”The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5 NIV).
Listening is a skill. And if you’re going to be effective in your prayer life—and in all your relationships—you must develop it. Here are four tips to become a better listener.
1. Withhold judgment and criticism from the start.
Don’t evaluate until you’ve heard and comprehended it all. I’ll admit that this isn’t natural. When someone else is talking and you hear something you disagree with, you’re tempted to say, “Time out! Stop right there! Let’s deal with this.” And you never get any further. But you need to hear the person out. Proverbs 18:13 says, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (NIV).
2. Keep calm.
Don’t become defensive. The Bible says in Proverbs 19:11, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (NIV). If you’re patient, you’re wise. You need to be patient with people who are less mature and those who misjudge. You need to remain calm.
3. Be an active listener.
You become a good listener by asking creative questions. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (NIV). This verse says the real meaning of people is down inside of them. A person of understanding will be able to draw others out with questions.
4. Paraphrase and summarize.
To be a good listener you must be able to tell a person what they’ve just told you before you talk about what you need to talk about. Before you share your side of the story, you need to let the other person know you understand where he or she is coming from. Paraphrase what they’ve said back to them.
I AM WITH YOU. I am with you. I am with you. Heaven’s bells continually peal with that promise of My Presence. Some people never hear those bells because their minds are earthbound and their hearts are closed to Me. Others hear the bells only once or twice in their lifetimes, in rare moments of seeking Me above all else. My desire is that My “sheep” hear My voice continually, for I am the
ever-present Shepherd. Quietness is the classroom where you learn to hear My voice. Beginners need a quiet place in order to still their minds. As you advance in this discipline, you gradually learn to carry the stillness with you wherever you go. When you step back into the mainstream of life, strain to hear those glorious bells: I am with you. I am with you. I am with you.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me
with all your heart.
JEREMIAH 29 : 12 – 13
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . .
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one
can snatch them out of my hand.”
JOHN 10 : 14 , 27 – 28
Serving Should Define Your Life
Service is not something to be tacked onto our schedules when we can spare the time. It is the heart of the Christian life. Jesus came “to serve” and “to give” – and those two verbs should define your life on earth, too.
Jesus taught that spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. Maturity is for ministry! It is not enough to keep learning more and more. We must act on what we know and practice what we claim to believe. Study without service leads to spiritual stagnation.
Yet serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we’re more interested in “serve us” than service. We say, “I’m looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me,” not “I’m looking for a place to serve and be a blessing.”
But as we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift to living a life of service. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who’s going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet?”