On Monday morning, Hubby asked the kids if they would like to go to Chili’s then watch fireworks this weekend. The keywords being this weekend. Ade turned to me and asked, “We’re going to Chili’s tonight?” He had half-listened to the conversation, picked out the words that interested him most, and tuned out the rest, forming his own opinion of what was going on. I don’t bring this up to shame him, but to illustrate how selective hearing can work.
As Christians, are we guilty of picking and choosing when we listen to God speaking? Do we pick and choose what we hear Him say, then form our own incorrect conclusions? Do we pick out what interests us most and tune out the rest? Are we guilty of selective hearing?
Why do you take Him to court for not answering anything a person asks? For God Speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it.Elihu (Job 33:13-14 CSB)
At this point, Job has argued back and forth multiple times with three of his gathered friends about why he has been suffering. Job claims that if only God would answer him, He would see that Job is truly a righteous man. As Elihu summarizes it:
“Surely you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard these very words: ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am innocent and there is not guilt in me. Behold, God finds pretexts against me; He counts me as His enemy. He puts my feet in the stocks [to hinder and humiliate me]; He [suspiciously] watches all my paths,’ [you say].” (Job 33:9-11)
Job was so busy defending his innocence and integrity, too busy arguing with his friends over it, that he had yet to stop and really listen for God’s voice. What was God saying? If Job really was innocent, why was he being tested in such a way? The only one who would have that answer is God. I’m sure if Job actually paused to listen, he would’ve already heard God speaking to him.
Prayer Isn’t a Grocery List.
Have you ever heard that? Prayer isn’t a grocery list? It’s something the pastors in our church say. We often treat prayer as a grocery list instead of treating it as a tool for conversing with God.
“Dear Jesus, I come to You in Your Holy Name. Thank You for Your wonderful goodness. Please help me to be more patient with my children. They are driving me nuts today, but I know that with Your help I can overcome this impatience. Please grant me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding according to Your mind, not my own, as I go about my day. I ask that You would bring healing to my friend. They’ve really been struggling, but Your word says that by Your stripes we are healed. I ask that You would give me an opportunity to reach out to somebody for You this week. If there is someone who needs a word from You, Father I ask that You work through me so that I may bring it to them. Open my eyes to see as You do, Father. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see, so that I do not miss You. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.”
We say our prayer, full of things we need and reminders of what His Word says (as if we are reminding Him), then we sign off with His powerful name, and go about our merry way. Now none of that is necessarily wrong, but that isn’t what prayer is about. Prayer is meant to be a conversation. Conversation is a two-way street. A give and a receive.
To me, a grocery list prayer is really looking past Jesus to see what He can give us. Our eyes are not on Him, they’re on the “perks” of being a Christian.
Granted, even I am guilty of doing this. We all are, and I’m not trying to condemn anyone in this but rather working to bring it to our attention. Yes, even my own.
So how does this tie in to Elihu’s response in Job 33?
God is always speaking, but we do not always listen.
Maybe it isn’t a grocery list prayer. Maybe we have a choice to make and we have asked God to lead us in the direction He wants us to go. We take the time to stop and listen for His voice, but what He speaks to us isn’t the answer we’re looking for so we stop listening. We tell ourselves that God isn’t speaking to us. If what He is speaking is not what we’re waiting for then we don’t want to hear it. That is selective hearing.
We need to work on not only listening for God’s voice, but listening to, and for, everything that He is speaking, not just what is us-specific. We can’t treat God’s voice, or His Word, as something to be perused. If God is speaking to us, no matter what it is, then we need to perceive it, know it, and give heed to it. (Isa. 43:19)
Some questions we can ask ourselves are:
~ Am I too busy complaining, or just talking, to hear God?
~ Do I pause and wait expectantly for Him to speak?
~ Have I only been listening for the answers I am seeking personally?
Ask yourself these questions and let God search your heart, bringing the truth of it to your awareness.
We may have been operating in selective hearing, but the good news is that we can be trained up and overcome it. It may take practice and more reminders than we really want to admit, but that’s what training is. Soon, selective hearing will no longer be a habit for us and we will become more aware of all that God is speaking to us.