REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of September 12, 2021
Listen to God: Eccl. 5:1-2; Jn. 10:27
We are in Week 32 of our examination of Benedict Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we are examining Rule 4.55: Listen to God. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed how we consume information at a frenetic pace. That frenetic consumption of information can have negative impacts on many facets of our lives, including our patience with others, our attention to detail, and our attention spans. But I think that one of the most debilitating consequences of our constant consumption of and dependence upon information is that we are losing the ability to be still and listen. We struggle to actually be present in any given moment or conversation. We are constantly distracted by our devices. It is difficult for anything or anyone to have our full attention, and this includes God.
I sincerely believe that one of the chief sources of the angst and tension in our society is this constant distraction. We have a greater capacity for communication with others than at any other time in human history. We can literally communicate with anyone in the world, so long as they have a mobile device. Yet, few of us feel heard. We all have access to platforms to share our thoughts on most any subject. We spend time writing about our hopes and dreams, then wait with anxious anticipation for validation in the form of heart emojis. I know that I am guilty of sitting in a room with my wife and children, basically oblivious to their presence, as I look to see who might have posted some affirmation of me on my timeline. I have access to intimate conversation with the people I value most in the world readily available to me, but I spurn that for the opinion of strangers far away. And because of this, I am constantly speaking, but I rarely feel heard or understood. I’m guessing that many of you can relate.
The call of this week’s rule is the call to be still and listen. It is the call to be present. Society has trained us to be constantly busy. The ability to multitask is considered among the highest of virtues. And this wrong thinking has infiltrated our relationship with God as well. To be clear, I’m not saying that it is wrong to listen to preaching while you drive or worship music while you work. But while those are good things, they must not replace actual, dedicated time being present with God. God lovingly and purposefully knit you together in your mother’s womb. He knows even your deepest, darkest secrets that you’ve shared with no one else. He is well aware of all your flaws, and yet he loves you more than anyone else ever will. In fact, he has a plan to redeem your flaws for his glory and your good. Though it seems paradoxical, the only way we can truly feel heard and understood is to stop and hear what our Creator has to say to us. In prayer, we often measure our success by how long we can spend bringing our petitions to God. But I think the key to a truly fulfilling prayer life is how much time we set aside to just listen.
I think John Bunyan said it best over 400 years ago when he said, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.”
- How has technology further isolated us? How is it possible to communicate with more people and yet still not feel heard? Has technology ever had a negative impact on your relationships with others?
- What tangible steps can you take to work on being present? How might being still and being present change the way you approach worship? How might being still and listening change how you pray?
- Consider Bunyan’s statement, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” What do you think that means? Have you ever had a heart without words? What was going on in your life at that time? How did God speak to you in that moment?