Attentive Listening

Attentive Listening

By Pat Knight

Mary of Bethany, a sibling of Martha and Lazarus, possessed enviable listening skills. When Jesus visited their home, she sat at His feet with her rapt attention hanging on each of her Master’s words. Mary unabashedly worshipped Jesus, captivated by her Friend to the exclusion of all others present.

 On the same occasion when Mary and Martha prepared a dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha demanded. “‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40). To Martha’s surprise, the Lord commended Mary’s actions, tenderly replying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has shown what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Both Mary and Martha loved their Lord, but Martha allowed distractions to divide her devotion. No doubt she wanted a delicious, perfectly presented dinner for her guests, straight from Martha Stewart’s handbook. But, it was Mary who displayed compassion, kneeling before Jesus, intently absorbing every word, noticing each gesture, studying His facial expressions, and discerning silent or spoken aspects of His conversation. Mary listened audibly and visually.

On that evening of dinner fellowship six days prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in anticipation of His upcoming sacrifice. She didn’t ask her Lord’s permission; she intuitively knew that Jesus would approve of her gracious act. Surrounded by men, Mary wasn’t intimidated. Loosening her long hair to wipe Jesus’ feet of excess oil displayed Mary’s humility; a respectable woman didn’t unbind her hair in public. Her submissive spirit was apparent; caring for feet was servant’s work. Mary’s actions spoke volumes. By anointing Jesus’ feet, she demonstrated that she understood Jesus’ teaching about His future death and burial far better than His disciples did.

Listening is an active art. It takes commitment to heed God’s words. To hear well, we must concentrate fully, not permitting distractions to eclipse our attention. Adequate listening skills allow us to know the will of our heavenly Father for our individual lives. We hear God speak to us through His Word as He communicates His love, commands, and our relationship to Him and to others.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
—Psalm 66:19-20

Prayer time without listening is simply a one-sided conversation, a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Prayer and praise, listening and love, complement one another as we interact with Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.

God no longer speaks audibly or in dreams to believers as was His custom in times past. Now the Holy Spirit interprets God’s messages and illuminates God’s written Word, making His personal guidance and wisdom available to us.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the large crowd was listening to him with delight” (Mark 12:35a; 37b). When was the last time you listened to your Lord during prayer, from His Word, or while reading Christian literature, reacting with extreme satisfaction and great pleasure, the kind of attention Almighty God deserves?

Let us not miss the sovereign plans about which God desires to advise us through His Spirit. Live in anticipation of His words, confident that our two-way communication is functioning to full capacity. More than any other discernable sound in our world, yearn to recognize God’s soothing words. He provides power to persist toward the ultimate goal of spiritual victory as we listen, follow, and trust Him explicitly.

A father used a game of ball toss as an object lesson to instruct his son regarding a well-balanced conversation. For a while the two threw the ball back and forth, settling into a predictable rate. Then, the father dropped the ball and refused to continue the volley. When the bewildered son asked his parent to explain his behavior, his father compared his actions to those of an unbalanced verbal discussion: just as dropping or hogging the ball disrupts a game, such is the way with conversation involving an unequal exchange of listening and speaking. Concentration is required to keep the ball in motion just as shared dialogue keeps conversation moving. Prayer, like a game of ball, is participatory activity. The alternative is talking to oneself, and we all know how non-stimulating that can be!

Our Lord is never too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to harken to the emotions attached to each word. God listens with love. Though He is aware of the intent of our hearts before we speak, God is pleased to hear from us. “‘Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear’” (Isaiah 65:24).

If we maintain candid, vivacious communication with God, as Mary of Bethany demonstrated, our listening skills will soon produce pleasing acts of worship to Him and service to others. Jesus promised, “‘You are my friends if you do what I command’” (John 15:14). What a privilege, to claim the sovereign Savior as a personal friend, who listens to us and expects attentiveness to His voice. Could there be anything more satisfying?

Before you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of entangled thoughts and distractions, to focus entirely upon the glory of God. Then your heart will be receptive to His guidance. In the quietness of your prayer time, ask God to reveal Himself. He will gladly open your mind and heart to reveal paths to follow Him. “Listen to my instructions and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me” (Proverbs 8:33-34a).

Learn to be attentive to your Savior with the bold singlemindedness Mary exhibited. Incredible interactions occur at the feet of Jesus as we submit, weep, confess, and listen for our Master’s divine words designed solely for our needs.

Thankful for God’s Provision

This is another of my devotionals that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His provision . . .

My God shall supply all your need
according to his riches in glory
by Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 4:19 KJV

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
—Psalm 130:3-4 NASB

[Jesus said] Don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink;
don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you.

All mankind scratches for its daily bread,

but your heavenly Father knows your needs.

He will always give you all you need from day to day

if you will make the Kingdom of God 
your primary concern.
—Luke 12:29-31 TLB

He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
—Psalm 111:5 RSV

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us
by his own glory and goodness.
—2 Peter 1:3 NRSV

. . . I will pray.

