Praying in a Noisy World

December 21st, 2013

It was a mystical moment for Peter, James, and John as they saw Jesus transformed before their eyes and then saw him speaking to Moses and elijah. They were so moved by their experience that they wanted to build shrines to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But before they could build anything, they were interrupted by a voice that said, “This is my son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

We, like the disciples before us, sometimes forget that our relationship with God begins and ends in listening. In our noisy and busy world, it is not surprising that we forget this elementary truth. The remedy is not to deny this truth or to scold ourselves or to take on unnecessary loads of guilt. Rather, the remedy lies in learning again the habit of listening to God in all things and at all times. each day of our lives can become an exquisite communication system of listening to, learning from, and responding to God in every moment of every day in which we are given the gift of life.

Everyone who reads these words has been created by God not only to listen for God but also to hear and understand God’s communication with us. Prayer and discernment, which is the ability to sense or hear God’s guidance and communication, are not gifts for special people only. They are gifts for all people.

Prayer is the pathway for a vital, growing, and fulfilling relationship with God. When our relationship with God is healthy, prayer and discernment are natural consequences of our daily companionship with God’s Holy Spirit. We must rely first on the ever-present Spirit of God, not on particular methods or models of prayer and discernment, for guidance, direction, and companionship. Through the Spirit, we have within us—just as we are—the capacity to develop an intimate, lasting, and fulfilling relationship with the God revealed most clearly in the life of Jesus Christ. Likewise, we have been given the capacity to listen for and faithfully respond to God’s guidance and direction for every decision we will ever face.

As those who seek to follow Jesus, we want to deepen our relationship with God and learn to know and do God’s will. We know this is the path of faithful and fruitful living. Yet often we think that knowing and doing God’s will is over our heads, or we find it so very hard to do because we think it requires gifts, time, and capacity that we simply do not have...

As we learn to listen, we learn to pray; and as we learn to pray in response to our listening, we will learn to discern what the living God is saying and where God desires to lead us.

This process of listening, praying, and discerning begins with recognizing who we are and to whom we belong. The apostle Paul put it this way:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. Ephesians 1:17-19

In her book In Ordinary Time, Roberta Bondi describes the core of who we are with these words:

Before anything else, above all else, beyond everything else, God loves us. God loves us extravagantly, ridiculously, without limit or condition. God is in love with us; God is besotted with us. God yearns for us. God does not love us “in spite of who we are” or “for whom God knows we can become.” According to the wonderful fourth- and fifth-century teachers I have learned from and also teach myself, God loves us hopelessly as mothers love their babies . . . even against what we ourselves sometimes find plausible, God likes us. (Abingdon Press 1996, pp.22-23, 25)

Bondi goes on to affirm that we are made in the image of God and “made for the purpose of knowing and loving God and one another and of being loved in turn, not literally in the same way God knows and loves, but in a way appropriate to human beings.”

Learning to listen and pray in a noisy world begins with knowing that we were created by God for the purpose of knowing and loving God and others. The purpose of our listening, then, is both personal and communal, encompassing the well-being of our neighbor.

Vaclav Havel said, “The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart.” As we practice the disciplines of prayer and discernment, we seek not only personal salvation but also the salvation of the world that God created and loves. Havel’s words are a reminder that we, too, have a part in the salvation of the world; our relationship with God is not only for our benefit but also for the benefit of the world. Therefore, Listen: Praying in a Noisy World is not only for the benefit of the individuals, congregations, and small groups that will use it; my prayer is that it also will lead to transformational moments that result in new efforts to expose God’s transforming presence, purpose, and power to the world in which we live.

Excerpt from: Listen: Praying in a Noisy World by Rueben P. Job Copyright © 2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

comments powered by Disqus