“It takes two to fight.” Isn’t that one of those mom sayings we have all heard a million times? (not to exaggerate or anything) But growing up, I certainly did hear those words often enough from my mom, even as I continued to argue with my sisters and attempt to put the blame solely on them for whatever was transpiring at the time.
Now it occurs to me that prayer is another thing that takes two, because prayer is a conversation and conversation requires a speaker and a listener, hence two. (ok, if you are like me and you talk to yourself, you may beg to differ on this issue of needing at least two for a conversation to take place, but technically conversation requires two people) In a good conversation, the roles of speaker and listener are shared fairly equally between the two participants.
I want to become a better listener. I want to learn to listen with my heart as much as with my ears. (and when my hearing goes, I will really need to hope that my heart has learned to listen well) Today, as I think about my conversations with God, I must admit I too often cast myself in the role of speaker and not often enough do I take on the role of listener. Now I am told in God’s word that I can “cast all my cares on Him, because He cares for me” (1 Peter 5:7) and this is true. Boy do I take my Heavenly Father up on that invitation!
And I am invited to “present my requests to God” in Philippians 4:6. However, that same verse instructs me to do this “with thanksgiving.” How often do I skip the thanks and go straight to my list of needs, wants and desires? (that was a rhetorical question, I am too ashamed to actually answer) Have I patterned my prayer life after the relationship I had with Santa Claus as a small child? I would visit Santa once a year, sit on his lap and let him know what I wanted for Christmas. Other than “HO! HO! HO! and a Merry Christmas to you little girl!” Santa never had much else to say. Of course, I hadn’t waited all that time in line to listen to Santa. I was there to talk; he was there to listen to me talk.
I have gotten pretty good at bending God’s ear. But that’s not conversation if I don’t let God bend my ear right back. And if it’s not conversation, then it’s not prayer either – at least not all that prayer is meant to be. I read in Jeremiah,
“This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is His name: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ ” (Jeremiah 33:2-3)
God will answer me! God will tell me things I don’t know. (there’s a lot I don’t know, so that could take awhile) But I have to take on the role of listener in order for this to happen. I can learn from Samuel a different kind of a prayer. I will make his shout out to God my own.
“Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’ ” (1 Samuel 3:10)
In order to listen well, I need to “be still and know that He is God;” (Psalm 46:10)
I want to participate in my prayer conversations with my Heavenly Father as the listener, not always the speaker who never lets God get a word in edgewise. I often feel He is silent, when in reality, I just haven’t stopped talking ie. complaining, requesting etc. I haven’t been a patient or a persistent listener. (although I have been quite the persistent petitioner at times) It’s not that God isn’t speaking, it’s that I’m not listening. So much noise. This world is such a noisy place. Must be why my Heavenly Father wants to lead me to a quieter place. (if I would just listen to Him)
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)
He leads me, He restores me, He guides me – I have to be listening to Him for all that to happen. If I’m not listening, He can’t lead me.
Lord, like Samuel, do I dare to say, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”? How easily I am distracted, even as I long for a word from You, I turn on my TV or my music. I seek the company of others but not Your presence. I refuse to come away to Your green pastures and still waters – even though I am starving – hungry and thirsty for a word from You – for what only You offer, Yourself, Your presence. May I desire not what You would do for me or give to me, but instead may I want only what abiding in Your presence brings, which is comfort, peace, purpose, meaning, joy, hope, healing, strength, wisdom, courage, compassion, connection, mercy, forgiveness, knowing, being known, belonging, acceptance – the list is endless – probably because Your presence is infinite.
Oh Lord, speak, for Your servant wants to learn to listen, wants to hear Your still small voice. I know that You listen to me. I want to return the favor.
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.” (Psalm 18:6) In fact, my Heavenly Father is such a good listener that,
“Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139:4) Now that’s a good listener! Lord, may I learn to recognize and heed Your voice.
If I can recognize my Heavenly Father’s voice, that certainly makes listening easier, doesn’t it? I think about how God’s voice came to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13, when Elijah was waiting on a word.
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
If I’m waiting for booming thunder before I will listen, then I will miss the gentle whisper of God’s voice. I want to be a better listener, a listener that can hear the whisper of God above the shouting of the world’s voices clamoring for my attention.
“Blessed is the man who listens to Me, watching daily at My doors, waiting at My doorway. For whoever finds Me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8:34-35)
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)
speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening!
sincerely, Grace Day