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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Listen Already!

by Dina Sleiman

You don't believe because you're not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.  ~ John 10:25-30

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a church where prayer was mostly about talking at God…with words. And this process, for reasons I’ve shared during my last few faith posts, didn’t work out well for me. So I’ve been blogging about different tools to add to our prayer and devotional times to help us better tune into the spiritual world and truly communicate with God.

This week I want to talk about the simple process of listening to God with our inner ears. Considering the fact that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, you’d think we’d want to stop and hear what he has to say. I mean, I could spend hours talking to him about my problems. Maybe that would make me feel better. Probably it would just get me more worked up. Besides, he’s already intimately acquainted with me. So wouldn’t it be better to listen and hear what he wants me to know.

Yet don’t most people spend 90% of their prayer time spouting lists at God, or worse yet, trying to order him around and inform him how he should fix the world. I’m sorry, but this strikes me as a terrible plan.

So why don’t people spend more time being quiet and still and listening to God? Maybe because it can be a little scary. Maybe because we’re afraid we’ll fail. Maybe because it requires a loss of control. But listening to God is the most life-changing kind of prayer there is.

Some of the techniques I’ve shared recently like meditating on words and phrases from scripture or imagining God can be helpful in listening. Deep breathing, quoting short scriptures, soaking in quiet worship music, or time spent in nature can also be helpful.

Perhaps the most helpful tool is journaling. By writing down the thoughts, feelings, and impressions that bubble up from that well deep inside of us, we allow them to flow free. Choose not to analyze, but just to capture it all on paper. Then later you can compare what God has spoken to you with the word of God or share it with a spiritual advisor.

What will God’s voice sound like? Fair enough question.

God rarely speaks in an audible voice. You have to quiet your own thoughts to hear his still quiet voice deep in your heart. And it does tend to feel as if it come from somewhere in your chest. God’s words will often take you by surprise and sound like nothing you could have come up with on your own. There is a sense of “flow.” They will bring peace and comfort. They will sound of authority. Even if they convict, they will do so with love and compassion. They will strengthen you and give you hope. They should always align with scripture and will sometimes even take the form of scripture.

Our own thoughts usually come from somewhere in the vicinity of our head. They tend to be logical and predictable. Most of us are pretty familiar with our own thoughts. They often run in circles and get us nowhere.

Satan’s voice can be the trickiest, but you’ll quickly learn to tell the difference. This voice brings negative emotions: fear, anger, hopelessness, condemnation, bitterness etc… It might sound good on the surface, but you can tell it by the fruit it produces. It accuses and twists the truth. Satan loves to use words like “always” and “never” and work you into a frenzy, the opposite of the peace of God. His words twist in your gut and can feel like they come from that area. Rebuke the devil in the name of Jesus when these thoughts attempt to invade.

Don’t focus on Satan, though. Focus on God. He is the good shepherd and his children know his voice. Spend time with him. Learn to listen to him. Use the tools that best help you to relate to him and hear him speak.

So the next time you pray, remember, stop talking so much and listen already.

What helps you listen to God? How do you identify his voice? Have you ever tried keeping a prayer journal?

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 Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

9 comments:

  1. I've never kept a prayer journal, Dina. I've often thought about it, but never gotten around it.

    I love just laying in the dark relaxing and talking to God. I love it even more on the occasions where I hear his words whisper through my heart and I *know* without a doubt it was him. I wish those moments happened more frequently.

    Lovely post. Thank you, Dina.

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  2. Suzie, I find the more I am upset or in confusion the more using some of these prayer techniques help. For example, I tend to use journaling when I really need direction. It seems to unlock that "flow" of the Holy Spirit and also gives me a record of the communication with God for later. For now, maybe you could start by writing down those whispers when they come so you have a record of them.

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  3. Dina, you're so full of wonderful ideas. I will definitely have to try it. I have a couple of journaling books, so I'm going to put one by my bed. Thanks for the suggestion. I always learn so much from you. :-)

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  4. This hit me hard today. I've been going through a rough time and have had difficulty hearing from God, but it's been all-too-easy to hear Satan's twisted promptings. Thank you for the reminders that God's voice is gentle, peaceful, and sweet, and I sin when I allow the enemy's voice into my heart.

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  5. Susanne, I know the word "sin" is important and often undervalued in our world. On the other hand, I think for beloved children of God trying their hardest, it is often overused. Yes, it's wrong to listen to the voice of Satan because it's harmful for you, precious daughter of the living God. But be careful not to let it become yet another point of condemnation.

    God longs for you to bask in his peace, hope, and love. Just rest there and lay everything else aside.

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  6. Dina, your faith always inspires me.
    I really need to make some quiet time for myself. My To Do list is spilling over and prayer isn't on it. I appreciate this post so much!
    thanks

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  7. Journaling was something I did as a preteen and teenager. In my twenties it petered out. How do you find time to journal? Isn't it kind of a sad signal that I have to "find time"to listen to God?

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  8. Bex, I don't journal all the time. It's just one of those tools in my prayer tool box for when I need it. I tend to use journaling when I'm feeling confused and need direction.

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