Listening Prayer can be a very controversial topic in many Christian circles. Many Christians believe God speaks to us and we can listen to him, through our prayers. However, many other Christians believe that God gave us the Bible to be his word to us and that is how he speaks to us now. Let me make this clear, I believe that God gave us his Holy Spirit to led us and speak to us in the world today. I also believe that the Holy Spirit works in many ways, usually through the gifts of the Spirit which are listed in the Bible. So I am going to write this from the perspective of someone who believes the Holy Spirit has spoken to me in Listening Prayer. Now that you know where I am coming from it is possible to move on to the actual practice of Listening Prayer.
I learned about Listening Prayer from a Methodist Pastor who was leading a church in Louisville, Kentucky. He had been my wife’s campus minister at Florida State University for several years before we met. He prayed over me and told me things that someone who had just met me could not know. I have also experienced it in some of my seminary classes, from my current Anglican priest, and I have read a book on it by Seth Barnes. I started practicing Listening Prayer while reading Barnes book. If you are looking to get a greater understanding of Listening Prayer, I would suggest his book; I found it very helpful and a good guide along the path.
You can practice Listening Prayer in several ways, I am going to share the way that is most helpful to me. I usually do best if I practice Listening Prayer in the morning, usually first thing in the morning. I find that at this point in the day, I have not been bombarded by noise, so the quiet does not seem so great and my ears do not ring, while sitting in the silence. The first thing you want to do is sit down, with a journal or pad of paper of some sort, and two pens, with different color ink. Just sit there for a minute or two until you are relaxed, if you have something on your mind that seems distracting or are worrying about things you have to do that day, it is okay. Write those things down then put them aside for a while. Start to prepare yourself to speak with God, you can read the Bible, read a spiritual classic, or a devotional. Ask Jesus to protect you from any deception. Pray to God and ask that he speak clearly and in a way that you can understand him. Then write down your question for prayer. I found it best not to start with anything too broad, like “Is there anything you want to tell me?” or anything too specific, like is this thing in my life about to happen like I want it to or something like that. Some good starting questions are: “Are there anyways that I have offended you?,” “Is there anything that is putting distance between you and me?,” and “How do I best hear your voice?” Write down your question in one color. Then wait, listen, try not to force an answer from God. Believe that he will answer but give him time to answer (more likely for you to realize what his voice sounds like to you). Then once you believe you have heard his voice write down that answer in the other color under your question (this will help you in the future to remember the answers and can be a good reflection on how God sounds to you). God’s voice will most likely not be audible to you; it has never been to me. But it sounds different than my inner monologue and as I grew to recognize his voice it usually came with a feeling/warmth (it’s hard to describe) in my heart/chest. Understand that this is a practice that takes time and practice, but if you keep with it you can learn Listening Prayer.
I would further suggest getting a book on Listening Prayer, if it sounds like something you want to learn. A book with a daily practice will be most helpful, as it is best to practice it every day so that you keep up with it. Also a spiritual director of some sort would be good too, someone that is further along the Christian path, which you trust and can talk to and share your experiences with.
Question: Have you ever felt that you have heard God speaking to you? If so, do you want to share the experience, if not it is fine not to, I understand it is personal.
Also what kind of Spiritual Formation topic would you like next week?