By Amy Hauptman

Pray Without Talking

You can hear from God.

I bet no one’s ever sat you down and explicitly (and bravely) said that out loud, to your face, because no one wants to look bad if you take a risk to listen for God’s voice and then don’t hear anything. I mean, in all honesty, it does sound a little crazy, right?

But it’s true: you can hear from God. And you don’t have to have special supernatural powers to do it.

Communication That Kills

God is a God who created us to be in relationship with him. Well, what makes a relationship a healthy, vibrant relationship?

Love, trust , and . . .  communication. Without communication, relationships tend to break down: “You just don’t understand me!” “You’re not listening to me!” “We hardly talk anymore.”

When I was a teenager, one of my best friends sent me an email mentioning a guy she liked. I wrote her an email back but somehow accidentally sent it to the guy

Horrified, I called my friend and told her what had happened and that it was a freak accident and that I was incredibly sorry. My friend—shocked, hurt, and confused—hung up the phone and refused to talk to me for a period of time. Whenever I tried to call her (which was often), she wouldn’t pick up. When I wrote her a letter, she didn’t write back.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. What happened was crazy. I wouldn’t have believed me either, if I had been in my friend’s shoes. But with this serious breach of communication, our relationship was on the brink of extinction.

The sad truth is that many of us think we’re great communicators when in fact we are settling for what I like to call “one-way communication,” or talking at people.

One-way communication leads to breakdowns in relationships and can sometimes damage a relationship beyond repair—unless both people commit to practicing real communication.

God Has Something to Say

The truth is: we all want real communication.

So why shouldn’t this apply to our relationship to God?

Sometimes, we have a warped perspective of God—that he doesn’t still speak to humans . . . or won’t . . . or isn’t paying attention.

But God wants to be heard. From the beginning of time, he’s had a lot to say to us. And he wants us to hear him. God wants real communication with us because he wants real relationship with us.

But we often settle for talking at God. We settle for one-way communication.

Learning to Listen in Prayer

For those of you wondering, “So what if I try listening for God’s voice and all I get is white noise, the sound of my heart beating, or a million thoughts of other things that I need to do today?” here are some tips about listening prayer:

  • Listening prayer takes faith. If you want to see God revive your prayer life, it will require a little faith from you to expect to hear God speak to you. And to unlearn that the definition of prayer is only “speaking to God.” Prayer is also listening.
  • Listening prayer requires discernment. Comparing what you hear to the character of God found in Scripture is essential. And if what you hear contradicts God’s Word or his character revealed in Scripture, it’s not from God. Period.
  • Hand-in-hand with discernment in listening prayer is humility. Again, not everything that comes to mind is God speaking to you. I’ve heard God tell me—multiple times—that I would one day marry my latest crush. And I’m still single. Be aware that sometimes our pride or our desires can influence what we think we are hearing God speak to us.
  • You also need to get into a mental and physical space where you can settle down and practice listening carefully, rightly, and well. God may speak to you as you’re rushing around campus, driving through traffic, or studying, but settling down and giving God the honor of your full and undivided attention will do you well in the long run. Maybe this looks like going on a walk by yourself, sitting in a coffee shop and journaling, or being still in a quiet space. Try a few different things until you find something that allows you to be ready to listen to and receive from God.
  • You may want to find an older Christian who can be your mentor in listening prayer.
  • Finally, remember that God can speak to you in many different ways. As you’re listening, God might bring words, phrases, songs, lyrics, poems, images, movie clips, memories, Bible verses, etc., to mind to communicate his truth to you.

Like I said: you can hear God speak.

But did I mention that his words might just change your life?

The Words That Keep on Speaking

One of the most powerful moments of communication that I’ve ever had from God was when I was on a six-week Global Urban Trek with InterVarsity in the Philippines. I lived with trash scavengers at one of the city’s closed garbage dumps—and I was miserably sick with traveler’s diarrhea for the entire trip. About the third week in, I’d had it. Laying in bed with nothing to do but think and talk to God, I said, “God! This is not fair. I did not come all the way across the ocean to the Philippines to get sick. I feel robbed.”

Clear as day, these words came to mind: “Really, Amy? You feel robbed? Look around you.”

That day, I was both humbled and strengthened in my belief that God does in fact have a lot to say. But I also learned that when God speaks, his words can resound over the rest of your life.

Amy Hauptman is a writer on InterVarsitys communications team. She is a former campus staff worker at UC Davis, the University of NevadaReno, and Truckee Meadows Community College. The three driving forces in her life, besides her love for coffee, are to see, learn, and enjoy as much as possible. She also blogs at amyhauptman.blogspot.com.

Check out these posts for additional ways to grow in intimacy with God:

I Am (Not) Lord

Coffee-Shop Quiet Days

A Short Guide to the Value of Retreat

Comments

I love this. This has given me much needed insight for my prayer life. Blessings to you.

I'm trying to have a intimate relationship with God it's very important that I have this God is very important to me used to love my life that I'm going to continue seeking him I need God in my life just don't know how to go by doing I'm trying to find how to have or build a relationship with him.

Last night I prayed to God about a specific struggle related to a spiritual battle I have been fighting for about 4 years now. Just a few minutes ago I ran across this site amongst a list of search results for a question I won't elaborate on. However, this "Pray without talking" article you wrote hit the nail right on the head. God led me to this story. I plan on reading more of your writings now that I find them. Thank you

Hi Amy. I've been trying to listen to God but I find my mind drifts. I used to be a mountaineer and dreaming is part of something bigger than myself. Then when you & a friend climb that mountain, the planning, the visualization of difficult terrain & the unexpected beauty of the sunrise & unexpected events etc add to the whole experience. I experience the Father heart, I hear Holy Spirit & thank Jesus for how it worked out; or thank Jesus for knowing when to turn back safely through the storm back to a mountain but, I can't mountaineer now cause of an accident & can't do much to help others because of physical pain. I tried listening to God like you but I dream high & then realise it's not realistic. I'd like to be part of a small team or one other special person to do adventures in God to help & guide(plus learn) a project that would help others, but the pain makes it very hard. I do have an empathy & intuition with others through my experiences. Thanks for letting me talk with you. I think God is pleased with you cause you're just "hanging out" with God & He will give you "adventures with Him & others too" or just something special He wants to do with you alone. All the best with your coffee times with God. And thanks for listening to me. God bless you for "stepping out". Happy times & good health. God bless, Victor(or Vic-Isaiah 40:31)

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