How would you describe your time in prayer? Do you do most of the talking, or is there a balance with listening?
When we hear the words pray or prayer, we tend to think of speaking, not listening. When we pray, we talk to God, ask for things on our hearts, and express our feelings about what’s going on in life.
But prayer isn’t to be one-sided. Yes, we talk to God and make our requests known, but we also need to take time to listen to His response. When I say that, I don’t mean we sit and wait for a small voice to whisper words to us. In all my years as a Christian, I have never heard God speak to me in an audible voice. But we can listen to God in other ways.
We don’t just pray by talking; we also pray by listening.
We pray by listening as we read God’s Word.
While you’re reading and studying the Bible, ask God to give you wisdom and guidance. Listen to what He’s saying through His Word. If something stands out to you, pray about it as the Holy Spirit prompts you.
Recently, I was reading Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (NASB95).”
As I listened to God’s Word, He convicted me. I stopped reading and began to pray: “Lord, Your Word tells me I shouldn’t be anxious about anything. But, to be honest, I am anxious about a lot of things today—my future, this decision that’s looming over me, the outcome of a situation, deadlines I have to meet, and so many other things. Lord, I confess I’m worried. But how do I stop being anxious?”
The second half of the verse answered that question. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” He was instructing me through His Word how to deal with my anxious thoughts. I listened to His Word and began to pray.
I wrote down everything I was anxious about and began to pray about each area, thanking God He had it under control. He reassured me I could trust Him to take care of my needs and the things I was worried about.
Praying by listening doesn’t mean we sit in silence and wait to hear God speak audibly or through random thoughts. We listen to His Word and begin praying His Word back to Him as it guides, convicts, and strengthens us.
Take a verse this week and practice praying by listening to His Word.
We pray by listening as we journal.
I love to journal and write down my thoughts and prayers. What am I struggling with? What am I thankful for? What is going on in my life today? God guides me how to pray as I journal, and I often write out my prayers.
Journaling helps me listen to God in several ways. It gives clarity about situations. It helps me verbalize what I’m thinking and feeling by putting it down on paper. Writing out my prayers helps me think through what I’m praying about. As I write, God brings things to mind and helps me process thoughts and situations. When I journal, I’m listening to God and praying as I write.
Take some time this week to journal your thoughts. What’s going on in your life? What are your needs? How do you view God in this season? Write out a prayer. Pray by listening to what He’s showing you as you write.
We pray by listening as we worship through music.
Worship music (hymns and contemporary) encourages me and challenges me. I love to listen to worship music as I drive to and from work each day. It prepares my heart for what’s ahead and helps me process the day on the way home. There are times I push pause on the music and start praying because of something I’ve heard in the song. Sometimes, it’s a phrase that has convicted me, and I want to confess sin right then. Other times, the words move me to pray about a situation. As I listen and sing along, the words and music lead me to worship and meditate on His attributes.
This week listen to worship music in the car or at home. Listen to the lyrics and see how God speaks to you through them. How does He use the words to move you to prayer?
How do we pray by listening? We listen as we read His Word, we listen as we journal, and we listen as we worship through music.
What would you add to this list to help you pray by listening? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
(I first wrote this material for an article for MTL magazine.) If you want to deepen your prayer life, check out my Bible study On Bended Knee: Praying Like Prophets, Warriors, and Kings