As I sat in my backyard on an autumn day to hear the word of the Lord, I quietly listened to birds chirping, nestled near a tree adjacent to my home. Normally, I have my cell phone with me when I’m sitting under my shaded pergola. I had forgotten to bring it with me; however, I decided to take a moment to unwind without it.
I’m at a point in my life, where I embrace whatever quiet time I get. Since I didn’t have the cell phone, I used this time to reflect on my blessings and to reexamine areas for improvement.
As I reminisced on my quiet time, I happened to read an adult Sunday School lesson entitled, “Listen to Me!” The author discussed placing a moratorium on his usage of engaging in social media, e.g., Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook.
The author who is a preacher reiterated that preachers talk. However, he decided to wean himself off, by spending more time in silent conversation with God, rather than always talking. He stipulated that many folks talk too much! They want to be heard by expressing their views in order to draw more attention to themselves. We should hear the word of the Lord.
“During 2012, Eddie Murphy starred in a movie called, “A Thousand Words.” The movie received mixed reviews, but it struck a chord, with me. Eddie Murphy’s character Jack McCall loved to talk. He was an author’s agent who was an arrogant slick talker. Through a series of events in the movie, he finds out that he only has 1.000 words left to speak. After the 1,000th word, he will die. The point of the movie is not, “What would you say if you had only 1,000 words left?” Rather, the point is, “What can you hear, learn, and communicate when silence is forced upon you?” When we talk to God, we generally use words. But have you ever had a silent conversation with God in that all He was listening to was your heart?
Psalm 85 is a prayer for restoration and revival. The psalmist is begging that God will return His people to their former glory. The prayer is a heartfelt lament asking God for specific favors. There is certainly nothing wrong with praying to God for specific needs. Those needs may be personal, congregational, or even national. The psalmist knows God will listen and respond because of His unfailing love. But the psalm does not stop there.
“I will listen to what the God the Lord says” (v.8, NIV). Phrases like this make some of us nervous. We all have heard people say, “God told me to do this…”Based on what they were told we often question the validity of their conversation with God. Like the man who said God told him to divorce his wife. I asked him, “Are you sure it was God you were listening to?” We should hear the word of the Lord.
Many contemporary Christians believe that God does not speak to us any longer. For years, I have heard statements like, “that was the God of the Old Testament and we serve the God of the New Testament.” Hmmm, does that imply there are two Gods? The fact of the matter is this: God has never stopped communicating with His people. Maybe we just get too busy to listen.
Most of us are familiar with the passage that says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV). But how long has it been since you have actually done it? We live in a society that always seems to be in a rush and running late. A rereading of the psalms encourages us to slow down, meditate, and spend time with God. However, most of us are like the little “Energizer Bunny.” We just keep going, and going, and going.
When I’m involved in the worship service, I see those who are frantically shuffling to get to their pews. Some enter the auditorium out of breath. There are some who routinely enter late wanting others sitting on the pew to move down. I also see others people fixated on their smart phones texting or reviewing social media not focused on the moment, but focused somewhere else. What am I saying? If you haven’t figured that out, then you’re attention span is somewhere else.
It is impossible to give anyone our undivided attention when our attention is divided. If you don’t believe me, try to have a meaningful conversation with your spouse while watching a football, basketball, or baseball game. How can you expect to hear your spouse when the television’s volume is on full blast? You can’t listen if you aren’t still. And I don’t necessarily mean physical stillness. Sometimes we can be sitting perfectly still, in a quiet room, but we still aren’t still. We should hear the word of the Lord. A million other things can distract our mind. How can we expect to hear our God when our mind is going full blast?
Psalm 86 1, David wrote “Hear, O Lord, and answer me” (NHEB. Do we expect an answer when we pray? I’m not talking about an audible answer. Even in the Old Testament, God rarely spoke audibly and only to a few people. But God has always spoken through His Word, through nature, through His people, and through His Spirit. The problem isn’t that God’s not speaking, rather that we aren’t listening. To put it bluntly: It’s difficult to hear Him over the sound of our own voices.
Solomon wrote, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3, NASB). These may be difficult words for preachers to read. Generally, their livelihood is talking
A great way to learn to listen to God is by learning to listen to others. Too often when we’re listening to someone else, we’re so busy formulating what we’re going to say that we may miss what is actually said. For example, have you ever given what you thought was a great response to someone only to have him or her ask, “Did you hear a word I said?” Our mouths might have been quiet while the other person was speaking, but our minds were incredibly noisy. To really hear what someone else is saying requires that listeners clear their mind, avoid distractions, and pay close attention. If this is true with our listening to others, what makes us think it’s any different with our God?
Quiet is difficult! Have you ever been in worship and the person leading prayer says, “Let’s have a moment of silence” before the prayer? If that moment of silence lasts more than a moment, our minds start wandering, don’t they? Getting quiet before God not only involves our lips but also our minds.”
SOURCE: Conversations with God, by Glenn Newton; 21stCentury Christian (2017)