We live amid a continual communication snowstorm. We are bombarded. Our communication culture is defined by emails, texts, social media notifications, and phone calls. Even when we get time to chat, we are tempted to talk over one another, desperate to get our point across quickly.

In the face of this fast-paced, new communication lifestyle, could it be that we are losing the ability to listen? 

I want to suggest that cultivating listening skills is a necessity for deep relationships – both with God and
with one another. To only speak at, or speak to, is to deprive ourselves of the possibility of growth in our relationship with the Lord and with others. Let me give you a few examples. 

A disillusioned, and uncertain man was walking in the countryside. He reflected as he walked, watching the sheep he was guarding. He came to a mountain called Horeb, and there encountered an angel of the Lord. The man, whose name was Moses, stood looking and God spoke. 


It was as Moses listened, he was commissioned, and he heard the words of reassurance that God would be with him. At first, he felt like a failure as he did not have the gifts for the work God was calling him to do. Yet as he listened, God began to change him. The calling was in the conversation. It was as Moses stood in stillness and listened to the Lord that he discovered who he was. His leadership journey started in deep conversation and listening (Exodus 3). 

It is very difficult for us to be secure in our identity and calling when we spend no time listening. In our rush to act, some of us never get to a place where we simply allow God to remind us of who we are. 

A young boy lay in the darkness, knowing his life was dedicated to God but feeling his future was uncertain. He slept in the house of the Lord lying on a mat. Also in the room was the prophet Eli. Samuel, the young boy, was living in a time when God did not communicate with the people. As Samuel was sleeping, he was awakened by a voice which called to him by name and assumed it was Eli the prophet. Three times the voice called him, until Eli gave him a piece of advice that we should all heed: when you think God is speaking to you, pay attention and listen. At that moment, Samuel said, Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” and he was given a word from God and a calling in Him. 

What does this story tell us? It shows that God longs for deep and meaningful encounters with us. Three times God speaks before Samuel responds, which demonstrates God’s patience, faithfulness, and persistence in communicating to His people. If we have lost the art of listening, are we able to respond to the cadences and communication of God? (1 Samuel 3). 

I love the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel, the courage, the confidence and the power. The supernatural power and sovereignty of the one true almighty God. I love it. Yet fighting for God, even in the power of the Spirit, is exhausting. Even super prophets burn out!

In a season of fear, exhaustion and probable depression, he hears God speak. The word comes to Elijah in an unexpected way. Not in the ways he had seen before, not in a loud and powerful way but in a whisper. A still, small, gentle voice. That voice was the beginning of the journey to restoration. God knew exactly what Elijah required and all Elijah had to do was listen. 

Sometimes God speaks in unexpected ways and through surprising people. However, we are required to make the space to listen. To do so requires making space and longing for relationship. We need to want to listen.

"It is very difficult for us to be secure in our identity and calling when we spend no time listening."

We need to practice the art of listening, being still and waiting on the Lord, because not doing so means we will not hear the Lord. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, we need to follow His practice of making time for listening. Jesus knew the importance of embracing quiet moments with God. Throughout the gospels, we have accounts of Jesus going into quiet places to pray. When He returns, He has often made decisions. In Mark 1, Jesus goes to a solitary place, comes back, and surprises the disciples by telling them He is going to move on to other places to share the gospel. In Luke, we are told that Jesus went alone to pray, and only after this did He choose His disciples. This paints a picture of Jesus as one who, throughout His ministry, consistently went away to wait upon the Lord and move forward only after hearing God’s voice.

Of course, not only does Jesus listen to the Father, He also listens to others. Think of how many times Jesus asks questions. Although He knows what we need, Jesus listens to the heart and responses of others. He makes time. He gives people status, a place. By listening, Jesus is bestowing dignity.

What is it that you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks a blind beggar (Luke 18:41). I wonder how many people had ever taken the time to listen to this man. How many would have cared about what he wanted?

By listening, Jesus stayed close to the Father but also bestowed upon people a sense of identity, particularly in those overlooked by others. By cultivating a Jesus-like culture of listening, we can stay in tune with God and lift up others. We are called to love one another. How can we do that if we never actually give people the respect they deserve by listening seriously to what is on people’s hearts?

To seek a listening heart is fundamental to see change as James writes to the early church: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

Ultimately, when it comes to it, we’re like ants crawling across an iPad: in touch with something we only faintly understand”, writes Christian author Drew Dyck. We don’t know God well because we have not found a way to challenge the rush culture and spend time listening. Might we feel this deep in our hearts? Will we live countercultural lives that cherish stillness, silence and listening, giving time to deepen our relationships with God and one another?

Related pages:

Church leaders burn out too – let’s embrace our limits as Jesus did

Church leaders burn out too – let’s embrace our limits as Jesus did

Interview with church leader Mark Massey on following Jesus’ rhythms of rest in the busy seasons of ministry
United at the cross: getting free from comparison to other Christians

United at the cross: getting free from comparison to other Christians

Comparison brings out the worst in me, but the cross frees me to walk in unity with others. How might we build each other up this Easter and beyond?