How Can I Hear from the Lord?
A couple of weeks ago I encouraged us to approach this new year with the attitude, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” That all sounds great, you might think, but how do I listen? How do I hear from the Lord? For that, there is a central source and a necessary attitude or habit.
Our central source is the Bible. This may seem self-evident. But is it? Many years ago, after I came to know the Lord, I began the habit of daily Bible reading. I don’t remember if it was suggested to me that I should do it or if it was just an instinctive response. Either way, it became a habit. Someone I know noticed my habit and found it odd, perhaps fanatical. I asked the person, who was an Anglican, if they had been confirmed. “Yes” was the answer. I then asked if they had been taught in confirmation class that they should read their Bible every day. “Yes” was the answer, followed by “but nobody actually DOES it.” That is perhaps the biggest problem to overcome if I want to hear the Lord.
The collect for the second Sunday in Advent asks for grace that we may hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures. That is the point of daily Bible reading and of more intensive Scriptural study. The “inwardly digest” part is important. The habit of Bible reading and study helps us to know what the Word of God sounds like. If I am to listen, I will need to recognize his voice. The best way to do that is to know his Word. There is no substitute for this. If you want to hear God, read and know the Scriptures.
The Bible is the central source, but there is also a necessary habit or attitude… of silence. There is nothing silent about our daily lives. We are bombarded by noise, information, and distractions from our rising in the morning to our returning to sleep at night. And often, even then, the noise of our lives interrupts our sleep. In order to hear the Lord, even to be attentive to the Scriptures when we read them, we will need to practice silence.
This is not easy. If you are like me, as soon as there is quiet, you will find that any number of urgent details come rushing into your mind–distracting you from prayer or reading of Scripture. My mind is used to a barrage. When there is none, I’ll create my own. Even to be attentive to the Bible, we will need to cultivate the habit of silence. It is best to do this in small increments, initially with as little as a minute of silence. For this I find it helpful to focus my attention on an image—perhaps a cross, an icon, or another work of religious art. A sunrise or sunset or other view of natural beauty can also help. Start with one minute, work up to five, and begin your Bible reading or prayer from that place of silence.
Other thoughts will still intrude. Acknowledge them and then commit even the distractions to Jesus, asking afresh for the grace of silence to hear and attend to his Word. “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”
There are any number of daily systems for Bible reading. The Book of Common Prayer 2019 has its own in the daily office lectionary on pages 738-763. This is the one that I use.
Two popular Bible apps, so you always have a Bible in your pocket, are YouVersion and Crossway (for Android and iOS). And the daily office can easily be found on the ACNA's Daily Office website or iOS app.