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January 9, 2016

The Scripture readings for the First Sunday after Epiphany are Psalm 29: 1-11; Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:15-22.  David described the “voice of the Lord” as a powerful, and majestic force of nature, that “thunders over the mighty waters . . . breaks the cedars of Lebanon . . . strikes with flashes of lightning . . . shakes the Desert of Kadesh . . . “ (Psalm 29: 3-8). The voice of the Lord was heard at Jesus’ baptism, when the Father proclaimed his pleasure with Jesus, his Son. (Luke 3: 22).

God speaks to us today in many ways. We hear his voice in his Word: “The [written] Word is the wire along which the voice of God will certainly come to you, if the heart is hushed and the attention fixed.” (F.B. Meyer, The Secret of Guidance, Moody Press, 1997, p. 31). God also communicates with us through people, and through ideas and circumstances. We are encouraged to listen to his voice during prayer. The creator of the universe, who controls the forces of nature and who spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, derives pleasure from conversation with me. Amazing.

Sarah Young practices “listening prayer” in her devotional, Jesus Calling. She writes in Jesus’ voice: “Come to me and listen! . . . Though I am the King of the Universe, I am totally accessible to you. ” (Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 281).

In his Prologue to the Rule, St. Benedict encourages us to “Listen carefully . . . to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” (Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of St. Benedict, The Liturgical Press, 1982, p.15).   Believers through the ages have practiced the ancient art of lectio divina: “When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God. (1 Kings 19:12).”

Dallas Willard confirms that that “people are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God . . .the same Spirit who delivered the Scriptures to holy men of old speaks today in the hearts of those who gather round the written Word to minister and to be ministered to.” (Hearing God, InterVarsity Press, 1984, p. 17-18).

Listening is a necessary part of conversation, and of intercessory prayer. Richard Foster explains: “Listening to the Lord is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing necessary for successful intercession. Soren Kierkegaard once observed: ‘A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening’” (Celebration of Discipline, HarperCollins, 1978, Part I, 3. Prayer).

Listen! God assures us of his continued presence in our lives, when we take time to meditate quietly and listen to the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, King James Version).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan



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