Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7
“I wonder what our collective prayers sound like to God?” a wise and faith-filled friend once asked me. I imagined a tremendous gathering of the faithful—all ages, nations, races, colors and languages—petitioning and praising, repenting and confessing, the voiced and voiceless, whose prayers were offered plaintively by the Spirit as wordless groans. (See Romans 8:26-27.) The din would be deafening for anyone but God. What majesty and power there is in that cacophony, but I can’t help wondering how in the midst of it that God can possibly hear me.
In those times, I take such comfort in the invitation Jesus gave to the children: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matt. 19:14). Now children being children—rambunctious, excited, spirited, and playful—once they were invited, do you suppose they came solemnly, waiting their turn, one by one, and in a neat line? No, I imagine they all rushed to Jesus, begging to be the one that got to sit on His lap. And Jesus being Jesus, didn’t turn any away. He listened to each little voice; even the shy ones I’ll bet he listened into speaking.
We, children of God, have access to our own audience with the Master, thanks to Jesus the Christ. God welcomes each voice lifted, whether resounding in the din or moaning in silence, together in holy chorus, or whispered one by one. With our voices as instruments of praise and prayer, we may freely appeal to our listening God. Even if our song is halting and unsure like a child’s, we are assured that God listens in love to each one of us, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
- Challenge yourself to listen, even when you have the urge to speak. Listen actively to others by showing your interest visually, verbally, and bodily. Nod and encourage with your demeanor and your words. Listen the other into speaking.
- If you are in or near a noisy place, take a moment to listen to all that’s around you and consider what this sounds like to God.
- If you are able, go to a public place to listen and observe without speaking. What do you notice about the way people interact with each other in conversation?
- How do you think your active listening impacted the person(s) you listened to today? What affect did your listening have on the noisy public place? Which was more comfortable for you? Why?
- Do you go to a quiet place to pray? Do you think God hears you in a loud, public place too? Can quiet seem loud? Can loud seem quiet? Why do we seek silence with God? Why are we often uncomfortable in silence with another person? With God?
- If you felt sure God was listening to you in prayer, how would that affect the way you pray? How does it affect what you say? How you listen to God in prayer?
Father God, thank you for taking time to listen to us, even though you know our thoughts before we think them, and our words before we speak them. You created us with ears to hear and voices to speak, so that through the Spirit, we may speak and listen to you. Following your example, may we learn when to speak and when to listen to one another. Amen.