Listening to God

“Speak, for your Servant is listening.”  1 Samuel 3:3-11

Recently, someone approached me after mass back home. They had been reading my blog. They wanted to ask me a question, but didn’t know how to ask. I finally said, just ask me. Its OK, I’ll answer if I’m able to do so. They go on to say, “Lisa, how is it you hear God?”

First, it’s never God who is not speaking. It is us who do not listen. Yet, He challenges us to listen still. He never stops inviting us.

Second, that’s not an easy question to answer. God speaks to us all in a variety of ways. I go on to share with this friend, it’s not an audible voice I hear. This somehow brings him comfort. I go on to say, it’s a matter of coming to know His voice which only comes from spending time in quiet, prayer, and reading His word.

It’s building an intimate relationship which requires our time, our honesty, and vulnerability. And remember it’s the relationship we seek, not the voice. So it’s more like learning to hear a voice from within that’s your own. For me, I know it’s not my own voice. Mostly, because I would never give myself such good advice, full of wisdom. He often tells me things like “get out of the way”, “sit back and listen” “take the last place”. Ya, no I wouldn’t tell myself these things.

And, I would certainly not tell myself things like, now – go – pray with that man which requires me making a fool of myself exiting backward out of an Adoration chapel in a foreign country. Ya, no I wouldn’t tell myself that one either. It was a sight to see.

Therefore, even though I have a regular prayer life, I’m no master in hearing Him all the time. However, I do follow the masters – the great saints, and ultimately Jesus who continually took time out to pray.

In fact, I’m so far from having mastered His voice I feel a lot like Samuel in First Samuel 3:1-18. God called Samuel audibly three times while he was sleeping. Samuel was under the impression it was Eli calling him in the middle of the night. Each time he went to wake Eli saying “Here I am, for you called me?” It was after the third time Eli realized God was calling Samuel. It is then he gave Samuel the advice “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.” I encourage you to read the rest of the message, as the Lord’s news was not good for Eli. For he told Samuel he was going to punish Eli for his failure and the blaspheme caused by his sons.

View of my morning prayer spot in Peru.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.

There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” Hosea 2:14-15

I was in fact a student in the sands of Piura. God taught me many things. He showed me His power and majesty. But that was only part of His plan. Maybe I was stubborn, maybe I didn’t want to hear the message, or maybe I was just too comfortable. I do not know, as I’m sure it’s all of that. There are times, I seem to think I know better than God. I tell him “I got this one”. Maybe, you too can relate?

Therefore, I completely missed His many messages. And in all humility, I’ll admit it’s here too I denied Jesus and ignored the messages.

However, once clarity comes it looks a lot like a wrecking ball coming your way. You see it, you hear it, and yet it paralyzes you. You attempt to duck, but that no longer works. You wonder how it is you even got to this place. Your head knows this is just God bringing order, but your heart well that’s a different story. So you bring your vulnerability and the avalanche of fear that is taking root inside of you and you sit at His feet. You get honest with God and yourself. For what we build, plan, control, or desire is often not part of His plan. It’s our version of life, but not His divine plan for one’s life.

So you want to run, and ignore the messages, the voices, and the signs. And you go about your way, until you can’t any more. For if you are listening to at least part of what is being said, you slowly wake up to the reality of what God has been trying to tell. You see with a new lens. It often comes from unexpected places and people. An unexpected moment like riding in the back of a cab listening to a marriage proposal. But that is too all God. He’s always using unexpected moments and people to get our attention. The bible is chalked full of the unexpected and yet, it always surprises us. And whenever there’s a surprise, there’s an invitation to more of God that follows.

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” –Ephesians 5:14-17

The unexpected moment comes from left field and packs such a punch to your gut that you know its God. He’s saying “wake up pilgrim, pay attention”. So part of listening is hearing His voice, then learning to know it’s His voice, and last a willingness to be open, to change and be transformed. Then the hardest part is not the actual listening, but the follow up. The movement forward into the unknown. The action and calling forth. For most of us, the unknown is very scary. Yet, according to google “fear not”, “be not afraid”, “do not fear” appears 365 times in scripture. Therefore, I think God cares and knows all about our fear long before we arrive into it.

