Preparing to Hear God’s WordRelated Media
“Therefore Consider Carefully How You Listen”
We might begin by asking the question, “What exactly is the Bible?” Most Christians would answer with something like, “It’s God’s Holy Word, His special instrument of communication to man.” And they would be right. Then we need to ask another question. “If we believe the Bible is God’s Word and special means of communication, do we take the Bible seriously? Do we have a holy reverence for Scripture and the time we assemble together to worship and study this Word from God?”
Are we like the one God esteems or looks for in Isaiah 66:2? “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (NIV) Or as the KJV reads, “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” God is looking for people who have a holy reverence for the Word and His plan for learning and applying it. This means truly hearing God’s voice in the Word. God is the master communicator and biblical history is not only the story of redemption but it is also the story of communication and revelation from God. He encodes and transmits, and we are to decode and receive.
Isn’t it true that one of the keys to life and good relationships is effective communication? And for effective communication to occur, there must be effective listening. This is just one of the reasons we must take the study of the Bible very seriously, whether privately or corporately. This is true not only in Bible study, but in our prayer life and in all aspects of corporate worship. Why? So we might truly listen to God through the various aspects of a worship service, and especially our time in the Word.
We so need to learn that we are here to listen to God even though He has chosen to use human instruments to communicate with us. It would be well for each of us to take to heart Paul’s praise to the Thessalonian believers in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
The process looks something like this:
(1) COMMUNICATION: Listening to God
(2) COMPREHENSION: Understanding what God says
(3) CONFIDENCE: Trusting in what God says
(4) CHANGE: Being transformed by what God says
Without this process of communication, there simply cannot be any real spiritual change in the life of man. Because of this, God is deeply concerned about how well we listen when we are listening.
Scripture Places on Listening to God
Have you ever noticed how often the Bible emphasizes the idea of listening? It is a concept that is repeated over and over in a variety of ways. This is obviously not without purpose.
(1) The specific clause “hear the Word of the Lord” occurs 32 times in the NIV and 28 times in the NASB.
(2) The words “hear” or “listen O Israel” are found 6 times in the NIV and the NASB. “Listen” is found 331 times and the majority of these passages in some way deal with listening to the Lord. “Hear” is found 347 times and again, many of these also have to do with hearing God’s Word.
(3) We also find a number of comments like “Incline your ear,” or “give ear” or “pay or give attention” and similar expressions used in various ways to call man, and especially to God’s people, to listen intently to God.
(4) In the New Testament, the Lord warns us to consider carefully what you hear (Mk. 4:24) and how you hear (Lk. 8:18).
(5) The words “today, if you hear his voice,” are found three times in Hebrews and once in the Old Testament (Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7; Ps. 95:7).
(6) Seven times, once in each of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 we read “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
(7) In Mark 4:9 the Lord warned, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” and again in verse 23 He said “if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (NIV)
(8) And is it not significant that one of the titles of the Son of God is the Greek term logos which refers to some form of communication? It means “speech, word, saying, discourse.” As the Logos, Jesus Christ is the living Word of God to man. Of Him Moses wrote in Deut. 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (NIV)
(9) But not only is there the call to listen carefully to the Lord, there is the warning about listening to the wrong voices or influences in the world in numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments.
The point is simple, God has much to say to us and because He is the all-wise and sovereign God and because of our finite humanity as well as our fallenness, it is imperative for us to listen carefully. But, as fallen people, even as fallen people now redeemed, we are ever so prone to be distracted and drawn away with other things, even with good things.
We can too easily be like Martha, who was distracted by so many things, rather than Mary who sat at the feet of the Savior to hear His Word.
Luke 10:38-42 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
As portrayed in the parable of the sower, the soils, and the seed, we can be like the thorny ground, full of thorns and thistles which represent the cares of the world and which choke the Word and cause it to become unfruitful in our lives.
Mark 4:18-19 And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Why do you suppose God created man with two eyes and two ears, but only one mouth? That in itself ought to be a visual object lesson worth a thousand words.
