Listening – The Key Ingredient to Prayer


The year was 1952.  A hush fell over the crowd as the infamous composer, John Cage, stepped into the concert.  The crowd held their collective breath as he sat at the piano.  And then…nothing.

John Cage sat in silence for precisely four minutes and thirty-three seconds (thus the name of this notorious piece – 4’33”).  The crowd was enraged, but Cage stood by the fact that this was, indeed, real music.  He knew what many of us fail to grasp – that it is in silence, not in noisemaking, that we hear the sweetest music in life.

This past weekend I taught at a high school retreat, where the focus was on becoming people of prayer.  We talked a great deal about how we ought to pray, and a topic that kept coming up was just how important listening is in our prayer lives.

We agonize over what to say to God, but do we take time to listen for His soft replies?  How often do we remain still long enough for Him to speak?

I was most impressed with the thought that listening isn’t simply something we do after we talk to God.  We ought to listen to Him before we pray, allowing Him to reveal to us what to pray for. 

If we pray in Jesus’ name, then we are coming to God by His  Son’s authority and saying, “this is not my will, Lord, but His.”  If we pray mindlessly or selfishly, then we are taking the name of Christ in vain – and this will not go unpunished. 

We need to listen for His guidance before jumping into prayer.  Like the disciples, the longing of our hearts ought to be “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). 

When we do this, we will realize that listening isn’t simply one important piece of the prayer puzzle – listening is the key to the entire thing! 

As John Cage was aware of, silence really does offer us the most profound music of all…the voice and will of the Almighty God.

May we listen… and then pray.

4 thoughts on “Listening – The Key Ingredient to Prayer

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