Gracious Father,

I’m getting ready for a camping trip and realize I don’t have everything I need. My tent and sleeping bag will give me protection at night. I’ll take my poncho in case it rains and some warm clothing in preparation for the predicted cold weather. My list includes enough food and beverages for the weekend, various cooking implements, a flashlight and lantern to enable me to see after dark, and various medications I need to take. I check off each of these items against my list, but it seems that I’m forgetting something, some provision. What could it be?

We both know that I know what’s missing, Lord. I can cover the easy stuff—food, beverages, pans—but I need Your help to see to the things I can’t: the unseen, the unexpected, the unplanned.

Thank You for all You supply on my behalf. You’re like a hedge of protection around me, providing me with whatever I need to face a weekend campout or an everyday circumstance. Thank You, my Lord. I wouldn’t think of going anywhere without You.

Amen.

God is absolutely unlimited in His ability and His resources.
And He is unlimited in His desire to pour out those resources upon us.

—Gloria Copeland


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

#Thankful for God’s #Forgiveness

This is another of my devotionals that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His forgiveness . . .

If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9 NKJV

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
—Psalm 130:3-4 NASB

You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to You.
—Psalm 86:5

All the prophets testify about him
that everyone who believes in him
receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
—Acts 10:43

. . . I will pray.

Benevolent Father,

It happened again. Just when I started feeling as if things were going well, I messed up. Instead of keeping my focus on You, I let myself be pulled into a bad situation—something that is not what You want for me and certainly does not glorify You. How does this keep happening? Never mind, I know. You try to warn me, but I always insist on going my own way.

Forgive me, Lord—again. Wash me clean and help me to be vigilant, listening carefully to Your Spirit inside my heart. My desire is to please You, but we both know that I can’t make that a reality without Your help. Let me live ever aware of Your presence. As I practice living in Your presence, I believe that sin will lose its power over me.

I know, Lord, that You are a kind, loving, and merciful God, and I know You desire only the best for me. I am so thankful for Your willingness to forgive me each and every time. I praise You above all others, for You are the one who has washed me clean.

Amen.

When God pardons, He consigns the offense
to everlasting forgetfulness.

—Merv Rosell


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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Keep Our Eyes on God

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.

—Psalm 86:1-7

#JOYFUL in #HOPE

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
—Romans 12:9-13

#Rejoicing and #Thanksgiving

The Christian who walks with the Lord
and keeps constant communion with Him
will see many reasons for
rejoicing and thanksgiving
all day long.

—Warren W. Wiersbe

It is so wonderful to be able to be in communication with our Lord no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Another word for this is prayer. When we pray specifically for something, we can praise and thank God ahead of time for what we are praying for, in the full belief that He already has the answer to our prayers. The answer may not be what we expect or hope for, but we can know that if it is God’s plan for us it is for our good and His glory.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 instructs us to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Pray without ceasing? Is that really possible, and how do we do that?

The other day I came across this great video by Dr. Donald Whitney of Southern Seminary titled “How do you pray without ceasing?” This should help all of us understand how we can be in prayerful communication with God all day long.

Thankful for God’s Generosity

thankful-for-gods-generosity-amp

It’s been awhile since I shared one of my devotionals that were published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleSince Thanksgiving is this week, I think this one is particularly appropriate. It is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

I have so much to be JOYFUL and THANKFUL for. Each day God provides me with exactly enough of everything I need. This year is special to me because He is using a new-to-me medication to keep my migraines away. Since mid-August, I have not had one migraine, and that in itself is cause for much celebration and thanksgiving. 

Beloved, what blessings from God are you especially thankful for today?

When I want to thank God
for His generosity . . .

To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church.
—Ephesians 3:20-21

Generous to a fault,
you [God] lavish your favor on all creatures.
—Psalm 145:16 MSG

All sunshine and sovereign is GOD,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
—Psalm 84:11 MSG

Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial.
 
—Psalm 111:3-4 MSG

. . . I will pray.

Bountiful God,

How can I look at my life and not be thankful for everything You have given me? I’m not referring to material possessions, although I am grateful for all those blessings. I’m thinking of the magnificent ways You help me get through each day.

When I need patience, I reach out to You—and You’re there. When I need courage—I reach out and You’re there. When I need hope, joy, faith—You’re there. You’re always there with all I need to face each day with dignity.

Some people would say that You are generous to a fault! I know You don’t have any faults, Lord, but it’s partly true. You give me so much more than I could ever even imagine, far more than I could ever ask for.

Thank You, Lord, for opening Your generous arms and bestowing on me so many blessings. Thanks for meeting my every need. Show me ways to be generous with others in return. I want to be like You in every way, but especially in this way—I want to be called “generous to a fault” in honor of my heavenly Father.

Amen.

Accustom yourself to the wonderful thought
that God loves you with a tenderness, a generosity,
and an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams.
—Abbe Henri de Tourville


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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