Clippings from the Barber’s Chair

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they did all the talking? It’s not much of a conversation, right? In fact, a few minutes of that verbal barrage and I’m looking for a polite way to exit the chat. Conversation is a two-way street, so to speak.

This week I’ll be sharing at a local church a few thoughts entitled, “The Other Half of Prayer.” The idea stems from healthy interpersonal communication. In a healthy interaction, there is both speaking and listening.

I contend that prayer is exactly the same. I further contend that the listening “half” of prayer has been dramatically overlooked by the church.

In full disclosure, I’m pretty sure I’m a part of the problem. When we taught our son to pray as a little lad, we taught him the usual, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” kinds of prayers. What I don’t recall teaching him was that a part of prayer is listening for God to speak. Perhaps his little mind wouldn’t have grasped it anyway. He certainly struggled, as all kids do, to listen to his parents at that age.

What I fear, however, is that we learn pretty early on that prayer is mostly about talking to God and almost no one suggests that listening for God is an essential component of prayer. So what are we going to do about this? I don’t want God looking for a polite way to exit his chats with me because all I do is talk when we are together.

Here are two suggestions. I suspect there are more, but these two have worked for me.

First, recast the reading of the scriptures as “listening to God’s everyday voice.” I

actually believe this is true. We Nazarene’s believe that the scriptures were “God

breathed.” That means that the Spirit of God inspired those who wrote the words.

However, we also believe that inspiration wasn’t limited to the writing alone, it also applies to the reading of the Bible. So, when I sit down to read some scripture, I should be reminded that God speaks in his word. If I learn to read purposefully in this way, I can be sure that I am taking time to listen for God. And if you will listen, I’m confident God will speak. I have had an amazing three weeks of God using his “everyday voice” to speak to me. What a blessing!

Second, learn the practice of silence and solitude. Find a spot where it is quiet, turn off your phone (or at least stash it where you can’t see or hear it), quiet your breathing and just tune in to God. Invite God to speak to you and then take note of what you sense in your own spirit. We Wesleyans are big fans of the witness of the Spirit, so don’t be afraid to let God speak in this way.

For about a year, Jill and I attended a Quaker church in North Carolina when I was a student at Duke. It took us off guard initially when the pastor would call the congregation to a time of prayer and then no one would speak for a couple of minutes. I confess that the first service we attended, Jill and I “peeked” a little from our bowed heads and even shot one another a little glance that said, “What’s happening right now?”

In time, however, we grew to appreciate the intentional moments of silence as we tuned in to God’s still and small voice. You can too if you try.

So, this week as you pray, don’t forget the other half of prayer, and spend some time listening through the word and silence.

I’m praying for you!


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