The Nature of Prayer (2): Listening
Last time, we saw that the first aspect of prayer was asking. In this way we come to know God as The Father who provides. It takes a certain form of humility to admit I cannot supply all my needs; I am dependent. But by doing so, we begin to realize more deeply our filial relationship with God.
The second aspect of prayer is ‘listening’. This is more difficult and it takes time for us to develop this attitude. In essence, we have to mature in the spiritual life enough to quiet all the impulses within us in order to listen to the One outside of ourselves. Of course, it makes perfect sense. If we are asking for something, we need to develop an attitude of listening to see what the response will be. This is captured for us in the response of the small boy Samuel. Although he was brought up in the Israelite sanctuary, he did not know the Lord (1 Sam 3:7). When God speaks to him one night, Samuel mistakenly rushes to the priest, Eli, to see what he wants. Eli tells him to go back to sleep. This happens a second and third time. On the third occasion, Eli realizes that God is speaking to Samuel and instructs the young boy that if the Lord should call again, he is to answer, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9). Samuel was learning to discern what the voice of God was, and he adopted an attitude of listening. In this, Samuel was not expressing his own needs or desires. Rather, he was simply being receptive of whatever word God was sending to him. He was attempting to hear what God was speaking.
When we pray, we often forget to listen for God’s response after we have made our requests. If we are not careful, we can tend to have a one-way conversation. We ask God to supply our need and trust He will supply. But this second stage of listening is important. We have made our requests known (Phil 4:6 ), now we need to listen to what God has to say about our situation. We need to allow Him speak to us and to mould us in the crucible of our needs.
Lord, grant that I may have a listening spirit, open to hearing the Word that You are always sending, trusting that in all things You are my supply and my all.