“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19, CSB)
A friend and I were having a phone conversation one day recently. Or, more accurately, we were “almost” holding a conversation. While chatting, I was also scanning the internet and she was working on something as well. In the background at her end, a little voice kept insisting, “I want your phone” so he could play games. Neither of us was giving full attention to our conversation. We were distracted by other things. But if you had asked, we would both have insisted we were listening.
Best-selling author M. Scott Peck says, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” I agree with his statement.
Most of us consider ourselves good listeners, but perhaps we aren’t quite as skilled as we think we are. According to research, the average person only listens with twenty-five percent efficiency. We are hearing but not listening. Yes, there is a difference. Also, being silent while the other person speaks does not mean we are listening. It may just mean we are waiting for them to stop talking so we can have our say.
James 1:19 offers a lesson on good communication skills in one short, easy-to-understand sentence. It tells us we need to (1) be quick to listen, (2) slow to speak, and (3) slow to get angry. Relationships will go more smoothly if we put these three simple steps into practice.
How do we show that we are truly listening to what others are saying?
- We are attentive. We aren’t texting or scrolling on our phone.
- We don’t interrupt. This sends the message that “I’m more important than you.”
- We make eye contact. We focus on the person we are with rather than looking around.
- We give feedback. We offer thoughtful comments or ask appropriate questions on the subject at hand.
Nothing on this list is profound. Each point just shows how common courtesy and good social skills help build better relationships.
Just as it is important to show courtesy by listening to each other, we should also show this same courtesy in our relationship with God. Yes, He does speak to us—but are we listening? Really listening? John 8:47 tells us very plainly that if we don’t listen, we are not His child.
“The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God.” (NET)
God has so much He would like to impart to us. But first, we must listen. And then we must respond.
If we sincerely desire to hear the voice of God, we should consider ways to enrich our time together. Here are a few ways to actively listen to God’s voice.
- Make time in your day for Him.
- Don’t rush. Spend time in God’s presence.
- Avoid distractions.
- Pray for your heart to be open to receive His words.
- Listen for Him to speak as you pray and read His Word.
- Write down what you feel God is saying.
- Reflect on it.
- Test those thoughts against God’s Word.
- Respond to what He tells you.
The more we open our hearts and prepare to hear the voice of the Lord, the more we will hear Him. We will have learned the art of heavenly listening.
Lord, I want to deepen my relationship with You and spend more time in Your presence. Open my heart to hear what You wish to say to me. Give me a greater understanding of Your plan for my life and help me to respond with obedience.