Listening Prayer

“My sheep hear my voice.”

Encouraging a crowd to live a life that will not be shaken, Jesus told the crowd (recorded in Luke 6:47):

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like…”

A Simple Definition

This defines in a very simple way what listening prayer is all about:

  • Coming to Jesus – In this verse, Jesus was not talking about just the first time, walk the aisle, “come to Jesus” event in our lives; but rather the regular going to Him as Jesus did with the Father.
  • Hearing His words – Not just reading the Scriptures, but listening to Him who has called us His beloved friends.
  • Acting on them – Implicit in the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “listen” is the concept of obedience.  If listening prayer does not lead to acting upon His words, we are not listening.


Listening Prayer and hearing from God does not imply hearing an actual audible voice.  Only in rare cases in the Scripture and never in my life has God’s voice been audible.  Yet to call what we do “listening” is no stretch.   God’s voice to us is primarily through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Listening Prayer

The Holy Spirit has been sent to:

  • Teach you all things (Jn.15:26a)
  • Remind you of everything (Jesus) has said to you (Jn.15:26b)
  • Guide you into all truth (John 16:13a)

The Holy Spirit will:

  • Speak only what He hears from the Father
  • Not speak on His own

The Holy Spirit speaks through:

  • The Scriptures, spiritual reading, hymns and songs
  • The “still small voice” or the “gentle whisper” in the heart
  • The imagination:  thoughts, impressions, mental images, visions
  • Nature (God’s creation)
  • Others
  • Trials, afflictions, frustrations
  • Ordinary commonplace events

How We Hear God through Listening Prayer

The primary way we “hear” the Holy Spirit is in our minds.  Our thoughts can be God speaking.  We become aware of Him bringing to our attention a Scriptural truth: we begin to see something about  God or ourselves we had not noticed before.

We might be out for a walk and notice something in nature, and the Spirit reminds us of God’s beauty, power or goodness.  Maybe in a quiet moment  a voice will join your thoughts that is not your voice;  a voice of authority  and you know it is the Comforter.

When we go on retreat, this time apart will give you the opportunity to be like Mary who “… sat  at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said” (Luke 10:39).  Listen for the Lord’s voice and become aware of how often He tries to speak to us through the Holy Spirit, and how we often fail to recognize His voice.  Our minds are cluttered.  We are distracted, preoccupied with the constant activity of daily life.  We are anxious over many things.  But if we make it a habit to listen, we will learn to rest and abide in Christ, despite our busy-ness.


For more about Listening Prayer, read Bob’s Introductory Guide to Listening Prayer.