Listen to these words from Proverbs 20:12. “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made both of them.” You know, I find it significant and interesting that Solomon says nothing about the mouth. The Lord made that too, yet it seems Solomon purposely didn’t mention the mouth. He only mentions that which is a source or means of receiving instruction from the Lord. The fact is we are all too quick to reveal our minds and too slow to listen. James reminds us of this very fact: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). (NIV)
With this in mind, we might note Proverbs 18:2, “A fool does not delight in understanding (which comes by hearing), But only in revealing his own mind.”
Proverbs 22:17-19 Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your mind to my knowledge; 18 For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, That they may be ready on your lips. 19 So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you.
The lesson is obvious: We are to listen so we can learn to trust the Lord. To fail to listen shows our determination to pursue life through our own resources and foolishness.
of Scripture on Listening to God
How God communicates should teach us something about how we should listen. So How does God communicate, and how should we listen? What do we need to do to be prepared to listen attentively and effectively?
God Communicates Through the Bible
The Bible is our index or guide for all the other ways God communicates. If we are going to listen to God and discern His voice in the other avenues He uses, we must be listening to His Word, the Bible. Of course, God communicates His Word in many ways: through those who teach it formally and informally as in counseling, in personal exhortation and encouragement, through song or music, through books, tapes, film, etc. However, the primary method God has chosen, and that which is foundational to all the other ways God communicates in the church age, is the local assembly when the church is assembled together for the hearing of the Word. Other things are involved, prayer, singing, praise, the Lord’s table, but at the center is the proclamation of the Word (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:11, 13; 2 Tim. 4:1-4).
God Communicates Through the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the resident teacher whom the Father has sent through the Son to indwell every New Testament believer as God’s special anointing to teach and make the truths of the Word understood and real to the heart or mind of believers. One of His primary ministries today is that of communicating the Word—the completed canon of Scripture. Since the cessation of the temporary, foundational, and miraculous gifts, He does not give special or new revelation, but He works through the Scriptures which is our index for belief and practice.
To be able to listen to God, to comprehend truth, to worship the Lord, and to be transformed by the Word through faith in God, God has given us the Holy Spirit. He is God’s special agent who takes the things of Christ and teaches them to us whether we receive them by personal study or through the human instruments who teach us the Word.
God Communicates Through the Events of Our Lives
(1) Special Times of Worship (singing, praise, prayer, teaching, ordinances).
(2) Blessings that reveal His love and grace.
(3) Trials and Irritations that become tools to get our attention and build character, but only as we hear and learn to relate and rest in the promises and principles of Scripture.
God Communicates Through the People in Our Lives
The Bible is full of illustrations of how God uses people to communicate His love, mercy, and grace. This comes in many forms: sometimes in the form of encouragement, sometimes in the form of godly example, and sometimes even in the form of rebuke. A few passages should illustrate the point:
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know (note the element of communication here) that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.
Ephesians 5:19-20 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Ephesians 6:4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Peter 3:1-2, 7 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. … 7 You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Primary Focus: Our primary focus in this short study is on how God communicates to us through the Word and the Holy Spirit and especially in relation to our times of worship together.
Question: What does this mean then in terms of how we listen to God? Two things:
(1) As already pointed out, listening to God must involve God’s Word and the Holy Spirit working together in the mind and heart of the believer. Even when God uses people and circumstances, we must always consider what God is saying to us in the light of His infallible Word. God never contradicts His Word. We must learn to examine everything in the light of the Holy Scripture. Further, this means I need to recognize that since the Spirit communicates to me through the Word of God, I need to expose myself to the Word privately, and corporately, as often as I can.
(2) But listening to God also means something else. Listening to God, really hearing what He is seeking to say, demands SPIRITUAL PREPARATION and ACTIVE PARTICIPATION on the part of the listener. In order to listen to God, one must be prepared to listen. Listening to the Lord is a spiritual matter. But any kind of learning involves preparation and active participation or concentration. Because of this, God is very concerned about HOW we listen and worship. He is concerned about our mental attitudes and our spiritual state when we come to worship or sit down with the Bible either privately or corporately.
