The Art of Listening - Girlfriends in God - August 9, 2016

August 9, 2016
The Art of Listening
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I graduated from college with a degree in elementary education. For the first two years of college, I took the basic courses in Math, English, History, and Science required for all degrees. I then began taking courses that I assumed would prepare me to teach elementary school. During my last year of school, I reached the required Student Teaching block.

The Student Teaching block was spent in an actual elementary classroom under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Mrs. Roberta McShan was my supervising teacher and a magician in the classroom. She taught third grade and soon became my role model as a teacher. I learned more about teaching in that one semester than I had learned in all of the education courses I had taken.

Every child in her classroom absolutely adored Mrs. McShan. I watched carefully and soon learned why. One of most important lessons I learned from Mrs. McShan was the importance of listening and how to make the person you are listening to feel important.

When a child came up to ask a question, Mrs. McShan stopped what she was doing and turned toward the child. She then gently placed the fingertips of her hand under the chin of the child and tilted that little face up toward hers. She looked the child in the eye and listened to every word the child said. Everyone in that classroom knew they were not to interrupt if Mrs. McShan was listening to one of their classmates.

When I pray, that is how I picture the Father responding to me. He stops … turns toward me … and listens.

Every relationship begins with listening. Listening is hard work and something we are not prone to do well.

I think that is what James had in mind in James 1:19 when he wrote the directive, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak.”

I seem to read that verse backwards – slow to listen and quick to speak. I tend to use listening time as an opportunity to prepare the eloquent things I am going to say when the person speaking to me stops talking.

I know our Father loves it – absolutely loves it – when we, His children, stop in the middle of our busy lives for no other reason than the fact that we love Him and just need to talk with Him. When I pray, I picture His head turning toward me, to the sound of my voice.

He smiles, knowing that “Mary wants to talk with Me.” Yes, He is concerned with every ordinary detail of every ordinary day, but I suspect His greatest pleasure is found in the fact that we just need to talk to the One we love. 

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about - unless you are willing to listen. When we listen to people, we validate them. We invite them into our lives and give them the most precious gift we posses - time. Loving your neighbor is not something you feel. It is something you do.It's the act of sacrificing your own needs and desires for the sake of someone else.

It is time for us to put away our sermons, save our advice, and simply listen to the people God has placed in our lives. Talking is sharing, but listening is caring. It’s time for us to just listen.

Let’s Pray

Father, I want to thank You for loving me. I praise You for the privilege and gift of prayer. I want to learn how to turn to You quickly and easily as I go through every moment of each day. I have to admit that I don’t fully understand how You can love me like You do, but I cherish that love and the freedom it offers me to approach the throne of grace, confident that You will hear my voice. Thank You, Lord.

In Jesus’ name,


Now It’s Your Turn

I want to encourage you to keep a journal of your journey with God. Carry it with you in your purse, briefcase or diaper bag. Write out your prayers to Him, and then record the answers when they come. From time to time, look back over your journal entries and celebrate what God has done in your life. 

More from the Girlfriends

The children in my life are definitely some of my greatest teachers – especially in the area of prayer. I once heard the story of a grandpa who stopped at the door of his granddaughter’s room so he could listen to her pray. He soon realized that she was simply reciting the letters of the alphabet. When he tried to correct her, the little girl responded, “Grandpa, I don’t know exactly what to pray, so I’m just saying all the letters of the alphabet, and God can put them together for me.” 

If you really want to learn how to walk with God, check out Mary’s Book, 10-Day Trust Adventure. It will teach you how to walk by faith and trust God in every area of your life.

Be sure to check out the FREE MP3s on Mary’s website and connect with Mary through email or on Facebook.

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Originally published Tuesday, 09 August 2016.