As a marketer one of the questions I explore and help answer with my clients is, “What are your listening posts to your customers?” Listening posts create a two-way dialogue and foster a relationship between company and customer; think of the last time you tweeted about a product and received a reply from the brand or maybe even the CEO.
Get Your Hearing Aids Here
The same question is worth considering in our relationship with God. The rest of this post offers some personal and practical tips for building your own listening posts to God.
Let’s face it; God can feel big, remote and inaccessible sometimes. Yet scripture teaches that His heart’s desire is to live in intimate fellowship with us. And Jesus taught that the most important commandment is this one (make note of how he starts off):
‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
But as in any relationship, we can’t hope to know God — let alone love him with everything we are — unless we can learn to hear His voice. We need to learn about how He sees the world and how He sees us. We want to be able to hear about His love for us. Otherwise all our talk of Him, all our prayers to Him, are just empty echoes in an unknowable universe that may amount to something…but not love:
If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-2
John Eldredge’s book, Walking with God, is a great guide for tuning your heart to hear God’s voice more clearly, more often. He writes, “If you’ve been taught that God doesn’t speak to you then you’re probably not going to be listening for His voice. This all comes down to what kind of relationship you think God offers. ‘It takes time. It’s something we learn. Name one thing in your life that you really enjoy doing that didn’t require practice to get there.’”
It’s called “The Living Word” for a Reason.
The first and most important way God communicates with us is through scripture. I did not grow up reading, studying or memorizing verses from the Bible. It was not until I began Bible Study Fellowship at age 40 that I discovered how daily reading and study with other believers brings “the living Word” to life.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
When I read scripture I learn about the character of God. As I study His word I find passages that apply to the problems and questions that I have. And when I memorize scripture God’s spirit is faithful to call them to mind in times of need, either for myself or to encourage and comfort others.
Get on Your Knees.
Prayer is probably the most neglected and misunderstood part of our spiritual lives. Prayer is more than a “help line” when our problems feel bigger than we are.
So how do we learn to pray? Begin with the Lord’s Prayer, his response to the apostles’ same question.
Ask any prayer warrior you know and he or she will tell you that effective prayer begins on your knees. I don’t know why this is so, but simply adopting this prayer posture consistently will make a difference.
Another secret to success I’ve learned from others is to begin your day with prayer. One of my favorite BSF teachers convicted me with this question:
What is the first thing you think about when you wake in the morning? If it’s not God you’ll know what your idol is.
Starting your day with prayer places God in His rightful place in your life: first. A great way to do this is to download Proverbs 31’s “First 5” app onto your smart phone and spend five minutes reading their devotions before checking your text messages or emails.
Here is a three-step process to try:
- Praise. Begin your prayers with praise. This may be listening to praise music or it can be as simple as contemplating who God is and recognizing Him with the names that come to your heart: Father, Healer, Master, Creator, King of Kings, etc.
- Thanks. Again let your heart take the lead. Thank God for whatever comes to mind, but allow the time to become fully aware of all of your many blessings.
- Petition. Now you’re ready to converse with God and present to Him your petitions and your pleas, your heartaches and your dilemmas. (Inevitably I find this list is shorter when I am faithful to follow steps one and two.) Rather than asking for an outcome try asking for the fruits of the Spirit to know and follow God’s will in each situation: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Another framework is ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication/ intercession). I also learned some great practical tips from the sweet little movie, The War Room (just $4.99 on iTunes).
At the end of the day don’t worry about your form or formality…just do it! Paul reminds us that we can’t fail because our Father knows our hearts:
…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
Surround yourself with followers of Jesus who can support, guide and challenge you in your walk with God:
- And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12: 4-5)
- “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
This is a delicate balance because we are called to support and strengthen one another so that we may go out into the world to love and serve and witness to non-believers.
“So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
The easiest way I have found to regularly lift up my praise (to my children’s chagrin) is to listen to K-Love when I drive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a song that speaks directly into what’s on my mind that day. And if you listen often enough (try their 30-day challenge) you’ll hear countless stories of people whose lives have been similarly impacted.
For me that’s what Christian music is about; it is not to insulate yourself from the world, because there is a lot of beauty to be found across all genres of music; rather, a regular dose of Christian music keeps the praise of the Lord ever on my lips and occasionally offers yet another channel through which God speaks directly to my heart.
This is last not because it is least important, but because it’s probably the most scarce in my own walk with the Lord. Just as you would never think to undertake a crucial conversation with your best friend while making dinner or driving a carful of kids around, pursuing an intimate relationship with God demands that we create space in our lives and in our frazzled minds to simply be with Him. I do this best in nature, and Umstead State Park is one of my favorite places to commune with God (Read Trailmarkers to Heaven), but whether you choose nature or inside a church just make a point to go there regularly and listen for the still small voice of the Almighty:
Then [Elijah the prophet] was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire
a gentle and quiet whisper.
When Elijah heard the quiet voice he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?”
1 Kings 9:11-13
What are your listenings posts to God?
Feel free to share them or share a story of a specific time you heard God as an encouragement to others.