The Problem: We can simply go through the motions of religious activity and deceive ourselves as James warns us in James 1. We can play church and do a kind of “nod to God” routine putting in our appearance physically while we are in essence absent spiritually. Result? We don’t even come close to truly hearing the voice of God. Why? Because we have removed our hearts from the Lord. We have become passive listeners because we aren’t really prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually to hear the Word of the Lord. Church attendance is often simply a part of our plan to pursue life on our own terms. We attend church not to really meet with God or listen in order to know, love, and serve Him, but to feel good, have an experience, to hear beautiful music, to hear an eloquent speaker, to see people or even to be seen by people. We attend church to soothe our consciences and maybe earn a little of God’s favor. In this case, one’s religious activity is a kind of insurance policy—a protection we think. But we are dead wrong if we think this way because such reasons do not line up with what God says to us in His Word.
Let’s look at a few verses:
Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. 2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.
Isaiah 29:1, 13 Woe, O Ariel, Ariel the city where David once camped! Add year to year, observe your feasts on schedule. 13 Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, …”
Ezekiel 33:30-32 But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them.
So, the Key Question: What is needed for us to be able to effectively listen to God? What can we do to prepare our hearts so we are in a position where we can hear what the Lord is seeking to reveal or communicate to us, i.e., understand the message and respond with faith and obedience whether the message comes through a hymn, or a testimony, or through the teaching of the Word?
May I suggest several things:
We Need Spiritual Preparation
As we have already stated, God’s communication through the Word always involves the teaching/convicting ministry of God the Holy Spirit. This is evident in a number of passages but two will do to illustrate the point:
Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-3:3 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
That God communicates the Word through the ministry of the Spirit means I must be properly adjusted to or in right relationship to this divine teacher who indwells me. This is a relationship where, believing that He is present, I consciously depend on Him for insight to God’s Word (understanding and personal application). But as we can see from 1 Corinthians 3, the carnal believer, the believer who is not dealing with sin in his or her life, simply cannot and will not effectively listen or hear God’s message. The carnal believer is apathetic and simply cannot understand and respond to the things of God while in that condition.
Well why? Because known sin in the life, things like wrong attitudes (envy, jealousy, resentment, pride, unbelief, self-centeredness), self-protective ways of living, indifference or apathy to God, preoccupation with other things, and other forms of sin grieve the Spirit’s person (Eph. 4:30) and undoubtedly stifle or quench much of His ministry like teaching and making the things of Christ real (1 Thess. 5:19). His ministry is changed from leading and teaching to convicting the carnal believe of his or her condition. The Lord Jesus put it this way:
Mark 4:19 and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Martha gives us a classic illustration of this. Though in the very presence of the Lord Jesus, Martha in contrast to Mary had no ears to hear what the Savior was saying because she was distracted and drawn away by other concerns (Luke 10:38-41).
Another illustration can be seen in the disciples when the Lord fed the five thousand. Read Mark 6:30-52. They had failed to truly listen to what the Lord was teaching them through the events of the day because they too were occupied with other things, often with who was the greatest. The result is seen in the Lord’s rebuke in verse 52, “For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.”
There Needs to be an Open Heart
There needs to be a heart open to personal, soul searching examination for the purpose of seeing our motives, our sources of trust or the things we depend on for our security, i.e., the condition of our lives as they really are. This needs to be done prior to personal study or a worship service to prepare our hearts for hearing God and then it needs to be maintained as the Spirit of God brings conviction or as other things or thoughts might seek to intrude to distract or hinder listening while studying or praying, or during a worship service (Ps. 119:18; 139:23-24; 1 Cor. 11:28f).
Often this is simply not done. People arrive at church harried and upset because of something that happened at home or even on the way to church. Or people get busy being friendly, talking, and so on, and that’s all good, but after they sit down they never give any thought to the condition of their heart or their need to secure a spiritual focus and to be sure they are controlled by the Spirit.
