Learn to Be a Better Listener

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You become a good listener by asking creative questions. A person of understanding draws others out with questions.

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5 NIV).

If you want your prayers to be effective, you need to learn to be a good listener. Why? Because prayer is a conversation. While you may not hear God’s voice when you pray, he has still given you the Holy Spirit and Scripture to know how he wants you to live and to encourage you. But most of us are too busy, and we talk too much to really hear and understand what God—and others—may be trying to tell us.

You may think you’re already a good listener. But there’s a big difference between hearing and listening! Hearing is simply the vibrations that take place in your ear. Listening is how you decode those vibrations in your brain. Many times I’ve heard my wife, my kids, or someone at church say something—but I didn’t listen.

Listening is a skill. And if you’re going to be effective in your prayer life—and in all your relationships—you must develop it. Here are four tips to become a better listener.

1. Withhold judgment and criticism from the start.
Don’t evaluate until you’ve heard and comprehended it all. I’ll admit that this isn’t natural. When someone else is talking and you hear something you disagree with, you’re tempted to say, “Time out! Stop right there! Let’s deal with this.” And you never get any further. But you need to hear the person out. Proverbs 18:13 says, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (NIV).

2. Keep calm.
Don’t become defensive. The Bible says in Proverbs 19:11, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (NIV). If you’re patient, you’re wise. You need to be patient with people who are less mature and those who misjudge. You need to remain calm.

3. Be an active listener.
You become a good listener by asking creative questions. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (NIV). This verse says the real meaning of people is down inside of them. A person of understanding will be able to draw others out with questions.

4. Paraphrase and summarize.
To be a good listener you must be able to tell a person what they’ve just told you before you talk about what you need to talk about. Before you share your side of the story, you need to let the other person know you understand where he or she is coming from. Paraphrase what they’ve said back to them. 

Talk It Over

Be intentional about practicing active listening this week. What difference does it make in your relationships? 

How does each of the points from today’s devotional apply to your prayer life?

How does each of those points apply to reading God’s Word?

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This devotional © 2018 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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