January 10, 2015

Prayer: Silence and Listening by Sharon Espeseth

During Advent, Father Johnny, our pastor, reminded us that prayer is not just talking to God. Rather it's a two-way conversation that requires our listening to God as well. (We don't get to know people if we do all the talking.) With God, we can listen to him as we read his word or other instructive books about the faith journey. We can hear God through other people, through nature, events, music, art, and perhaps especially the silence. Good listening to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is what I hope to develop and experience this year.

Video from YouTube: Be Still, My Soul by Kari Jobe

Looking back, I haven't always been a good listener, or so my beloved Norwegian tells me. Right now, I wouldn't consider myself a quiet listener to God either, but I am learning. Looking forward, and with God's help, I can learn to wait upon the Lord and renew my strength. Imagine me at my tender age, soaring like an eagle. Could I really run and not grow weary, walk and not faint?

Looking back to my hectic years of teaching, raising kids, gardening, farming, doing my part at church, I was doing things the hard way. I didn't humble myself and ask God for guidance, strength, and support. I didn't do much soaring either. Often, I was tired and grouchy. Now I realize how well God knew me. When I didn't listen to his telling, he slowed me down and showed me I needed rest.

My grandsons showing Janus looking forward, looking back
Photo by Jenny Bayes
Going forward, as everyone says today, I will put more effort into sharing Christ's yoke with him. In his word, Jesus reminds us that his yoke is easy and his burden light. While my Lord and I are sharing the yoke, we can talk. I can ask questions and petition Jesus for what I think I need or what others need in life, but what I really want is to learn from Jesus. To do that, I need to listen. And obey.
"He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)

One of my favourite Old Testament stories is the one of God calling Samuel in the night. (1 Samuel 3:1-10) When the Lord called Samuel during the night, the young boy assumed it was Eli calling him, so he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."

"No, I didn't call you," Eli responded. "Go back to bed and lie down." This happened three times before Eli realized it was the Lord calling Samuel. Eli told Samuel to go and lie down. He instructed Samuel that if the voice calls again, he should say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

Many of us have heard God speak to us. Or we have felt nudges from God to go a different direction, to say something we hadn't planned on saying, to do a kindness for someone who desperately needed it, or to write on a particular topic. I have heard my name called in the early morning, "Sharon, write!" It doesn't get much plainer than that.

In a recent Western Catholic Reporter, I read of Archbishop Richard Smith of the Edmonton Archdiocese speaking at St. Joseph's Basilica. The gathering was celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and National Solidarity with Indigenous People. Smith said in his homily that "the most profound lesson" he had learned from the aboriginal people is the importance of silence and listening.

To read more about listening prayer, here are two good articles on the topic.

"The Basics of Listening Prayer: Adventures in Missions" by Seth Barnes


"Listening to God: An Exercise in Listening Prayer" by Lisa Lamb



  1. This has really convicted me, Sharon. You say, "I will put more effort into sharing Christ's yoke with him... While my Lord and I are sharing the yoke, we can talk."

    When I was so terribly overwhelmed being caregiver to my mother, this was exactly the attitude Jesus taught me, and that I became reliant on. It was wonderful.

    This morning, I am sitting here asking myself, why am I not doing this in every area of my life? Come on, self. This is transferable information. Let's get on it!

    Thank you, Sharon!

  2. very convicting. We have two ears and only one mouth as the saying goes. We need ot listen more - and then act on what god tells us to do

  3. Sharon,
    I learned a lot about listening to a God who speaks from reading a book by Brad Jersak entitled: "Can You Hear Me?: Tuning in to the God who Speaks." Excellent book.
    Thanks for your words--a great reminder to be listening instead of speaking all the time.

  4. I haven't checked the links you've posted here yet, Sharon, but you give some excellent encouragement about not doing things the hard way in neglecting to humble ourselves and ask God for guidance, strength and support. The very best and most reliable way to know the Lord and receive his guidance, strength and support is through his love-letter to us -- the Bible. That's also the only way we can measure the "messages" we hear from people, nature, events, music, art and even silence -- are they in line with scripture? Our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9) and fallen, and we absolutely must have an immovable benchmark by which to gauge ideas that come to us. The trend of Contemplative or Listening prayer carries with it a serious danger of mistaking our own thoughts for direct revelation from God, something that ceased with the closing of the canon of scripture. I have personally seen error and heartache result from such confusion so I think it's important to offer that caveat.

  5. Thanks, Sharon, for the reminder to listen to God - so often life gets busy and we think we are in touch with Him when really we are no longer hearing. I also appreciated the two links you shared - they were right in line with some "Devotional Classics" I am reading with excerpts from Thomas Merton's Contemplative Prayer. I think I'm hearing God say I need to spend more time listening to Him!

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  7. Very encouraging article . Have you ever read any of Brad Jersaks books " Can you Hear Me?" Or his children's version " Children can you here Me?" , which is great book even for adults. It's one of my favourite books on listening prayer.

  8. I love your tender heart, Sharon! Thank you for sharing this. I always thought you were a good listener, contrary to what your Norwegian thinks! ha ha. I have one of those tall Norwegians too!

  9. Thanks to each of you for your comments on my blog. I am happy, and to God be the glory, if something I write convicts anyone to grow in the faith, as a couple of you have implied. Other writers have written of their focus word for the year ahead, and in that light I choose "listen." If I am inviting God to speak to me, I'd better be prepared to listen.

    Thank you Connie and Terilyn for your recommendations--both of you--of the book "Can You Hear Me? Tuning in to the God Who Speaks."

    I especially want to thank Eleanor for her reminder to listen to God's word above all and let that be our measuring stick for what we hear through other means. Although I told a couple stories from the Bible, I did not specifically say what you said, Eleanor, so I went back and included this: ". . . We can listen to him (God) as we read his word. . ." Yes, God's word have I hid in my heart! Thanks.

    Blessings to all. Together we learn and grow!

  10. And Pam, perhaps we can understand each other where it comes to our Norwegians.


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