Many don’t know how to listen. A lot of people are uncomfortable with silence. I know that some persons have to fill their space with either the noise of the radio or having the television blaring even if they are not paying attention. Some feel that they have to speak to fill up the silence. Others love to hear the sound of their own voice. Most establishments feel that it is necessary to shop, work, and/or eat with something playing in the background. After all, what’s a party without some noise? The music in the background helps to create an atmosphere.
And if you live in a busy city, one most often becomes accustomed to having a lot of noise. It is my experience when I go out to the suburbs that I cannot avoid noticing the silence of the countryside. There are fewer sirens, trains, and people yelling. In fact, sometimes is more difficult to sleep. Every crack, creak, and pop becomes magnified.
Learning how to properly listen is an acquired art. In the midst of busy-ness, ears can become so full that there is not any room to hear “any still small voice.” Many do not stop to take a few minutes out of their day to recollect themselves. Many do not know even where to go to find silence.
Many have not learned how to pray by being silent. Sure prayers can be petitions and thanksgivings, but it also can be a dialogue. We speak and God speaks. And it requires being ready to hear. There are Churches and Sanctuaries that provide a space. But also one can learn how to be silent within oneself even when the world is so noisy outside.
In today’s (January 11) Scripture reading Samuel keeps hearing someone calling his name. He mistakes the voice of God for that of Eli. Through this process Samuel learns to say:
Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (NAB, I Sam 3:9)
It is a discipline, like an exercise. Persons can train their bodies to be fit, so can one train their soul to listen to God. Frequent reception of Communion, setting aside time for prayer, and observing the Commandments of God can help to prepare a heart toward God. And with all things of God, it is also a grace, a gift. The Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, had a way of pondering things in her heart when it came to matters of God. A person can be praying and listening to God throughout the day by having an openness of heart through whatever they might be doing.
Many people say: I pray and I still never hear anything.
It is important to realize that the practice of waiting to hear God is in itself a spiritual exercise. Often we have to be made ready to hear. In all things spiritual, perseverance and fidelity to God is what matters. Many try to hear a physical voice. This can happen, but very rarely and even extraordinarily. Most often the voice of God can be found through others, through our own conscience, through the world around us, in nature, in the Church at Mass, in a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, and of course in Sacred Scripture.
Once in a while one might get a billboard. When my son was 6 years old before I became Catholic, I saw a billboard that said, “Make sure he knows the way to heaven before he is seven.” This prompted me to look into his baptism in the midst of my family joining the Church.
God can be subtle and not so subtle. But It is most important not to abandon prayer. Keep vigil in one’s heart for whatever way God might choose to speak.
Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.