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When listening prayer is hard

Get a Free eBook: Do you want to grow closer to God in your prayer times? I’ve written a free guide called The Three Day Listening Prayer Devotional and I’d love for you to download it. Click here to download the free devotional. We have an outdoor cat named Chloe who, in the winter months waits…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Get a Free eBook: Do you want to grow closer to God in your prayer times? I’ve written a free guide called The Three Day Listening Prayer Devotional and I’d love for you to download it. Click here to download the free devotional.
We have an outdoor cat named Chloe who, in the winter months waits by the front door and darts inside when I open it in the morning. She then waits for me to sit down on the couch and immediately jumps on my lap and purrs with pleasure. It’s the cold that drives her behavior. When the comfortable temperatures of spring come, she no longer waits at the door. 
I’m a lot like Chloe with God. When my life is comfortable I don’t show up as frequently at his front door. But give me a cold season of discomfort where I need consolation and I go looking for the warmth of his presence.
It was at the lowest point of my life that I became a candidate to experience his presence through listening prayer. Inside I had declared emotional bankruptcy. I was beyond even looking for him – he went looking for me. And thereafter, in that state of extreme dependence and vulnerability, all I did was keep showing up at his door, hoping to somehow curl up on his lap.
What I’ve seen since then is that as my life has become easier, I don’t feel the urgency to listen for his voice. I don’t cock my ear in his direction these days like I used to in my season of bankruptcy. In seasons of warmth my prayers become more like monologues and I begin to drift away, no longer straining for that divine connection. Frankly, I’m in a season of ease at this point in my life. I’m not hearing God as clearly and I’m not straining to be with him as I have in the past.  I know the season will change, but that’s where I’m at.  Can you relate? Do you feel unsettled?
I don’t like winter – I’m a warm weather guy. But it’s in those winter months that God gives me the severe mercy of his presence. I don’t like the cold, but I feel best when I’m curled up on his lap.
Get the free devotional: Deepen your intimacy with God as you pray through this three-day devotional on Listening Prayer. Click here to download the devotional.

The Art of Listening Prayer

Comments (15)

  • Do you know, I would have agreed with you categorically until this last year. For the last 7 months in particular, I have been like the cat turning up at God’s door, desperate for His lap to rest on, wanting His nearness and the comfort of being right there with Him as I have known so much before in my life, only His presence has remained absent. It’s been horrible. I miss Him terribly.

    But as I am preparing to head back into attending church again from 1st March, I realise that I am going as someone who is no longer sure how to connect, who knows that God is real and that He is there but who can’t feel it. That puts me on the opposite side to where I used to be as a worship leader. To worship without a fresh flow of emotion towards God – that’s alien to me. I never understood people who couldn’t really get it, who couldn’t focus in on God and then know the tangible sense of His presence. Now it’s me.

    Probably not a bad thing to know from the inside if I am ever going to lead worship again. Still a painful place to be. But a friend emailed me this week and asked if my ministry and my heart was more towards the happy clappies or the broken and suffering…….and he suspected the latter. In which case, God leading me into this place is no surprise. You only have compassion for the broken when you have walked through hurt yourself. Done plenty of that before, but here’s some more. Maybe it’s time to go deeper.

    Still wintry over here. But I guess when the Spring comes, it will never have tasted so good.

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    I must admit that I love the misery of Seth & Carol’s fellowship 🙂
    And I must also admit the same feelings and sensation of “Where’s God?” Something akin to “Where’s Waldo?” The last three years of my life has been such a struggle for me – spirit, soul, and body. Yeah, I had the teachings of Watchman Nee… And I do manage to keep my Greek Tragedy mask on for most church services. However, I just want the “real” with God and man; although, I find the only one really wanting the real is God – most men/women have so much make-up on, I don’t really recognize them. Sometimes I feel spiritually autistic (not minimizing the disorder) – alone in a world of my own around many Christians, unable to communicate my heart feelings.

    Oh, by the way, I don’t like not being super-Christian, not being perfect like my Father in heaven is….I guess it is true – I am co-dependent on Jesus. Thanks Seth & Carol for sharing – it helps me….

  • Seth, there is an urgency in this word I bring. I see what you write in your post and I know from my own past experiences that what you have written would not have stirred me a few years ago, I would have understood where you were coming from.

    But Today, there is a darkness over the land as the Day of Gods wrath approaches. There is no time to wait for seasons. Seek God.Do not stop seeking Him even if you are struggling to hear Him, even if you struggle to find Him.Seek Him with all you are. Dont quit seeking Him.

    In the last days the love of many will grow cold and I have seen a great deception of how Satan will do this.

    Your first love, the one you hunger for, the one you cant wait to talk to, the one you cant wait to be in His company, the one you cant wait to listen to. Your first love, the one you live each day for, the one you cant stop thinking about, the one that consumes you.

    You need to get back to your first love.This is not the season to let it grow cold like the winter. We might have got away with it in the past but it far too dangerous to let it happen now.

