Him in the commotion of the season.
The reason that humility is foundational to our listening is because we must let go of our own perspectives and prejudices. We possess ways of thinking that cloud our ability to see God at work. Thomas Merton commented that there is a difference between looking and seeing. When we look, we have something in mind that we want to see. We’ve made up our mind about what we believe we need and only look for it. When we see, we are open to whatever it is that God brings before us. There is an openness and receptivity. Humility allows us to see rather than simply look, and consequently, we are able to see (listen to) God.
In Hebrews 3, God says, “If you hear my voice, don’t harden your heart” and the following verses describe a dynamic where God was speaking but the people didn’t hear:
“do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’” (Hebrews 3:8-10)
The writer of Hebrews is describing the people’s inability to listen to what God had been saying for all these years. What were the works they saw for forty years? It began with being delivered from slavery in Egypt and being delivered through the parting of the Red Sea. He miraculously provided water and daily bread. Even as they complained, He provided quail to eat. The list could go on, but it can definitely be said that God was at work! They could perceive (hear) but they didn’t get it (listen). It was an issue of the heart (“they always go astray in their heart”) that led to not knowing His ways.
In Isaiah 55:8, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” This seems obvious enough but is there a reliable way forward? In the previous verses, God shares the foundation of this difference:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live (Isaiah 55:1-3)
The water and the bread in these verses are God Himself. Relationship with Him is a gift (“without money and without price”) and is the only thing which will satisfy us. These words provoke questions: do I thirst and hunger for God? Or, am I hungry for that which does not satisfy? Our desires shape our hearts and consequently our ability to listen. I see what I desire. I hear what I want. The way that we hear God is by desiring Him. If I am seeking God but “listening” in a different language (desiring things other than Him), I will miss it when He is speaking. It would be like listening to the radio in a language not our own. We hear things but they don’t translate.
Set aside some time for quiet prayer and ask God to show you what you most desire. Likely, there is a mixture of things (some pure and some impure). Get a blank piece of paper and a pen. Ask Him to help you see those places in your heart where you desire to find satisfaction in things other than Him. As the Father brings things to your mind, write them down. Finally, mentally walk through each thing and cross it out as you simply pray, “Father, I desire you more than this.”
End your time with this prayer of listening:
Father, help me to silence every creature, including myself. I want to listen to You as I hear your voice. Help me to learn stillness so that I might be attentive to Your good and gracious voice. As I hear, may I have the courage to follow Your heart from my heart. Thank you for desiring to do life with me.