Today I went to an event about “Design Thinking” and it’s application to ministry with college students. ( You can find out some information about design thinking, here , and the speaker, here). Different people have a different number of steps but simply put design thinking involves:
Understanding the problem, empathize
Define the problem
Generate ideas, ideate
An important part of understanding the problem involves listening.
There are varieties of ways we listen.
Often when we are listening, we are more concerned with formulating our response. Or we are thinking about how what we are hearing impacts us. Or we are off on a mental tangent as what someone said recalls a memory or feeling. These are all various aspects of listening that is focused on us.
Of course sometimes we are focused on the person speaking. Parents listen intently to their children. We may listen with great focus to a lover, or parent. Or perhaps someone in significant authority. There is listening that is focused intently on the other person.
And there is listening where we are focused on ourselves and the other person. We are aware of our reactions and also the other person’s statements and responses.
When we talk about prayer often people describe it as talking with God. Part of any conversation is also listening. It seems to me these three ways of listening are worth considering when the think about prayer.
In addition to making prayer all about what we have to say to God, our listening can also be primarily concerned about us. What will God say to us? How should we respond?
For some of us, prayer may involve an intense focus on God, with the rest of the world and ourselves not involved.
Others may find prayer conversational, God and the person are engaged in dialogue and conversation.
I suspect that at different stages in our lives and in different situations we may listen in each of these ways. In times of distress or discernment we may be very focused on ourselves. Prayers for personal healing, prayers for clarity might fall in this group. Prayers where our listening focuses on ourselves are not necessarily a bad thing.
Sometimes we listen intently to God. Our focus is on hearing but not hearing narrowly. We’re not listening for ourselves, we are simply listening to God, listening for whatever God has to reveal to us.
Prayer can also be conversational in the best sense of the word. We listen carefully to God and God listens to us. In our listening we are aware of our own feelings, emotions and reactions but also we are attentive to God’s Spirit.
When you listen to God, how are you listening? Has that changed over time or in particular circumstances?