by David Sisler

I don't know where she found it, but years ago my mom sent me a clipping which talks about listening: "What you are doing speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you are saying."

Most of us are not good listeners. What we have to say is simply too important to listen to anyone else.

There are different kinds of listening:

There is the listening of criticism. I heard of a man who took a notebook to church with him. Nothing wrong with that--lots of folks take notes in church. This man recorded only the mistakes.

There is the listening of resentment. Discipline a child and he may listen with resentment. Let your boss reprimand you and you may listen with resentment.

There is the listening of superiority. This is a haughty listening which thinks, "He can teach me nothing. I am certainly more qualified than he!"

There is the listening of indifference. This type of listening may not be callous, it may simply be careless. It is easy to listen to a child that way. You look directly at him, but you realize later you cannot recall a single word of the conversation.

There is the listening of the man who listens only because, for the moment, he cannot get the chance to speak. He is the poorest listener of all.

The only listening that is worthwhile is that which hears and learns, and that is the only way to listen to God.

It is easy not to listen to God because He almost always speaks in soft voices. We expect to hear Him in the unusual. He communicates by the ordinary.

Within hours of enjoying his greatest triumph, the prophet Elijah experienced his most overwhelming defeat. He prayed and torrential rains ended three and one-half years of drought (which started when he prayed that the heavens would hold back their rain). Then a evil queen's threats sent him into hiding, completely discouraged and disheartened.

Hiding in a mountain cave, Elijah waited to hear God speak to him. Before God spoke, Elijah experienced a wind so violent that it dislodged great rocks. The wind was followed by an earthquake that threatened to destroy his hiding place. The earthquake was followed by a raging fire.

Three spectacular addresses, but the Bible says, "the Lord was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire" (1 Kings 19:12).

The sounds stunned his ears, but those noises did not speak to Elijah's spirit. Nature's symphony struck no chord in his heart.

After the fire there was a still small voice, a gentle whisper. Elijah heard it and it was the Lord. Elijah heard because he was quiet enough to listen.

We miss God's voice because we listen with our mouths open. God says, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

We are not comfortable with silence. That is why when someone calls for a time of silent prayer, the prayer seldom lasts for more than a few seconds.

A prayer meeting where no one speaks may seem strange, but that is exactly what one group did. They gathered for prayer and no one opened his mouth. No one asked for anything. They simply came together to listen.

Let's be honest. Is there anything you need that has escaped God's attention? Is there anything for which you could ask Him that He has not already noticed? Is there any desire that you could possibly list that He does not already know?

Do not misunderstand. God specifically orders us to name our needs and describe our desires, but an all-knowing God knows them in advance. We pray to know God's will.

We do not pray merely to petition.

There is no point in asking the Lord to do anything for us unless we are willing to listen for His directions.

If you do not hear anything, be quiet! Keep listening!


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 8/12/95

Copyright 1995 by David Sisler

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