By all means babble, but then take time to be quiet and listen!
Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:6 The Message Bible)
In part one of this series, we looked at how, like children whom God sometimes uses as tiny messengers of truth, we often run ahead in life instead of walking with the Lord and waiting for his timing. This week we are thinking about another instruction that we regularly repeat to children, which also applies to us in our Christian walk.
Parents and teachers frequently need to remind children to be quiet and listen! Children rarely stop talking! They talk over the top of each other and other people in conversation! Many adults also talk over the top of one another too! Life has become very loud in a world where many of us are competing to be heard and have forgotten how to be quiet!
There is a time for talking and a time for listening. Many of us are not good at the listening part, but Ecclesiastes 5:2 has some good advice:
“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
Just as children must be reminded to quieten down and listen, putting their many words on hold, we adults sometimes need to use less words and spend more time listening to God and to one another. Why would we babble and speak over the top of the Creator of the universe, or not give him a chance to speak? The world is awake and noisy 24/7. Even Jesus, in a world without the saturation of modern media, found it distracting. He often withdrew to a hillside alone to pray and spend time with God. If the Son of God found that necessary, how much more do we need to do that?
If you met with Jesus in person today, I am sure you would have a list of things to ask him, but I imagine you would be so attentive to his replies and so eager to hear what he wanted to say to you. I imagine you would be hanging off every word, taking notes and recording him on your phone to remember everything he said!
A few years ago, I met an actor who had been my childhood hero! As I stepped forward and shook his hand, I was quiet and respectful, taking in every word he said to me and those around us. When I think back to that meeting, I realize that I unintentionally memorized every word that he said during that short time! How much more would we do that with Jesus! Yet we rarely give him time to speak. We are in too much of a hurry to listen. We have other priorities. The busy-ness of life on earth gets in the way. Yet he is in heaven, knowing all, seeing all, having planned everything from the beginning to the end. The Alpha and Omega, the lover of our soul, longing to share his wisdom and to speak words of peace, love and healing over our busy, troubled souls.
In Matthew 6: 7-8 Jesus said, “ …when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Sometimes I babble at God if I am anxious. I don’t think he minds a bit of babbling. He understands our anxious thoughts and wants us to be real and to come to him just as we are with whatever is on our mind. Isaiah 37 tells of how King Hezekiah, who was deeply troubled by a letter threatening his kingdom, went to the house of the Lord and “spread out” his letter before God and prayed hard. He brought his torment and literally laid it out before the Lord, no doubt with much anguish and raw emotion!
The important point to note is that we are not to “keep on” babbling like pagans. To do so is not only irreverent, but reflects lack of faith. By all means babble, but then take time to be quiet and listen! We don’t need many words because God already knows what is on our heart.
Jesus only acted after listening to the Father when he prayed. He told his followers that he did nothing of his own accord, but only what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19), meaning that he was fully submitted to God. Jesus had such a close relationship with God through prayer that he was completely submitted to him and in tune with his will. In John 8:26 he confirmed this by saying, “…I tell the world only what I have heard from him.”
If only we could have that same intimacy with God! Being close comes from spending time with someone regularly, really listening to them and knowing their heart as they know ours. To do this with God, we need to spend time in prayer regularly, read what he has to say in his word, spend time with other believers and seek him in everything we do, as our opening Scripture says.
“Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:6 The Message Bible)
To hear him, we must be still. He values stillness. 1 Peter 3:4 speaks of the value of “a gentle and quiet spirit which in God’s sight is very precious.” In Jeremiah 33:3 he says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Perhaps it is in the most still and quiet moments that our knowledge of him grows the most.
Be still. Be silent. Sometimes his voice is still and small (1 Kings 19:12). Learn to be comfortable with silence in this noisy world. Silence your own physical voice and the voice in your mind. Expect him to speak and wait. You will hear him. Through a thought, an impression, a verse of Scripture. If you listen for his voice in everything you do and everywhere you go, he will find all kinds of creative ways to speak to you! He has made a wonderful promise to those who seek him and listen! He says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”(Jeremiah 33:3) What a promise! God will tell you things that he has not told anyone else! Things you have never even dreamed of! God loves a heart that hungers for him and longs for those great and unsearchable things!
Finally, as we also teach our own children, being quick to listen and slow to speak helps our relationships with each other too, as James 1:19-20 says,
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Slowing down, being quiet and listening yields a harvest of understanding and patience, rather than anger and frustration, which completely changes our relationships with our fellow human beings for the better! God is longing to help us all in this area so that we can move towards his design for each of us to love one another as he has loved us.
Prayer: Father, how I need to be quiet and listen! Forgive me for those times when I have not given you or others time to speak because my own words seemed more important. Cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit within me and help me to make it a priority to step away and spend time listening to you. I long to know of the great and unsearchable things that you keep in your heart Lord! Deepen my passion for you and give me an appetite for listening! Help me to recognize your voice, so that I may walk more closely with you and with others! In Jesus Name, Amen.
Please click here for part three of this series.