What’s the purpose of self-examination? The purpose for examination and self-revelation is honest to God, deep seated confession in a spirit of repentance. While people can’t see our hearts, God can and He rejects worship that is not in spirit and truth, where the heart is kept from Him (Isa. 29:13).
Regarding confession, we are talking about a confession which seeks to go to the root causes of sin in our lives, especially our stubborn determination to run our own lives and live by our own devices for peace, security, and significance (Jer. 2:13; 17:5; Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:13-14; 1 Jn. 1:9; Ps. 51:5f; Jam. 4:6-10).
Both James 1:19-25 and 1 Peter 2:1-2 teach us that before there can be a proper response to the Word that leads to true spiritual deliverance through an active faith, a response where we are quick to listen, receive, and hunger as a new born babe for the pure milk of the Word, we must honestly deal with sin. In James 1:23, “receiving the word implanted” is dependent on “putting aside all filthiness …” In 1 Peter 2:2, the command to “long for the pure milk of the word” is dependent on “putting aside all malice and all guile, …” How do we deal with sin? By personal examination and honest confession of sin. Then we will be free to listen to God’s Word and depend on the Holy Spirit to give deliverance over sin.
We Need Active Participation
In our TV generation we have become passive listeners. I think our term today is “couch potatoes.” We have forgotten how to think and stay actively involved in the listening process. We have become mentally lazy. Active listening means concentrating, searching, probing, questioning, thinking, interacting, responding and applying. God doesn’t want pious, passive spectators. He wants actively involved listeners. We aren’t receivers who turn ourselves on, tune ourselves in, and relax.
“Active involved listening is spoken of frequently in Scripture.”1 Note these passages for instance:
(1) 1 Corinthians 2:15 “But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.” The word “appraises” is a Greek word which was used of a lawyer in careful, diligent judicial investigation. Now, what does that involve? It involves careful thought, actively searching, comparing, and probing to get at the truth. In this context, the words “he that is spiritual” refers to a person who is Spirit-controlled, has grown spiritually, and is also somewhat spiritually mature (note the contrast in 3:1 to spiritual babies). In such a person the Holy Spirit is free to work in an active heart and mind because that person is in fellowship and responding to the Spirit’s ministry. Such a person is able to search, probe, compare, and apply God’s Word effectively.
(2) James 1:22-27 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Having challenged us to deal with any sin so we can truly receive (hear) the Word, James then warns us about the difference between superficial and substantial listening. He is warning us against unprepared, passive, and uninvolved listening. James is teaching us we need the kind of active listening that is diligent to understand and respond to God’s Word in order that its truth so touches the heart that it begins to bring change, not of course by our own strength, but by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God through faith.
The words “looks intently” in verse 25 represent a different word for “looking” than the one used previously in this section (vss. 23-24). This is the Greek parakupto which refers to a very intent and concentrated look. Literally parakupto means “to stoop down in order to have a close look.” It is used in John 20:5 and 11 of the disciple’s investigation of the empty tomb, and in 1 Peter 1:12 of the Angels intense interest and study of the person and work of the Savior. So parakupto suggests keen interest, close attention, and active investigation.
(3) 1 Timothy 4:15 “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all.” Here Paul told Timothy to “take pains” and “be absorbed” in these things, a reference to the previous commands regarding his ministry in teaching, being an example of Christlike character, and using his gift (4:11-14). One simply cannot “take pains” and “be absorbed” and remain a passive listener. “Take pains” is the Greek word melataw which means “cultivate, think meditate, attend to carefully.” “Be absorbed” is literally, “in these be,” and connotes the idea of “be totally enveloped, absorbed, give yourself totally to them.”
But note the next verse: “Pay close attention to yourself …” Bible study or hearing the Word is to be aimed at personal application for changed living from the inside out.
Passive, uninvolved listening to God is inadequate and judged by God as futile religiosity. Believers are always to be on the alert—probing for meaning and application, for lethargic, half-hearted listening just doesn’t cut it with God nor can it result in spiritual deliverance. In practical terms what does this entail?
