“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.“ – Psalms 5:3.
I often quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in this devotional. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and an anti-Nazi dissident. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship is a classic. Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship. That resistance led to two years of imprisonment, and finally death by hanging on April 9, 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.
Eberhard Bethge, a student and friend of Bonhoeffer’s, writes of a man who saw the execution: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote a book on Christian community entitled Life Together. The following is a passage from that book on listening.
“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to Him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.”
As I said on Sunday, most people don’t listen with intent to understand. Rather they listen with intent to reply. Our goal is not preparing a clever retort while the other person is talking. Our goal is to listen to others as God has listened to us.
- In your opinion, what are the main characteristics of a good listener? What characteristics or habits would disqualify someone from being a good listener?
- When it comes to listening well, what do you find most difficult? Why?
- What are some good listening skills we can develop in our relationship with the Lord? With other people?
- What can we do this week to listen to the lonely people around us?