Cultivate a Heart of Listening

If you stop listening to instruction, my child,
    you will turn your back on knowledge.

Proverbs 19:27 (NLT)

Listen: hear, pay attention, be attentive, concentrate, take heed of, take notice of, be mindful, consider, meditate on, attend to 

  • Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might – Deuteronomy 6:4-5
  • Let the wise hear and increase in learning and the one who understands obtain guidance – Proverbs 1:5
  • Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord – Psalm 34:11
  • My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me – John 10:27

The Scriptures are filled with encouragement to listen, to hear, to allow the words of wisdom and instruction to sink in. To not only understand, but to respond. To do so, we need to have a heart ready to receive.

How often have we sat through a class, a lecture, a study, or even a conversation, but our mind wasn’t present, it was elsewhere? Or we’ve been listening to someone talk, listening to a podcast, or watching a program, only to realize we had checked out at some point and hadn’t heard anything since then? Maybe we’ve heard something a hundred times, a dozen times, or even once before and so we aren’t really listening when we hear it again?

Listening is a discipline. An ancient practice that takes work. Listening not just to hear or repeat facts, but to understand, to engage, to respond and apply.

No matter how complicated or simple one’s life might be, we still encounter obstacles to our listening. Big and small. Important or menial. Urgent or nonessential. They pull us from the art of slowing down and listening. Things like: Distractions. Media. Busyness. To do lists. Clutter. Worry. Interruptions. Needs. Obligations.

Our Creator, our Heavenly Father knew. And he provides a way. He’s given us the gift of Sabbath. A day of rest. To set aside our work and busyness. To get off the hamster wheel. To step out of the rat race. To stop defining ourselves by how many bricks we can make. And take a deep breath, slow down, recharge. And practice listening to his voice.

God also has given us feasts, festivals, seasons and times on the liturgical calendar to disrupt our everyday normal, to stop for a day, a week, or even a period of time, and seek Him a little bit deeper. The Lenten season is one of those times. As well as Passover week coming up soon. How might you use this season, this festival, to practice listening to the voice of Jesus?

Six times in the gospels and eight times in the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “he who has ears, let him hear.” We have ears. But do we hear? Have we taken time to learn the sound of our Shepherd’s voice, to know when it’s him speaking to us and know how to distinguish his voice from our own voice, the voices of the world, or the voice of the enemy?

Whether we’re a morning person or a night owl, it’s important for us to make time to be like Mary in Luke 10:38-42 and sit at the feet of Jesus. When we develop our listening muscles in those moments, we can then flex and use them throughout the day.

Some very practical exercises have helped me to listen better and they might help you as well. Spend some time exploring and then explore them again. Because listening is never a one and done. Just like one quick jog around the block is not all that’s needed for a healthy body, so too one quick lesson is not all that’s needed for a healthy spirit. We need daily exercise and daily practice to cultivate a heart of listening.

49 DAYS OF HEARING GOD: Daily emails full of practical tools to help you hear God’s voice.

THE DAILY STILL PODCAST: A Place to pause with guided Christian meditations and devotions.

SPEAK, LORD: A book exploring how to engage with the Psalms in a fresh, dynamic way—hearing them as though God were speaking directly to you. 

IGNATIAN PRAYER: A compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help you deepen your relationship with God. 

BRAINWAVE APP: Brainwave frequencies combined with background sounds or music to provide various modes of relaxation, focus, or creativity for a selected time period.

Pick one and try it out during this Season of Lent. I’d love to hear from you—drop me a comment and let me know which one you chose and how it changed the way you listen.


About Jill English Johnston

God writes His story on every heart, if we only pause to read it. My heart has lived in a fantasy world since early childhood and am delighted that God has finally brought me to the place where I can bring the fantasies to life through story. I am currently working on a fantasy trilogy (of course) but I also post thoughts, reflections and (hopefully) inspiration to my website: I am a follower of the Rabbi Jesus, married to my best friend and inspiration, and the mother of three incredible children, one daughter and two sons, a son-in-love, a daughter-in-love and two adorable granddaughters. When not writing, I passionately pursue prayer, reading (never enough time to read them all!), and the outdoors. My husband and I both served in the US Navy and have lived/travelled through many states and all over Asia. We both still enjoy travelling, but we really love our home in New Braunfels, located at the Texas Hill Country.
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