Your equipping skill: Listening Prayers of the heart and growing in discernment
Listening to the Holy Spirit is Central to a living Faith.
What “listening to the Holy Spirit” means
- The Holy spirit testifies to Christ, guides, inspires and motivates us. Listening to the Holy Spirit means prioritizing God’s word above other sources.
- Too often we worship our preferences. This leads us to blind and deaf spots where we cannot hear what God has to say.
What this does NOT mean
- This is not divining the future
- This is not “Fire Insurance”, insuring a financial or other success.
- This does not put you or I in charge. Servant Leaders are First Followers
- This is not manipulating God to do our will.
- This is not prayer per se, but prayer is the vehicle by which we listen. It is God doing all of the work while we work at listening.
Equipping with Authority
- This article is focused on the Concrete more than the theorhetical. God is the speaker and will use your preferences to find your listening ear.
- Central to listening for God is Having an intentional plan. This post should not imply that teaching a mechanical skill-is all that it takes. These 7 actions are ways to intentionally equip yourself to listen
- Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience are all tests for The Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture, tradition changes to meet the day but gives us context and community, truth makes sense by faith-Fod gave us a mind to use. Finally, all experiences teach something. Pay attention and listen carefully to all four of these as you do these activities. Keep it simple-listen.
1. Disciplined Time with God through Bible study and prayer.
- God has already spoken through His Word. The more time you spend with God through reading His Word and through prayer, the more familiar you’ll become with His voice.
- This is important because God will never tell you to do anything that contradicts His written Word. The more time you spend time with God, the more familiar you will become with His voice.
2. Memorize Scripture in context
- The Bible is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It will change you, transform you, make you more receptive to hear God’s voice.
- It’s not enough to simply read the Word. Search the Scripture and “Hide it in your Heart”. (Psalm 119:11)
- Many times the Holy Spirit will use the Word to guide you. This becomes so much easier if you actually have the Word in your heart.
3. Create a balanced life of prayer: ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (Requests).
- No one like to be around someone who does all of the talking.
- Don’t just run into prayer with your checklist in hand and pray, “Dear God, please help me here, bless this, bless that, protect them, help me have a good day. Amen.” Spend time listening.
- You may not hear anything, but it’s important to remember that prayer is a conversation with God, not a list of needs and desires. .
4. Seek Silence Every Day
- Look at the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and you’ll see that God chose to speak to Elijah through a gentle whisper. God often chooses to speak through a still, small voice, and not a shout! Faith beckons us to listen in order to hear.
- God wants us to remove all the distractions from our lives and focus on Him. Find a consistent time and a dedicated place to be silent before God everyday and hear God’s gentle whisper.
5. Have a Spiritual Director and wise counselors
- God doesn’t speak exclusively to you. He also speaks to those around you. The book of Proverbs talks a lot about the necessity of seeking wise counsel.
- When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, seek someone wise to be your prayer partner. Carefully and prayerfully seek the wise counsel of those around you. Pray for God to bring these human resources.
6. Intentionally Listen for God in Daily Decisions
- Don’t just do something, Sit there
- Practice makes perfect. We have been given a spirit of discernment by our Father. The Holy Spirit is God. God wants us to know the difference between God’s voice and the many enemies competing for our own thoughts.
- It takes discernment, and the only way to figure it out is to start practicing. This does NOT legitimize procrastination.
7. Be obedient
- Don’t just sit there, Do something.
- Listening to the Holy Spirit requires obedience. Search through the book of Acts. It is a diary of the Holy Spirit speaking to the early church. The “Spirit” is used in Acts 67 different times. The reason the Spirit is still leading and motivating the church today is because the church obeyed the Spirit when Jesus’ Church heard His voice.
- Do the last thing God told you to do. If God hasn’t spoken to you, perhaps it’s because you didn’t obey the last thing God told you to do. God may be silent until you finish what He started. When the Spirit speaks, it’s not meant as a suggestion. If you want the Holy Spirit to continue to speak to you, obey God when God speaks
NOW WHAT? What transforming change will you make today? These “Doing” activities can and will point you to “Being” in Christ. The point of this excercise is to strengthen faith and create a more intimate relationship with God. Listen well and hear God’s loving and still small voice.
Some resources for further study:
Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
Anatomy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer (Praying together)
When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor ( The Section on Silence)
The Once and Future Wesleyan Movement by Scott J. Jones ( The Holy Spirit p. 57)
(c) Alan Van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”, 2022 all rights reserved.