“Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You Iwait all the day” – Psalm 25:4-5 (NKJV)
I remember a coffee date I had years ago with an acquaintance. We had never visited one-on-one before and I wanted to get to know her better. After about an hour, I found myself drained of energy and I realized I had been the only one asking questions the whole time. When we parted ways, she enthusiastically said, “This has been so great. I’d love to do again sometime.” And I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t know if I could handle that.’
Most people understand that there are two parts to a good conversation: speaking and listening. However, most of us are naturally much better at speaking than we are at listening because let’s be honest, we’re a lot more interested in what we have to say than in what other people have to say. That’s human nature; we’re all like that. But listening is a really important part of communication and people who don’t learn to listen well are often lonely because they’re difficult to be around. Good listening means we’re trying to understand. Bad listening skills are when we want the other person to hurry up and finish speaking so we can say what we want to say.
If we can think about prayer as having a conversation with our heavenly Father, then it makes sense that we shouldn’t be doing all the talking. God has way more wisdom than we do and He already knows everything about us, so it’s much more important for us to listen to Him than to talk to Him. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I think sometimes we feel like God is silent when really, we just haven’t taken the time to listen. God speaks in two fundamental ways: through the Bible and through His Holy Spirit. There’s an old saying in Pentecostal circles that goes like this: “If you have the Spirit without the Word, you blow up. If you have the Word without the Spirit, you dry up. If you have both the Word and the Spirit, you grow up.” Some people think all they need to do is read the Bible. Other people think all they need to do is listen to the Holy Spirit. But really, we need both to grow up spiritually.
An important point to keep in mind as we develop our listening skills in prayer is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict Himself, which means that He won’t say one thing in the Bible and another thing to us personally. So if you get a thought in your head that tells you it’s okay to cheat or steal, for example, that’s not God.
And another thing is that God is not a magic genie who appears on demand. God tells us to seek after Him, and sometimes we don’t hear His voice right way. In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Wait for the Lord and He will make Himself known to you. Don’t be in a hurry. When you come to Him in prayer, come humbly with a listening heart, knowing that as you seek after God, He is more than willing to speak to you.