Listening Prayer

If prayer is talking to God, then doesn’t it make a little bit of sense that it should be a conversation? So we have to listen from time to time. I love Blackaby and King’s Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. It’s essence is “trust and obey.” But a premise is that God speaks to us, today – “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.” Through prayer – so we have to listen, right?

How’s that working for you? For me it’s tough. Really tough. I’m so distracted and busy. My mind is always busy with stuff I want or need to do, this and that. Junk, mostly. I think it’s habit, and one that perhaps we can train ourselves out of. Slowly, very slowly.

So I was trying it today, following reading and considering Douglas McKelvey’s Liturgy for Daybreak (in Every Moment Holy, a great book of liturgies / prayers for just about everything), which has become my practice, and the thought occurred to me – “When am I really focused on something? What does that look like? Can I perhaps find a similar focus during my listening prayer time.” Now I know listening prayer is controversial, but the answer I got is about 100x more controversial. I am most focused on a single thing when I’m – wait for it – hunting squirrels. I mostly leave these rats with tails alone, even letting them have their way with the corn I put out for our ducks, but when they become pests, rooting through and tearing up the plants on the deck or emptying my bird feeders, then their lives become forfeit.

I’m a pretty good shot. When I step onto the deck with my .22, they usually scurry away, heading one of two directions. The smart ones bolt along the ground and head off into the woods. There are too many trees and obstructions for me to get off a good shot. The mostly-dead ones head up a close-by tree. I know their habits. I know that if I stand perfectly still and just wait, the pest will eventually peek around the side of the tree trunk. Our eyes are equipped to see movement. I see their heads poke out. Then they have a high probability of going from mostly-dead to just dead.

So what’s my point? No, not to thump my chest and reveal the secret of my hunting prowess. Here is a situation where I’m focused on one thing. I’m staring up into the trees waiting for a movement to catch my eye. I know that if I wait long enough, the squirrel will move and I can take aim. Is it feasible that I could find the same sort of focus in listening prayer? What is the “movement” I would be watching for? Is there a built-in capability that’s designed to see that movement? Hmmmmmm.

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