    Godbless you Seth

  • Your not being “super christian” just a christian.I think its all the others who havent yet realised what Jesus said ” If you do not love me more than your mother, father, children etc….yes even more than your own life you are not fit to be my disciple.

    Being real with God, a heart seared by His Holiness is what a christian is.If people are “living in falsehood” then it doesnt sound like Gods people who walk in TRUTH.We are back to the parable of the “wheat and tares again” …..another hot potato!

  • Thanks, Seth. It is NOT an easy time in my life right now, and I still find it difficult to be still long enough to hear. I still have responsibilities all around me and I wonder why God takes so long when I am still. Like the Psalmist: “Don’t hide Your face from me lest I be like those who go down to the pit.” There are so many rich times with Him in the past to compare today to. I guess I have yet to learn to appreciate long silences from God. We have a cat, too, and she is pretty persevering when she wants warmth and comfort. I often think that if I can hardly bear to look in her eyes and ignore her, can I think less of HIM?

  • Misery, St Mark??? :)))) Honesty covers the grey skies as much as the blue, and often there are more of those in life! Thanks for your comments – always interesting.

    Kathy, what you wrote there is really helpful, especially the last sentence. Good thought. And it’s nice to know I am not alone in feeling this way. Thanks, lol Cxx

  • Love the picture of the cat!

    I would appreciate contact regarding the high rate of fathers who are normal in every way except they smoke marijuana. Their offspring are great people but they are more confused than ever about the double standards out there. Because of the smoke the fathers don’t seem to care as much as they should, may I say?
    I like to remain anonymous because those who smoke THC are very paranoid.

  • Seth, I am struggling right now with listening. I could, please, use some strong accountability! period! sooo not like me.

  • When God is silent, I find myself drawn to King David. His story, his psalms…promised great things by God, but then being sent on the run alone and in constant danger, wondering if what God had promised him would ever become a reality. Did God really say that? Mean that? David went into the caves utterly broken, and emerged a new man, trusting that God would make good on His promises even when it seemed God could not be found.

    I look at Job, a man well acquainted with suffering and pain and the silence of God, who was righteous and upstanding. He did not necessarily understand why God was allowing those things to happen, but he knew that somehow in the end God would prove Himself to be all that He said He is. Job sought to love God for God’s own sake – just because He was God – even when all the blessings God gave him had been stripped from him. And when all is said and done, God did come through for Job. He always comes through, in His own way and in His own time, which is always the right time.

    “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Job 13:15

    “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” Psalm 13:1-2

    “But I will trust in Your unfailing love…” Psalm 13:5

    Sometimes ‘we need to be reminded that the pain is worth the plunder’ (Jars of Clay, Oh My God).

    Take courage and hold fast: even when we lose sight of God, He will never lose sight of us. He is there, always there, whether we sense Him or not. Hold fast. This too shall pass…

    “After all this, O LORD, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent…?” Isaiah 64:12

    “‘I will not keep silent…’” -God (Isaiah 65:6)

    Take hope, take heart. The ebb of His presence draws the heart out with greater longing. Is it worth it? It is worth it.


  • I just stumbled upon this today, after some long and terrible trials. But just recently, I finally returned to the Lord after a lot of prayer and reading the Bible. One thing that God spoke to me through his Word was something that really explained why my life turned out the way it did. As Carol C said “You only have compassion for the broken when you have walked through hurt yourself.”

    This world is at a breaking point, and Jesus will return to take his followers sooner than most people realize. For all of you out there who are now questioning, or feel like you are growing cold. I have been there…for the last seven years I dreaded what the next day would bring because I didn’t know how I could bear it. And only through the fear of not being with God forever stayed my hand from suicide. I would suggest reading the letters to the seven churches at the beginning of Revelation and remember Daniel 11:35 which says “Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” (NIV translation)

    Just remember, don’t give up on God because he will never give up on you, no matter how tough life gets or what you may need to go through. But remember, for any kind of disease (including the soul) you need not only a cure, but also preventative measures. Whenever you have a moment of silence, use it in prayer or reading his word and he WILL change your life for the better, no question. Look back on the problems you have had, and see that you are still here, alive and well. And hopefully you will be able to see the Lord guiding your steps even when you don’t realize he is there, he did it for me, and I was (what I felt) so far away from him, like someone else said, I felt apart from the church in a way. Like I wasn’t good enough. Know that I will be praying for all of you who are hurting, because I know how it is to feel alone. But know that you are not alone and whether you can see it or not, God is still with you through by the Grace of His Son.

  • http://www.safeplacefellowship.com

    God never intended for us to be super Christians. He is not interested in how well we behave as much as He is our understanding His love for us. It is only through this heart understanding that we can truly live the life He predestined for us.

    Light yoke, easy burden.

  • Your comparison to winter and your cats response is very good. I have found that when I am listening and do not sense answers that the very best way to hear God is to take a red letter edition of the Bible..and look at the questions Jesus asked … For instance in John…He asked ‘what are you looking for?’
    And ‘do you want to be whole?’…. Look at his questions for you instead of staring so heard at the questions you have for Him

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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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