Cultivating a heart that listens


Prayer is a conversation with God. We speak to God as we pray the responses of the liturgy and the psalms, in familiar devotions of the church and with words that flow spontaneously from the heart.

While speaking to God is a necessary part of Christian prayer, listening to God is even more fundamental. Today, God’s word invites us to cultivate a heart of listening so that we may hear God call each one of us by name.

The more we listen, the more we hear God’s voice. When we open our hearts to the prompting of the Holy Spirit we attune ourselves to God’s voice and welcome his holy word as wisdom for daily life.

Samuel had never heard God’s voice — until he heard the Lord call him by name. The young boy mistakenly thought it was Eli, the temple priest. Three times the Lord called to Samuel, and three times Samuel ran to Eli’s side.

Eventually Eli, a wise and prayerful man himself, understood what was happening to Samuel. So, he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Eli taught Samuel the way of prayer. Samuel had to be guided to recognize God’s voice addressed to him as a gift of faith. In the same way, the church teaches us how to pray, opening our hearts and minds to hearing God call us by name with his eternal word of love and mercy.

This openness to hearing God’s voice continues in the responsorial psalm as we join in the psalmist’s prayer: “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” Now it is the psalmist who teaches us how to pray with a listening heart, attentive to God’s word and will.

In the Gospel, Jesus encounters Peter and Andrew who become his disciples after they hear the witness of John the Baptist. We are told that John was standing with the two disciples, and as Jesus walked by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

John was a missionary disciple of Jesus, preparing hearts to attend to the presence of God in their midst. Peter and Andrew heard the message of John and followed Jesus. Discipleship flows from listening to the voice of God.

Peter and Andrew had cultivated a listening heart so that when John proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, they immediately responded in faith and discipleship. Their example is given to us today as we hear God’s word. Will we respond in faith and discipleship as we hear God call us by name as we say in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”