Prayer and The Art of Listening

imageHad God abandoned me?  I prayed like I had so many times before yet for the first time in my life He was silent.  So for the first time in my life I questioned His existence.  The silence seemed eternal because I had no other hope.  If God wasn’t . . . then what?

My life and my faith were in critical condition and after years of faithful service I was on my face crying into a silent blackness wondering if this was some kind of cruel joke.

When I wasn’t trying to pray,  I was unraveling like a thread on a snagged knit sweater.

My father had passed away in January of 2005, and Mom and I were now a widow and only “child” struggling to figure out how to live again as we each mourned our own separate loss.  After his funeral and a week or so to regroup,  I went back to my life, and mom to hers.  I was not prepared for what was to come.

You don’t get to call time out when life gives you too much to handle.

You don’t get to say, “Hey my dad just died, I can’t deal with this right now!”

So, when the next crisis came along in my life, I crumbled under the stress and grief.  One because my father wasn’t there to help me through it and two because God went silent.

I have always been able to hear from God.

He gives me WORDS.  He whispers them to me in moments of INSPIRATION.  He leads me to them in my reading or conversations.  He waves them like signs or plants them like breadcrumbs to lead me to my answers.  HE knows me and I know HIS voice.  But now, God was silent, I couldn’t find inspiration or guidance anywhere. I had never felt so alone.

THE SILENCE

So why in my midnight did God go silent?

When I finally sat all cried out, empty, perplexed and hopeless, I stopped praying.

In that silence, I got my answer.

There were two lessons to be learned.   The first was about MOURNING, which I will share in another post.

The second lesson was that I learned to be quiet and LISTEN.

THE ART OF LISTENING

Imagine you’ve been given an audience with a wise Sage who has the keys to success, who has all the answers you seek, and can tell you how to win at life.

Suppose you were given a one-on-one with a thought leader, mover/shaker, or noteworthy person with insights they were willing to share for free that could change your life.

Let me make it a little more real: What would you do if you had an open door policy to discuss your investment strategies with Warren Buffet and he willing to back up his advice with funds?

In that critical moment when you have the chance to get something so profound from someone who has it all. What would you do?

Would you take a breath, start talking and then one hour later sign off and thank them him for his time?

That’s what my prayers had become.

Prayer is that endless flow of words we pour out to God.  In the Baptist church where I grew up it is poetic, rhythmic, repetitive, predictable and beautifully comforting.

It’s powerful, and YES, prayer changes things for sure.

But prayer is one-sided!   We finite mortals go to an all-knowing, all-powerful God and we do all of the talking.

I learned that what He wants for me to do sometimes is sit down, be still and listen.

I always thought that was too mystical, and I didn’t know how to listen without my own internal chatter and drifting thoughts getting in the way.

So I began to practice the ART OF LISTENING – THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION.

I can’t say I’ve mastered silencing my thoughts but  in the “practice” of it I’m hearing from God in a way I have not in my entire life of praying.

He speaks and comforts and leads in those moments of silence.

I challenge you to stop doing all of the talking and start listening.  You will be amazed at what you can learn.  After all HE KNOWS EVERYTHING!

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying never pray!  I’m saying it’s foolish to only pray and never listen.  Prayer has its place, however communication and exchanging ideas naturally means both people take turns talking.  

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