by Jessie Flowers
Yesterday, we went on a family walk. The house had become a bit too small for all of us and we needed to move around a little bit. We had decided to explore a new route. A neighbor we’d never met before was relaxing in a fold out chair near his garage. He looked so peaceful as he was reclining and enjoying some beautiful birdsongs in the shade. Then, out of nowhere, our four year old songbird decided to greet this man by singing the highest note in her musical vocabulary. She one-upped the birds for sure. She sang it boldly and she held it out like a Grammy award winner. I felt like I came out of my body and my eardrums were reeling. Nice to meet you, neighbor.
Ears are funny little things. I have this thing I like to call “morning ears”. First thing in the morning, I have these animal-like abilities with sound. Can anyone else relate to this? At 6am, I can hear a TV volume of 2. Any normal speech volume seems almost loud to me. But at night, I have to crank that volume up to about 17. The issues of the day have robbed my ears of their skill somehow. They started playing dead somewhere around the 57th time my child shrieked at them. It’s funny how that happens. They went ear blind. The more sound we hear, the more muddy and tired our hearing gets.
Our ears can be so selective. They capture some moments and completely ignore others. They get overloaded by noise and by silence. And as we all know, ears can hear and at the same time not hear at all. They definitely don’t multitask well and can be held captive by our environment, our minds, and our emotions.
Ex. 1: I am in conversation with John (my husband) and he is sharing his heart on something. Suddenly, my daughter’s epic narrations come soaring in over the current conversation. No “heads up” given. She continues detailing her every need and moment of the day. Suddenly, my ears are fighting an internal war. Unfortunately, frustration comes flying up pretty fast. Result: No one is really heard.
Ex. 2: I’m listening to my husband and I decide to interject while he’s mid-thought. I start talking, instead of hearing. It doesn’t honor his voice. No matter how hard I try to be heard and hear at the same time, it doesn’t really work. All I hear in those moments is my own voice. Result: No one is really heard.
Ex. 3: I’m in conversation with a friend, let’s call her “Sally”. “Sally” mentions something that gets me thinking. So I start thinking about that “something” and guess what? All of a sudden, I come to and I have no idea what she is saying or what has happened in the last two minutes. My mind has held my ears hostage. Yep. There went my ears. They were listening to my thoughts. All I could hear in those moments was my own thoughts. Yep. Just me again. Sorry “Sally”. Result: No one is really heard.
Our prayer lives can be just like these examples. We get distracted by the noise of voices around us. We talk and talk and talk. Our minds are often loud enough on their own, without our mouths ever getting involved. These distractions can cause us to think we are hearing Abba, when in fact, we are hearing other voices or simply our own voice. We often don’t even stop long enough to get to know His voice.
Abba wants our ears back. He has amazing secrets to share with His children today. I want Him to have Lordship over my ears and my prayers. Are you with me?
To do this, it has required that I stop talking. Stop reading. Stop stressing. Stop list-making. And start listening. Yes, this is uncomfortable. It can feel awkward. My mind likes to wander and take my ears down its rabbit trails. But Father is kind, patient, and His voice is worth hearing and honoring.
In order to grow good fruit in the prophetic or in prayer, it all starts with listening. Active listening. Friendship with God looks like listening. Problem is listening can be really boring. Fact. Especially when we are used to fast-paced, instantly gratified, Iphone always in hand lifestyles. I’m right there with you. So how do we do it?
Step #1: STOP
Just stop it. Turn off the podcast. The television. The music. The to-do list. The talking.
Even if it’s only for three minutes. Stop it all. Ask Abba, “What’s on your mind?” Then, listen. Write down what He says.
These intentional times of “stop” train our ears to tune into Abba. That way, when the noise starts, which it inevitably will, we can quickly tune in and identify His voice in the midst of it. As a musician, the times of stopping and actively listening to just the bass player in a song have helped me to get to know the voice of the bass. Now, I can quickly hear what the bass player is playing during a loud concert with a full band and thousands of people singing along. Why? Because my ear had already learned to tune in and identify the unique voice of the bass. It’s the same with Abba. We are all made to hear and know His voice, even when other voices are present. We simply need to know His voice.
In John 10:27 He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger, in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.
Step #2: SIMPLIFY
We don’t always have the ability to turn off all of the noise around us, but we can turn off the noise within. The Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control is there to help us. Our hearing gets muddied by the amount of clutter we continue to carry around. I can be the chief of sinners with internal noise; so here are some pro-tips I use:
1) Grab a notebook. When the list starts rattling off in your mind: jot it down. Leave it there and move on with your listening.
2) Get outside. Take the headphones out. Let the air and space broaden your ability to hear. The confined space can keep us too much in our own head.
3) Say less. Keep your own words to a minimum. Say only what you need to say. This includes what you are saying inside your mind. Keep your internal dialogue and analysis to a minimum. Just listen and write down what you hear.
Step #3: SHARE
Don’t miss this. It is easy to overlook this one, but this is how the fruit grows. Listening to the voice of Father is a priceless honor, but it also comes with responsibility. The fruit of listening is found in the doing. We are called to hear and to do. They are one and the same. Hearing isn’t really hearing if we aren’t following it up with action.
Community is vital in this process. Share with your trusted community what He is saying. Sometimes we are listening to other voices and don’t even know it. The submission is for your safety and the accountability is for your success. The best way to continue hearing His voice again, is to do what He said the first time. We must act on what He is saying.
Let’s not wallow in the last word we heard, but let’s mature in our hearing. Let’s not be those who hear but do not hear in scripture (Matthew 13:13). It’s in the action that our foundation is secured. We want to build on a bedrock that can’t be shaken in the storm. Let’s share what He’s saying through our actions.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Step # 4: STAY
Lastly, remain with Him. When your intentional “stop” time is over, stay. Abide. Tarry. We don’t have to move on from the posture of listening. Even in the doing. The “stop” time serves as training to hear during all the other times. Our ears can remain attentive if we are intentional. Father is doing and saying things all throughout our day, but are we staying aware?
Don’t set limitations on when and where you can hear from your Dad. He will speak to you in your sleep, in the slurp of your coffee, in your shower, during your supper, in your silence and in your scream. He wants to walk with us, to talk with us, through it all.
Can you hear Him now? Will you join me on this listening journey? How is the Father currently teaching you to hear His voice?