How Do You Listen for God?

Originally published Thursday, 05 March 2015.


I hug my knees against my chest, boots plunged into February sand, watching foamy waves crash onto Northern California shore. Two hundred other women join me, scattered across this quiet stretch of beach—sitting on dunes, dipping bare toes in cold water, or treading over dirt paths.

The rustic retreat center is a mile away but otherwise, for this group of women, seemingly off the map. The retreat speaker invited us to spend an hour of meditation, with God. From the moment the speaker’s talk ended and for the next hour, we need to be silent—any temptation to speak reserved for communication, in our hearts, with the Father.

This is the first time I’ve considered being quiet with God, and I have never had anyone share with me that God could talk to them, that He uses our hearts to communicate with us. I had been used to praying to Him, reading the Bible and being in awe of the way God spoke to the hearts of people in the Bible. I am trying to imagine the possibility of God speaking to me, too.

White seagulls squawked and crested surging waves. I open the journal I grabbed from my bedside table at home, the one I took on our first mission trip, to Ethiopia, two years before and hadn’t opened since. Where do I begin? How does one have a conversation with God?

Having a conversation with God requires not just speaking to Him about what you need, but about listening to what He wants to tell you.


Father, draw me to you.  I remember how you were with us, so near, while in Ethiopia, and I miss you now. Are you here, too? What do you want me to do?”

And He tells me, one of the first whispers in my heart I recognize as His: Be. Just be, and then I will take you where you need to go.

Previously, my relationship with God was one of convenience—me asking him for help. So, his response—“Just be”—was something brand new and unfamiliar. I was used to striving, reaching for God—as if His life in me was something I could attain so I could be a better person. His speaking to me on the beach, whispering directly to my heart, revealed that He was already here.

We are each desperate to be loved for who we already are, this very moment, not for who we believe we need to strive to be.  “Just be” answers the cries of our hearts, the prayer that underlies each attempt we make to try to be more than the woman our Father has already created. Who we are, right now, with Him, is more amazing and beautiful than we can even imagine.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

I’ve had to learn this truth the hard way—that God’s presence is not something for us to attain, but, rather, receive. Striving to be in control was the only life I knew how to live, for so long.  And it prevented me from realizing that listening to His voice within me, and heeding it, was the only path to the freedom and joy that I truly craved. Is this the case for you, too?

And I learned this by learning to pray differently.

Rather than talking to God just about what I needed from Him, I began to listen to what God wanted to say.

How do you listen for God? How do you pray? Do you sit still or walk around? Do you listen to music or do you stay in the quiet? Do you journal, do you sing or work? What does it look like for you? And what is something you are learning this week through listening to Him? (I have so many questions for you, don’t I?)

What was your first experience like listening for God?

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