Lenten Devotion: Holy Listening
Monday, March 5, 2018
1 Samuel 1:1-20
As someone currently living that CPE hospital-chaplain life, I often say that it is my job to listen. I’m listening to people’s stories, listening to their feelings, listening for clues about the inner workings of their hearts, listening for the movement of the Spirit in our midst. This work is meaningful, beautiful, challenging, and important. But being an attentive and intentional listener is hard work! I’ll admit that I’m not always good at it! I am always learning how to be a better listener. I can relate to Elkanah and Eli in our text, who are not great listeners. Eli stands corrected, at least, but the people in the story are not the ones who come through for Hannah. Indeed, it is God who ultimately comes through for Hannah, and not because God grants her prayer. It is because God listens to her. It is an act of Holy Listening.
When patients share with me their concerns and their anxieties, I often ask them how it feels to share with me. The vast majority of responses are positive, that it feels like a weight lifted off their shoulders, that it feels like a release to share with someone listening, or that they feel less alone. And when we pray together, I can feel a shift in the space, a release of tension and a sense of peace that calms the heart and mind. There is healing in sharing, and reconciliation in prayer. God takes our conversation and makes it sacred, and turns listening into a holy act.
When is the last time you prayed to God like Hannah, with great anxiety and vexation? With grief and anger? With a broken heart? When is the last time you poured out your soul before God? And perhaps the more important question is, how did you feel afterwards? The power and significance of prayer (and being listened to with intention and care) is not just in the act itself, but in the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional effect it has on us. Our text says that Hannah, after pouring out her soul before God, was sad no longer. We know that it does not always work that way, and that even after we pray or lift our concerns up to God we can still feel sad, but the hope is that we will not feel as burdened. Holy Listening helps alleviate our sorrow, bind up our broken hearts, and bring peace that surpasses all understanding. God is the Ultimate Listener. She listens to our stories, listens to our feelings, knows the inner workings of our hearts and is always present in our midst. As we continue to move through this Lenten Season, may we recognize opportunities for Holy Listening, lifting up our anxieties and fears to God, trusting that God listens to us, remembers us and relieves our burdens, this day and forevermore.
SFTS MDiv 2016; DASD 2017; SFTS/GTU MA 2017