What does this mean in terms of my listening to God? When I read and study the Word, I must put everything else aside and concentrate on what He is saying to me. I must give Him my undivided attention. I should do this on a regular basis, for that is the only way I can develop my listening skills. I should do this in a place where I have minimal distractions. I should read and meditate out loud and take notes and ask questions, for these are the kinds of things that make me an active participant.
I should observe carefully to whom God is speaking, what He is saying and why He says it. I should interpret accurately what God means. I should apply these truths personally and practically in my own life.2
Finally, to round out our preparation, there are two more things we need so we can listen carefully.
We Need a Biblical Kind of Participation
Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.
The nobility refers to the fact that the Berean Jews, in contrast to Jews in Thessalonica, were teachable, open, though not gullible. They listened attentively as active participants, but they tested Paul’s teaching against the Scripture as their index for truth, always a noble and biblical attitude. Their authority for what was truth was the Word. They sought to set aside or block out their prejudice so God’s Word could speak for itself. The result was many came to trust in the Savior.
When we come to church, God wants us to be Berean-like listeners, those who are good listeners and teachable, but who are also biblically active participants who search and probe the Scripture whether these things are so.
(1) Mark 7:7-13 stresses the ever present problem of prejudice and background whether religious or secular which we all bring to church and to our background. This passage shows how our background, tradition, experiences, prejudices, etc., can nullify the power and truth of the Word on one’s life.
(2) 2 Timothy 3:15 teaches again the value of active participation in the words “be diligent” or “study” (KJV), but to that it adds the importance of applying sound principles of Bible study so we are truly listening to God and not the ideas of man that are so often based on man’s tradition or human experience, including our own (cf. 2 Pet. 1:17-21). We need to be precise in our study or in our hermeneutics so we truly hear what God is saying.
Why did the Apostle say this? Because Timothy was faced with false teachers who were neither diligent nor accurately handling the Word and that leads to hearing man’s voice and not God’s. When we apply poor methods of Bible study and poor methods of listening, we can end up hearing man’s voice rather than God’s.
There is simply no place in God’s plan for lethargic, passive listening, or listening carelessly.
We Need Physical Preparation
In Luke 22:7-14, we find that the Lord sent Peter and John to make preparations for the Passover meal that they might observe it according to its meaning and significance. The word prepare is used three times in these verses (vss. 9, 12, 13). The Lord saw to it that everything needed was properly prepared so He could observe the Passover with His disciples. Worship and being in a position where we can truly listen to God involves physical as well as spiritual preparation. Certainly without spiritual preparation, the best physical preparation in the world accomplishes little. But we often fail to see the need to be physically prepared to listen to God. Physical preparation needs to be seen as a part of the spiritual preparation needed to listen to God.
(1) Noise, people moving around, poor lighting, and other physical conditions can certainly be distractors which hinder our ability to concentrate.
(2) Being physically tired from not getting enough sleep the night before for whatever reason can create a real block to good listening.
(3) Those who have a part in the worship service as song leader, pianist or organist, ushers, the speaker, the leader of the praise and prayer time certainly need to be prepared so they do not become a hindrance to hearing God for others because of a poor and unprepared presentation.
(4) Preparation needs to start at home even the night before through little things like getting to bed early, getting the kids clothes ready, and by even planning breakfast. For many families, getting to church becomes a frantic and harried experience with Mom and Dad looking for socks, shirts, and trying to feed the family. In such condition, who is prepared to listen?
(5) Preparation can include something as simple as seeing to it that the children go to the bathroom before the service. It can include bringing certain things for smaller children to help them take part and stay occupied during the service. But bring it in something that doesn’t wake up the dead when the child starts opening it to get to his or her things.
The bottom line is that listening to God is no small issue. If we are not prepared to listen so we can respond with our hearts, let’s face it, we are simply playing church and we are withholding our hearts from the Lord. Our religious activities then become an experiment in futility.