I do not get mad very often. While I tend to be an emotional creature, anger is not one of the emotions that I frequently experience. But I remember one time last year, while I did volunteer work as a secular campus missionary, I became angry. It was a high stress situation, trying to coordinate a large number of students in a new area our team was unfamiliar with and unable to survey ahead of time to determine the best course of action.
I approached a friend to quickly pass an idea by him. As I was talking, it appeared he was listening, but just when I really needed his feedback, he turned his head and responded to something someone else was saying, and laughed. Then he turned back and looked at me. The horrible feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach must have shown clearly on my face, because his complete countenance changed. I could not believe it, he was not listening to me! And he’d been listening to someone else!
We reconciled not long after that. But this experience came back to mind as I was studying Psalm 116: 1-2:
I love the LORD, because He has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because He inclined His ear to me,
therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.
Knowing that someone is listening changes the way that we interact with them. How often as a teenager trying to get parental blessing on something we didn’t think they would approve of would we slide the request past them quickly, while they were not paying attention, hoping for that nominal “mm hmmm” and run out the door before they realize what they just granted permission for?
Not so with God. He is listening. Anytime, all the time. He doesn’t just hear. He inclines His ear. And this simple characteristic is enough for the psalmist to love the Lord and keep coming back to tell what is going on in his life.
If you know someone is listening to you, it changes what you say, how you say it. It changes your expectations of the person you are telling.
As I reflect on this portion of Scripture, I realize two things. First, I take prayer much too casually. God is not a parent we’re trying to sneak by to get away with what we want. He cares. My prayers should reflect the fact that God is not just hearing, He is listening.
Second, because I am created in God’s image, I need to master the art of listening. According to Psalm 116, a person who listens is a person worth loving. A loving and lovable Christian is the best argument for the gospel. So the power of the gospel to transform me must include the power to make me a better listener, which in turn will make me more lovable. An attribute ingrained in my very being. Even when a friend is talking my ear off. Even when I’m the one who really wants to say something.
So, I’m listening.