Listening is an essential part of communication, it is just as important to listen as it is to share. Have you ever experienced a one-sided relationship with someone who wants to talk about themselves all the time, but never seems to be interested in what you have to say? If you have, then you will know how difficult it is to deepen that friendship. When that is true of our personal relationships how much more important is it to develop the skill of listening to God in prayer as well as talking to Him.
Listening to God
For years I thought that prayer time was about my conversation with God. I set aside time to come to Him, to bring my praise and thanksgiving, but also to ask, and to bring all my requests to God. The simplest dictionary definition of prayer is ‘an expression of thanks to God’ or ‘an earnest request for help,’ so if we have covered both of those, then we may think our prayer time is complete.
But in our own personal relationships, it can be disheartening when our conversation is one-sided. If we feel that the other person is not responding to us when we pour out our thoughts and share our feelings. They may appear to be listening, but we know that they are not attentive, their minds are elsewhere. Slowly, if that is the continuous response, we stop sharing our innermost thoughts, our intimate conversation peters out. We may continue to talk, but just going through the pleasantries, and that deeper level of communication is lost – and the relationship suffers.
Why is Listening to God an Essential Part of Prayer?
Prayer must be two-way communication, far more than just pouring out our words into a void, when we pray, we expect an answer. This has always been part of the prayer experience, a calling out, a reaching out to God with expectancy. This is what gives meaning to our prayers, we are not uttering words by rote as a form of comfort. We are speaking to our Heavenly Father, who hears and responds to the cries of our hearts!
Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.Psalm 5:1-2 NIV
But listening to God in prayer is far more than waiting to hear the answer to one of our requests. It is about developing our relationship with Him. As we develop listening skills and become attentive to God, we learn to recognise His voice. We gain not only knowledge about God but the experience of God, we come to know Him more as His word speaks into our lives.
Listening to God in prayer is far more than waiting to hear the answer to a request.Tweet
Listening to God in Prayer
Prayer is not a ‘method’ or ‘technique’ but our response to the love of God, it is the heart of our relationship with Him. As we draw near to God, we learn diverse ways to receive His love as we hear what He is saying to us as individually dearly loved children. It has been said that prayer and the Word are like the two wings of a bird, if we are to fly and to soar, we need them both.
God’s word is the main source of His communication with us. When we prayerfully read Scripture, reflecting, and responding to the words, we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our heart so that we retain what we have heard, and it becomes part of who we are.
Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways so that I may know You (becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, recognizing and understanding Your ways more clearly) and that I may find grace and favor in Your sight….Exodus 33:13 Amplified Bible
This is a prayer of Moses, the intercessor for Israel, the man who pressed on in to know God more, and who met with God like no one else. Listening to God by making His word personal is the way in which we will grow and develop our relationship with the Lord and is at the centre of our desire to know Him more. The Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts and whispers to our spirits, and then our response guides and leads our prayers.
The task is not to get God to do something I think needs done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can participate in it.Eugene Peterson
How to Practise Listening to God
Listening to God as we read through Scripture is often referred to as Meditating on Scripture, or contemplative prayer, or sacred reading (Lectio Divina). They all practise the same process of reading and quietly reflecting on Scripture, absorbing, and applying the Word, and pausing to allow the Word to guide our response in prayer.
All Scripture is God-breathed, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and can challenge, encourage, and teach us not only something about God but also about ourselves. Praying with the Bible is allowing God to start speaking to us, and our response to His Word guides our prayer, so that we have a circle of conversation rather than a monologue.
Related Post: Are Signs from God Relevant Today?
The Parable of the Sower – Luke 8
Jesus tells us a story, which is all about listening, it is the familiar Parable of the Sower. The farmer sows indiscriminately, and so it is only the seed that falls on good soil that produces a good crop. After Jesus finished telling the story He calls out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Now I am sure most of the crowd heard what Jesus said, but not many were listening.
