The Art of Spiritual Friendship: Divine Listening

I am truly indebted to A. W. Tozer for developing my souls perception of the Divine very early in my Christian walk.  I had then, still have actually, a wonderful mentor who advised me to read anything I could my hands on by either A. W. Tozer or Charles Spurgeon.  I have never been sorry to have been given that advice, nor have I been sorry for acting on it.  The first book outside of the Bible that I ever read was Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”.  I have since read it more times than I can remember, and every time I read it, the key Truth that Tozer continually mines, that I constantly need to be reminded of, is that God is a speaking Word.  John 1 tells us that “the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  It stands to reason then that if God is the Word, then our souls were made with a special receptive power, we can hear Him.  That’s an important connection.  If God were speaking and we could not receive it then we would have an excuse for our condition.  The problem then is that we choose not to hear at some level, our nature being the way that it is, we reject the Divine Word, and “our foolish hearts grow” darker and darker.

But in the Gospel, the Light that lights every man comes crashing blindingly into this World, and the good news rings out that Jesus has reconciled us to God.  This reconciliation comes with a new nature, for those that receive it “receive power to become the sons of God”.  So where once there was a nature that chose to reject the Divine Word, those that receive the Gospel by faith receive new nature, one at peace with God, one that has not only a receptivity to the Divine Word, but a love for it.

Where once there existed a hostility toward the Divine Word now there is a love for it, and the receptive part of our soul jumps to life as it never had been before.  We become uniquely conscious of God’s presence and where once that presence caused us to hide in shame and fear like our ancient father, now there is a desire to be near Him, a desire for fellowship.  In my first set of articles in “The Art of Spiritual Friendship” series I encouraged frank and open conversation with God.  God is not an object to be studied but a being to be known.  Communication is necessary to begin and maintain a relationship.  The Gospel comes along and creates a union between God and man, by faith we become one with Christ.  The reason for the union with Christ is so that we can then have communion with the Father.  This is the reason the Gospel ends in the ascension.  After Christ has washed purchased His people He returns to His Father and takes us with Him.  Ephesians says that “he led captivity captive”, that’s us,  a people captured by Satan, liberated and captured again by love of the Son.  We are now at the right hand of the Father and that should enlarge our understanding of prayer.  When we pray, we turn and speak directly into the ear of God our Father.  But when He answers, He also speaks directly into our ear as well.  Now we have come back to our ability to receive the Divine Word.

We have now the ability to receive the Divine Word, written and unwritten.  I say unwritten because the voice of God is immanent in all of creation as Psalm 19 so wonderfully tells us, and our redeemed souls are now awash in the beauty of creation and all it communicates to us about our Father.  We receive the Word in nature in conjunction with the Word in Scripture.  The voice of God resounds like a symphony in our souls and we can receive the beauty in each wonderful note.

Training ourselves in the discipline of listening to God then becomes so important to our life with God.  There is a cocophony of voices in the World attempting to drown out the still small voice of God.  The World’s System has a multi-voice choir of evil, tempting us to fulfill the lusts of our desires, continually devaluing our existence.  We need to look a certain way, make killer cash, gain power over others, and enjoy our bodies and the bodies of others through manipulation and lies.  This is the voice of the World, and Madison Avenue has harnessed those voices, amped them up, harmonized them, and put them into a mega-phone.  Then there are demonic voices.  These voices tend to blend behind the voices of the World accusing and confirming those voices.  They say you are not pretty enough, you don’t have enough, no one will ever listen or care about you, they only way you can get someone to care is through sex, money, and power, etc, etc.  They undermine our value and push us to destroy ourselves and others while we think we are pursuing happiness.  Then there is our own voice which is a voice of faith.  We are either believing what the World and the Devil are saying, placing our faith in their words, or we are rejecting the World and the Devil choosing the voice of God.  The only problem is, how do we learn to distinguish His voice?  By getting quiet, with an open Bible, and learning what His voice says.

This is why I am a huge proponent of Meditative Prayer.  In my early walk with the Lord I spent a great deal of time in Bible study and in intercessory prayer.  Bible Study is great but we have to be careful not to make God an object. Intercessory prayer is prayer where we do all the talking.  It was years before I ever considered being quiet, sitting alone before the Lord, in a listening posture.  I began reading the Scripture and listening for what God was saying to me in His Word, not just studying the surface of the words on the page.  Divine listening is something that very few modern Christians engage in and I think that it has a great deal to do with the sound bite culture we live in.  We generally don’t believe anything that takes longer than 30 seconds to do is actually important in the real world.  Silence has also become a rare commodity that we are told we do not need.  Smart phones and ear buds are the way of the future.  We have become masters of entertainment, but I would beg the question whom has mastered whom?

The Gospel of Jesus reconciles us to God and teaches us His ways.  Learning to hear the Divine Word is a discipline that few take the time to develop any more, and I have to wonder if that is not a major contributor to the shallowness of the modern Christian experience.  How much of what we try and cure with pills could be cured with silence in the presence of an ever speaking God.  I would encourage all to not only speak frankly to God but to train yourself to listen to the Divine Word by sitting silently, listening to the Divine voice.  Get a journal, grab your Bible, and go to a nearby park or lake and enjoy God’s creative voice in the beauty of His natural world.

How should Divine Listen inform our development of spiritual friendship with fellow believers?  That will be the topic of discussion in my next article on this subject.

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