*Reposted from 2015
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”— Winston Churchill
For the fifth year in a row, on January 1, I’ve chosen a word on which to focus for the upcoming year. A word to study and ask God to work into my life. I usually spend a few days at the end of December reflecting on the past year, examining where God has been at work, and processing where He seems to be leading. But this time was a little different. Just seconds after the prayer came out of my mouth, “Lord, what word would you have me choose this year?” There it was…
Of course it is. No need for consideration or follow-up questions or second guesses. Because, I’ll be honest, being a good listener has never come naturally to me. I am a communicator, a verbal processor, and I come from a long line of “talkers”. When my extrovert husband, then boyfriend, first started hanging out with my family, they commented on how quiet he was. When I mentioned it, he replied emphatically, “That’s because I can’t get a word in! Y’all don’t even take a breath between sentences.” It’s true. And once when my group of girlfriends decided to walk/run (90% walk) a half-marathon which takes well over 3 hours, someone asked, “Are you bringing Ipods?” One of my friends replied, “Nah, we’re bringing Leslie. We just throw out topics and she talks about them.”
I’d like to think I’ve become a little better at listening more and talking less over the years. My husband says I have; thank goodness for sanctification! But evidently, and obviously, there’s still room for growth. I’ve come to realize that there is much more to listening than simply hearing all the words. I am convinced that an inability or unwillingness to really listen in relationships is a primary cause of conflict, misunderstanding, and pain. It can be a major obstacle to mature, deep relationships. In marriage, friendships, families, the workplace and the body of Christ. I believe we miss even more in our relationship with God when we do all the talking, thinking, figuring and decision-making without stopping to listen for His voice.
So for 2015, in all my relationships, it is my hopeful prayer that God teach me how to LISTEN.
Listen for UNDERSTANDING
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”–Stephen R. Covey
God, I long to develop healthy, meaningful relationships that honor You. Help me listen for understanding as I seek reconciliation with others. Teach me to pause and seek to hear, not just to be heard. To remember that “to answer before listening is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Help me recognize when words or phrases trigger old wounds. Instead of making assumptions in the heat of the moment, remind me to ask questions and listen carefully so that I can respond and not react, speaking the truth in love. By the power of Your Spirit, help me be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Listen for CONNECTION
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”–Peter Drucker
Father, we all carry deep hurt and woundedness from living in a sinful world. Yet so many of us are unable to wrap words around our pain. Give me ears to hear the hurt lying underneath the words. I ask for a heart that chooses to enter into the hard stuff with those in desperate need of connection. Help me set aside my own agenda to be present with those in pain. Give me “sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (Peter 3:8).
Listen for WISDOM
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”–Doug Larson
God, forgive me for thinking I know what is best. For doing most of the talking and very little listening. You alone are the author and keeper of wisdom. Your wisdom is not of this world and Your ways are higher than mine. Teach me to ask for wisdom every day in every situation, claiming the promise that You will give generously to all who ask. Lead me as a wife, a parent, a friend and a neighbor. Help me make wise decisions, for “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
Listen for DIRECTION
“Don’t bother to give God instructions. Just report for duty.” –Corrie Ten Boom
Jesus, I confess my tendency to make my own plans, to go my own way, to follow my own dreams. You alone know the way I should take, the path of my life that will bring You the most glory. You are my good Shepherd. Give me discernment to hear Your voice above all others, especially my own. Help me not to automatically assume that what I want is in Your will, but to hold my dreams and desires with open hands. Not my will, not my way. You lead and I will follow. “For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” (Psalms 31:3).
Listen for TRUTH
“Truth is not a principle. Truth is a person: Jesus Christ.” –Rick Warren
Finally, I ask you Father to help me discern Your voice of truth from the father of lies. Drown out the voice that condemns and destroys and leads astray. Teach me to listen to Your voice that heals and loves and leads to eternal life. You have promised that “whoever is of God hears the words of God” (John 8:47). I want to devour your true and perfect Word. To hear it with my ears, meditate on it in my mind, treasure it in my heart and apply it to my life. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit, that guides me “into all the truth” (John 16:13).
In the name of Jesus, who is faithful to complete the work He began, teaching even me to LISTEN. Amen.
Held by Him,