In his book, Life Together – The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about the ministry of listening to others. He says that Christians forget “that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they should be listening.”
Maybe you remember the old cell phone advertisements where the actor roams from place to place saying, “Can you hear me now?” “Can you hear me now?” The truth is that for most of us, our communication woes are not because we have a bad connection. The communication trouble for many of us is not our inability to hear, but our failure to really listen.
Being a poor listener is detrimental to our relationships with people and with our Heavenly Father. Bonhoeffer makes this critical observation, “He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too.”
Prattle: to utter or make meaningless sounds; idle chatter; childish jabber. Jesus defined it as babbling and gave strict warnings against it. He said, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Stop prattling. Here’s a reason to keep your prayers short: Your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8)! No need for endless prattle. There are no bonus points for the number of prayers offered, the length of your prayers, or the time spent in prayer. Take note. There’s a vast difference between prattling and persistent prayers. It’s good and right to persist in prayer, continually bringing our requests to God (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray often, pray much, but mean what you say.
Start listening. In order to listen to people and to God, we must first be still and shut up. That goes way beyond plopping your bottom in a chair! Still your heart. Still your mind. Stop the chatter in your head as you think about what you’re going to say next or do after your conversation is finished. This is a difficult assignment for busy women. As an expression of your attentiveness to God, lay your hands open on your lap, and breathe a simple prayer (“Your servant is listening, Lord”).
Prayer Step: Be a good listener. Speak only when necessary.
A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening. – Soren Kierkegaard
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