Daily Devotional: Learning to Listen for the Creator Not Simply to Speak

listenI continue to look at prayers of encouragement that my worship tradition in the United Church of Christ holds up as guides for those struggling, as I did in the death of my wife, in their Book of Worship.   One set of words held up by them which has always been an encouragement to me, even as a little boy, and which I regularly read with patients and families in my work as a chaplain, comes from the Gospel of John.

The Book of Worship includes the following excerpts of John 14 as words of meditation and encouragement: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.

“In a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

 

A final thought I want to share about this prayer stems from how, even as I write about this prayer, a part of me recoils. “Prayer? How is this a prayer? We aren’t saying anything spiritual practice prayerto God”. Growing up I never would have thought of such words as prayer. I had this idea that prayer was speaking to God: addressing God. But this is not necessarily all prayer needs to be known as. Prayer is more than a laundry list of requests to God or even our crying out about all our pains.   Which is why it is so meaningful to me that words of God’s addressed to us, not just words we are intended to address to God, are a part of a prayer-book in a denomination that proclaims boldly “God is still speaking. Never put a period where God has placed a comma”.

In actual fact, prayer is opening our awareness to God. This can include pouring our hearts out, raising our complaints just as in relationship to those flesh and blood people close to us we do the same to draw close. But drawing close to another is also opening our eyes to them. Seeing them as fully as we can. Hearing their heart, their cries, their voice.   It can be listening for their voice. Or sitting silent, wrapped in their arms.

So prayer is also listening for the still-speaking God. It is opening our awareness to God. It is delighting in that of God in our lives and in our world.

called and ignoredOne of my favorite spiritual authors, Father Richard Rohr, writes about prayer in his book What the Mystics Know:

‘We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining every breath we take. As we take another it means that God is choosing us now and now and now. We have nothing to attain or even learn.   We do, however, need to unlearn some things.

‘To become aware of God’s presence in our lives we have to accept what is often difficult, particularly for people in what appears to be a successful culture. We have to learn to accept that human culture is in a mass hypnotic trance. We’re sleepwalkers. All religious teachers have recognized we human beings do not naturally see; we have to be taught how to see. . . That’s why the Buddha and Jesus say with one voice, “Be awake”. Jesus talks about “staying watchful”…, and “the Buddha” means “I am awake” in Sankrit. Jesus says further, “If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light” (Luke 11:34)

mindfulness-quote-jon-kabat-zinn‘Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence, and even of enjoying the Presence. The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it.’

Prayer is then opening up ourselves to God, the God who has gone before us, who can take us by the hand and show us the way into the good future prepared for us by the living Christ.

Such openness renews our vision even in dark moments. It enables us to see more than we did before, seeing our lives and the lives of others in a new light.

To me this change of vision that listening for and hearing God speak can bring has long been beautifully pictured by the words of the Casting Crowns song “The Voice of Truth”. When I stop and listen in my pain and fear for the quiet whisper of God through prayer and meditation, so often I hear wisdom emerge like this song describes:

Oh what I would do to have

The kind of faith it takes

To climb out of this boat I’m in

Onto the crashing waves

 

To step out of my comfort zone

Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is

And He’s holding out His hand

 

But the waves are calling out my name

And they laugh at me

Reminding me of all the times

I’ve tried before and failed

The waves they keep on telling me

Time and time again. ‘Boy, you’ll never win!’

‘You’ll never win!’

 

Chorus:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story

The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid!’

The voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory’

Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

 

Oh what I would do to have

The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant

With just a sling and a stone

Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors

Shaking in their armor

Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

 

But the giant’s calling out my name

And he laughs at me

Reminding me of all the times

I’ve tried before and failed

The giant keeps on telling me

Time and time again. ‘Boy you’ll never win!’

‘You’ll never win!’

 

Chorus:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story

The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid!’

The voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory’

Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

 

But the stone was just the right size

To put the giant on the ground

And the waves they don’t seem so high

From on top of them lookin’ down

I will soar with the wings of eagles

When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus

Singing over me

 

Chorus:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story

The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid!’

The voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory’

Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

 

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

 

= =

 

May you learn, together with me, how to quiet the noise of life and listen to the quiet whisper in your life and soul where this voice of truth echoes true.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

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