Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

What Does the Bible Say about Listening?

close up of hand held to ear listening

"A voice came from the cloud, saying, This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’” (Luke 9:35).

The human ear is exposed to 20-30,000 words in a day. We may not be able to control everything we hear, but we do get to decide what we listen to. When we listen, we choose to turn in a certain direction. Scripture is filled with words, but unless we allow them to pierce our bones and convict our hearts, we miss out on the supranational power of the living word of God.

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Where in the Bible Is Listening Mentioned?

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5).

Listening requires more than the audible detection of sound. Those who are deaf listen by seeing, lip reading, and sign language, proving there is a depth to listening beyond just noise.

Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs. In the verse above, listen, which in the New American Translation of the Bible is the word, hear, means: to hear, listen, obey. “We can deceive ourselves so easily, so to avoid that, he suggests we listen to increase our learning and how to apply that learning, called wisdom,” Jack Wellman explains. “That’s the best guidance you’ll ever get. Listen. Perhaps this is why God gave us two ears and one mouth in the hopes that we’d listen twice as often as we speak.” This type of listening assumes a reaction. We can hear something passively, but when we listen, we are engaged. Matthew wrote:

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).

Faith in Christ is an active decision. Many hear of Christ Jesus, but not all listen. Scripture is not mere words on a page. It isn’t a collection of stories for us to hear. It’s the alive and active Word of the Living God. When we listen to the Word of God, it suggests we are tuned in to the Spirit’s work in our lives. The apostle John wrote:

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:17-18).

It is only through Jesus that we come to the Father, and not by hearing, but by turning to listen. Our faith requires active obedience, not just a good feeling of fleeting happiness. The assurance of our faith is built upon the firm foundation of the Living Word of God. Jesus is the Word. Listening to His call on our lives leads us to the “more than we can ever ask for or imagine” plans God has for our lives.

The apostle James wrote, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).

When we hear something which unsettles our souls, we often find ourselves in a fight for the peace and joy we have in Christ Jesus! We turn over words in our minds, and allow downward spiraling thoughts to spin. In those moments, James is cautioning, we have a choice as to what to do with what our ears are hearing. We can allow our initial reactions to spew forth, which will often result in thunderclouds of anger, some flashes of rage, and then a mess of regret and hurt to clean up in the aftermath of the storm.

Listening requires us to be “slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It’s human to have this immediate reaction, but living our lives within the love of Christ allows us the power of pause. We can back down from our natural human reaction of offense, defense, anger, and stormy emotions, and allow the peace that surpasses all understanding to activate in our lives. There are moments in my personal life when my soul is unsettled, I simply say the name of Jesus out loud until my soul calms down!

We have the power to listen within us. Like James says, human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. But listening – being slow to speak and slow to anger – produces the good fruit of the Holy Spirit.

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Silhouette of a man kneeling in prayer in the fog

Listening Leads to Obedience

Hearing something doesn’t always jerk us into motion. Abrupt noises may startle us, but they don’t necessarily change our direction permanently. The apostle James warned,

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

Listening leads us to obedience. John W. Ritenbaugh writes, “The lesson is that, not only must we first consciously turn on our hearing to be converted, but we must also selectively choose from almost all we hear and thoughtfully accept or reject. In other words, we must discipline ourselves to be selective in order to grow, overcome, and glorify God.” We may not always get it right, but one faithful step forward at a time, God honors our obedience to follow Him to the best of our ability.

“For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people” (Acts 3:22-23).

Listen to everything he tells you infers action. “In a sense, listening is easy- or hearing is easy,” David Mathis writes. “It doesn’t demand the initiative and energy required in speaking. That’s why ‘faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’ (Romans 10:17).” Jesus is the Word. We learn to listen by following Him throughout the entirety of Scripture, not just the Old Testament.

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Close up of a man with hands folded in prayer

A Prayer to Listen Attentively to God’s Lead on Our Lives

Father, 

Praise You for this day, and Your purpose for it. This is the day You have made, we will choose to rejoice and be glad in it. Father, Your eyes are on us and Your ears are attentive to our prayers (1 Peter 3:12). Before we utter our requests to You, the patterns of our hearts are laid out before You. All-knowing, You compassionately care for us and love us. You made a way for us, through Christ Jesus, to come to You.

Father, today, we pray we would have ears tuned to listen, not just to hear. Let the words of Your Truth come alive in our hearts as we read them, and enlighten our minds as we seek You with all of our hearts. Father, let us not fall away after simply hearing or reading Scripture, but digest and crave it each day we live. Help us to feel the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, as we grow in holiness through His sanctifying work each day. Help us to know the difference between hearing and listening. Set a motivation in us to obey and a willingness to submit to and seek Your will over our agendas.

Bless our ears, Father, the physical body parts and the ears of our hearts and souls, which have the audible ability to hear what You are saying to us through Your alive and active Word, each day. Relevantly, You apply Your Truth to our everyday lives, if only we will be attentive enough to listen to what we hear and read. Let our lives bring glory and honor to You, oh Lord, today, and every day. 

In Jesus’ Name, 

Amen. 

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meg bucher profile pic bioMeg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.

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