Listening A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health Spirituality

Listening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health

We can listen to the obvious – noise, distractions, voices, but it takes a focus to notice the whispers. Mental health comes from a spirituality that is listening for the quiet and unspoken.

It was the busyness of their life that concerned me the most. Jumping from one thing to the next it was like watching an out of control merry go round.

What were they listening to?
What were they listening for? 

Some times I just want to grab some people and tell them to stop for the next 5 minutes. To be still, say nothing, do nothing but listen.

But they are so preoccupied with the next thing and the busyness of life that they lose the experience of life. They have to fill every moment with something.

If you put your nose to the grindstone rough,
And keep it down there long enough,
You will soon conclude that there are no such things,
As a brook that babbles or a bird that sings.

These three things will your world compose:
Just you, the stone,
And your ground-down nose.

What are you listening to?
What are you listening

He was hurried and harassed by all that had gone on in the last few weeks.

Listening to some angry people he had taken notice of the violence they wanted to dish out to him.

So he ran. He ran like a dog chased by a hive of angry bees.

Now he was tied. Plain worn out from all the running, he found himself inside a cave on the side of a mountain.

As he waited a wild hurricane smashed around his hideaway.

Then an earthquake shook the walls. Rocks fell and pounded around him.

Then fire scorched his hole in the mountain.

Life was wild, loud, crashing, expressive.

Then came a feminine whisper (דְּמָמָ֥ה (də·mā·māh). It was small and thin. You could even call it crushed (דַקָּֽה׃ (ḏaq·qāh)). 

If silence could have a sound this was it.

Elijah was practicing the spiritual exercise of listening.

Wild winds, earthquake trauma, fire scorching heat all fully experienced with powerful awareness, but it was in the sound of silence where he found God whispering to him.

Elijah’s story is not so dissimilar to our own.

We are faced with the obvious. The loud, crashing, fear-inducing voices that push us this way and that.

I believe that deep down we are driven more by what we fear will happen than what we are invited to experience.

What are the sounds you are listening to?

  • An inner critic
  • An angry parent
  • A performance driven puppeteer

Listening to them, and all their drivenness will keep you locked in your cave.

You have to define what you are listening to and why so that you can choose to listen to something better.

Listening for Rhemas

The Bible uses two different Greek words to refer to the word of God. One of these words is Logos, and the other is Rhema.

Logos refers to the written text whereas Rhema refers to the instant, personal speaking of God to us

I am listening for Gods personal voice speaking to me. I may hear it by reading the logos of the Bible. I may also hear it through God’s creation.

It may also come through the encouraging words of others.

I am listening for, discerning over, and meditating upon these rhemas.

There is so much noise in our world that I can choose to listen to or not.

This morning I was welcomed into the new day with news of the latest scandal, what this particular celebrity advises about weight loss, how to become rich and successful.

But in reality, it’s all fleeting shadows, noisy gongs and bright lights trying to get my attention.

I want grounded truth. Something I can focus in on that will fill my life with faith, hope and love.

Where I focus I will go

We hear a sound and immediately our head turns to listen.

A little insight/ rhema that always helps me is this.

What I focus on gets me.
Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down
Focus on the positive/good things will always give me hope.

We could alter this with the word ‘listen’

What I listen to gets me.
Listening to the negatives/ challenges will always take me down
Listening to the positive/good things will always give me hope.

The Exercise

  1. Spend a few minutes answering these questions.
    A. What am I listening to? – Identify the noise in your world
    B. What am I listening for? – What are you hoping to glean out of these sources of noise?
  2. Create a file of ‘rhema’ words and phrases that speak to your soul encouragement and hope.
    I have a collection of these stored away on my phone.
    It might be verses of scripture, encouragements, quotes.
  3. Have a few minutes each day when you can be quiet and listen.
  4. Begin by praying the Samuel prayer ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’
  5. Take note of what you hear. It may well be at first a storm, an earthquake, a fire. Note this is ok, just give yourself permission to put those to the side for the moment and then just listen with your heart to a few whispers of Gods eternal truth and love for you.

We can listen to the obvious – noise, distractions, voices, but it takes a focus to notice the whispers. Mental health comes from a spirituality that is listening for the quiet and unspoken.

Quotes to consider

  • Find God everywhere, but keep it a secret. Next time you see a friendly dog, lift its ear and say, “I see you!” Hafiz
  • In active listening to our feelings we encounter the Holy, not in the earthquake and fire outside but, like Elijah, “in the sound of a gentle breeze” Brennan Manning. A Glimpse of Jesus
  • When God talks and we attentively listen, wonderful, beautiful, terrifying things happen. Curt Thompson. Anatomy of the Soul
  • Inner silence is not just refraining from speech. It is being attentive. With inner silence, I move from talking to listening. Most essentially, it is a posture of being open and alert. David G. Benner
  • Prayerful paying attention is not scrunching up our willpower and tightening our focus, but simply opening our self to what we encounter. This makes it much more an act of release than effort. We release any attempt to control attention and instead allow it to be absorbed by our present experience. David G. Benner, Opening to God 

  • Prayer is – listening for the still small voice of God. Listening with the “ear of our hearts. Richard J. Foster


Questions to answer

  1. What are the distractions that keep you from being able to listen deeply?
  2. What are the inner negative voices that you are listening to that would keep you from listening for the rhema words of Gods goodness for you?
  3. What are you listening to and what are you listening for?

Further reading

Give your Mind the Spiritual Gift of Stillness

Barry Pearman

Image cc:
Jonatan Pie