You see when He calls us into action we must follow and sometimes action looks like “being patient” depending on the circumstances. For that too is action in God’s kingdom. There was much glory to come once He stilled the waters in creation. Action and patience both require trust. For if you know God is a good Father, and trust in His providence then you’ll move according to His will.

Hearing His voice might call for change. A movement in our lives that takes us out of the comfort and safety we created for ourselves. Or it might also demand we stay and be patient in our current place and wait. There is still something to learn, to heal, or to be pruned away, as this is the path to holiness. Either way, the place of fear is ultimately an opportunity to find safety in His love. Over and over again, He says “Be not afraid”.

But movement is not always easy, nor is being patient. There lots of things that may need to change; ways of living, habits, and even sins to be repented. Then there are the noticeable things like a change in job, home, relationships, and daily routines etc. So in any movement of change comes loss which brings a host of emotions. There could be frustration, confusion, or sadness, something in fact has been lost. What often looks and feels like chaos and confusion to us is just God being God. He’s bringing order to our messy lives much like the order He brought to creation.

There could also be tears of repentance, as clarity has a way of showing you the ugly side of your selfishness and sinfulness. So you lay your heart before the One who forgives and you repent. Blessed are you, as you know the story of the prodigal son is neither about the elder son or the lost son, but the love the Father. And so it is, into that love in which you run and fall.

In the end, you know you must move and walk through the door of trepidation. You’re not the same woman you once were Oh so long ago. You no longer live in fear, but under the shelter of God’s wing. You know the risk of gain overshadows the loss. For the Lord, your God is with you. He will never forsake or leave your side. It is He who will carry you through with grace. You are his beloved child and He will not leave you orphaned.

And then a wise friend, who cares about your heart tells you “you have people that love and care for you”. So true, how could I ever forget? I am not alone. That too was a much needed reminder and a message from God.

And so you move and walk more into His light to guide the way. For you left your old sandals in the sands of Peru, as you are now walking with a new tread into the unknown. It is never intended for us to see what is hidden until God is ready to show us more of His plan. That may sound scary to some, but if you truly believe He’s a good Father then it’s not so scary. For your hope lies not in ourselves, but in His goodness, providence, and sovereignty.

So I wonder, do we not sit and pray because we don’t have time. Or do we not sit and pray because we are afraid of what we might hear? Do we not sit and pray because we do not trust God? Why are we not able to be honest and vulnerable with the One who loves us unconditionally?

Hearing His voice takes time, patience, and practice. You must spend time in His presence, but it’s so worth it all! His voice comes through God’s word, in the silence of prayer, time spent in His creation – nature, or another person. He’s God, He knows how to reach you. He’s the master communicator and He desires your whole heart.

You will not get to know His voice without a prayer life. You will not grow in your relationship with Him without a prayer life. You will not become a missionary disciple without a prayer life. And, lastly you will not produce fruit in His kingdom without a prayer life. If you don’t believe me, just read the lives of the saints.

There are many ways to pray, but the way I pray and suggest is using Lectio Divina. Start with the gospel of Mark or Matthew. For more information on Lectio Divina and how to use this prayer technique go to google. You will find all kinds of information on how to get started. Be patient, this too takes time. Remember this “pray as you can, not as you can’t” – St. Ignatius. So find what works for you; the method of prayer, the time of day, place to sit etc. The key is to start and not stop.

And if you still don’t where to start try this. Mother Theresa used to tell her novices when they would say “Mother I don’t know what to pray”. She’d tell them “Go sit in front of the tabernacle or blessed sacrament and say Jesus love me, Jesus love me, Jesus love me.”

It works, I’m fruit of that practice.

The view from my prayer spot at home.

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