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Paying attention to what God may be saying

Critics of listening prayer frequently misunderstand the way in which we apply the truths of Scripture about listening for God’s voice. They take seriously the warning in Rev. 22:18-19 to not add or subtract anything from Scripture. They are rightly concerned that a person listening for God’s voi…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Critics of listening prayer frequently misunderstand the way in which we apply the truths of Scripture about listening for God’s voice. They take seriously the warning in Rev. 22:18-19 to not add or subtract anything from Scripture. They are rightly concerned that a person listening for God’s voice will
give a higher weight to their thoughts than they give the Scripture.

I don’t teach that or practice that. Those of us who practice listening prayer have a similar, high view of Scripture. Listening prayer is more about paying attention to the ways in which God may be speaking than it is about certitude about what he is saying.

Understanding that, as humans we’re fallible and our perception is flawed, we pay attention to how God may be speaking and we do so with humility. We are not so much convinced of our ability to hear accurately as we are of God’s desire to communicate with us and of his creativity in doing so.

We see the many ways God has spoken to man in Scripture. We read about his desire for us to seek and to share not just his logos (written) word, but his rhema (living) word, and we determine to pay attention.

When we write down in a journal what we perceive what he may have said, we don’t equate that with truth articulated in the Bible. In fact, we may often be jotting down some Bible verse that we perceive may apply to our lives. We are simply trying to identify what it is that God is saying to us today.
Everyone who seeks to obey God, even if they believe he only speaks through the Bible, has to go through this step of discovering how they will modify their behavior based on their perception and interpretation of that perception. Humility in doing so is the key.

Comments (7)

  • I don’t get the people who are critical of listening prayers. Is it they don’t like the concept, or are they just not comfortable with that intimate a connection with the God of the universes?

    1st of all, I quit depending on a singular “prayer time” each day. It just wasn’t enough for someone as untrusting & hard headed as me. I just started talking to Him off & on all day long – I mean, He’s always with me & in me, so why not turn my heart toward Him? It seemed a little stupid to me to not talk to Him during the day. I needed the help.

    I also quit running my mouth during my prayers years ago. Lots of the time I just ask the simple question, “what have You got to say to me about this?”

    I will warn anyone who may be thinking about talking to God all during the day, & listening more than talking…

    God will mess with you – big time.

    He’ll start putting His finger on the very parts of your life you don’t want Him to.

    And He’ll start leading you to be things outside your comfort zone, & do things that seem more than a little crazy (e.g. – starting to minister to 20somethings in your 50’s or pulling up your roots & moving somewhere else where no one knows you 😉

  • As I read this I was reminded of a quote I read recently. “Many Christians put more faith in the devil’s ability to deceive us than the Holy Spirit’s power to lead us into all truth.”

  • The “500-lb gorilla” in the room is, can anyone really exegete Scripture without the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Certainly, millions of Bible scholars will say, “YES!” and offer as many differing opinions about the meaning of any certain verse of Scripture.

    But look at a handful of “students” who studied for 3 years under the Master himself. After Jesus returned from the grave and before He ascended, Luke gives this testimony:

    He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)

    Earlier in the same chapter, Luke recounts an experience by a couple of other disciples who broke bread with Jesus and when they recognized Him, he disappeared. They said:

    “They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (24:32)

    If Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, enlightened his disciples (some of whom were not even apostles) then can’t we ask and expect Him to do the same for us?

  • Thanks Seth…this is an important reminder.

    I find that my own “noise” has been the biggest impediment to hearing God’s voice.

    That’s why I have a mountain hermitage these days to go an listen.

  • I know one of the things that was always emphasized by you and anyone else who has helped to teach me how to hear God, is that you have to test it against scripture.

    Sure, the exact words may not be written in the exact way that we hear them, but the concepts and principles should be the same. If what we are hearing or discerning agrees with the concepts and principles of the Word, than we are not adding anything to the scriptures at all; it’s really more of a paraphrase or translation into a language that fits your current circumstances.

    I think we definitely have to be careful about what we claim to know – whether it comes through, prayer, visions, dreams, or the Word itself. We have to know and accept that we see in part and that we do not have the best perspective or perception to understand or know anything. We have to maintian humility and correctability, and accept that there are time that we will be wrong and need to be corrected. To think otherwise would be incredibly prideful.

  • Lt Martin Balunos PA (Ret)

    Amen! I believe that God often chooses to speaks to the humble or unlikely persons whom he considers. Anyone whom he desires, just as he wants to give direction,compassion and even understanding.

    He chooses to speak and he expects us to listen and obey his word.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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