Avoid Passive Listening
This is when we appear to be listening, but we are not paying attention to the message. We may think that we know what is being said, and that this word does not apply to us, it is for everyone else. This can be in a spoken word but equally as we read through Scripture. Our minds can be full of our own thoughts, and we may not even realise that we have missed something important – an opportunity to hear God speaking into our life!
To listen well we need to give our full attention – without any distractions, making the space and taking the time to connect with God. To be still and to wait on Him. We need to be receptive, expecting to hear something, and then responsive. It may simply be a prompt to pray for someone else!
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples, that the good soil is the one who hears the word, understands, and retains it, and by doing so they persevere, grow, and become productive.
Scriptures about Listening to God
5 Bible verses on Hearing God
“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice…” Psalm 95:7
“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. Matthew 13:16
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” Hebrews 3:7-8
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
5 Bible verses on Listening to God
“……Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…...” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:7
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made….Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42
It is a constant challenge in the busyness of daily life, to set aside that time and create some space, to listen for God’s voice. But those moments are precious, and have a lasting value. Don’t miss out on God’s words of life and love to you!]
22 thoughts on “Why is Listening to God in Prayer Important?”
Listening well is one of the biggest needs we have as people. It’s so good to have reminders of how to do that.
Thank you, it has been very much on my mind recently!
Oh, my! I listen passively and actively at various times. I am reminded of the importance of the latter. I know that my passive listening leads me to embarrassment, to wishing I had heard, knowing that I missed something important, and on and on! Thank you for giving me an important read this morning. My own post is about the words I speak or do not speak so this fits right into the other glove. Thanks, ~ linda
Just visited to have a read about your reflections on the words we speak! Thank God that He does not condemn us, but His grace continues to shape and mould us – thank you Linda!
I am currently writing a blog on this very thing. Yours is quite insightful. Thank you.
It’s something that has been on my heart recently – thanks.
It’s so important to listen well, and to truly receive and understand what people are saying, especially in the current climate of disagreement and debate. A verse I cling to in this time is James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Thank you for this encouraging post!
That is such an appropriate verse – thank you Sarah 🙂
Amen to your prayer! Listening is such a powerful thing! May God help us listen well. Thanks so much for sharing. Many blessings to you!
I find myself challenged by your thinking here. When I get overwhelmed, laziness in my listening habits is a very real temptation!
Exactly – when I’m busy, particularly with my family, passive listening is such a trap and so easy to fall into!
I’ve been working on listening better this whole year, focusing on a different aspect of it each month. This month I’m trying to listen to the pain that others share. It can be exhausting though, so I need to listen for the comfort of the Lord’s voice and rest too. Thanks for this beautiful encouragement!
Yes, it makes a big difference when we really listen – switch off from our own thoughts or thinking how to respond and really listen to the person in front of us. I love the book you share about too – I read that last year and found it very helpful.
I like how you compared active and passive listening, and I appreciate the practical advice you shared. Also, I’ve heard about the book you mentioned at the end. I think I’ll check it out!
What a helpful post! Such an important skill that we can always be improving.
Sharon, I’m working on listening better, so this post has been very helpful. My mind is often full of my own thoughts, and it sometimes takes effort to focus solely on what another person is saying. I love how you mention humility in your prayer … that’s really what it takes to be a good listener, isn’t it?
You are so right, it is valuing others which takes humility, whereas it is so easy to be engrossed in ourselves…so thankful of God’s grace!
Thank you for sharing these Biblical insights for listening well. The bullets you shared about listening actively brought clarity to what it means to listen as Jesus would have us listen, with caring intention.
Thank you Karen for your encouraging words ????
There is a huge difference between hearing and listening. HUGE! So often in conversation, our minds do wonder and we even are thinking through our response and miss the key details the other person is expressing. I read a book by Becky Harling, “How to Listen so People Will Talk.” It’s another great resource for the art of listening well…to others and to God!
Sounds like an interesting book – I’ll look it up, thanks Karen ????