Spiritual Practice


Enuma Okoro

The sixth century monk, Benedict of Nursia, started a community for believers who wanted to seek and serve God through the daily practical habits of work, prayer, rest, and spiritual learning. One key rule that Benedict had for new community members was to try to listen for God in a deeper and perhaps more challenging way than they had before. 

teen listening FTR TSP 176803804“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you: welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice” (The Rule of Saint Benedict). Benedict believed that in order to serve God faithfully, Christians had to listen with their hearts as well as with their ears.

Usually, we are advised to listen to our heart, to live in ways that ring true with whatever we feel in our heart, to do whatever our heart tells us. Yes, we should pay attention to how we feel, but more important than what our heart feels is what God speaks into our hearts and our lives. The Bible tells us that our hearts are deceptive (Ephesians 4:17–24). Often we imagine that our heart can tell us what is best for us, but God tells us what is best for us. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Sometimes, the things our heart desires can turn our focus away from God’s call to love and respect creation and ourselves, people made in God’s image. What would it mean if instead of listening to our heart, we listened with our heart?

Hearing and acting on what we hear are completely different experiences. When Benedict encouraged his community to listen for God, he was also calling them to live lives of obedience. Did you know that the word obey comes in part from the Latin word meaning “to hear?” When we obey God, we are not simply hearing; we are listening and acting on what we have heard.

devozine Lectio Divina TS 97648012

How do we listen with our heart? It takes practice, but the basic steps are to read scripture, to find times when we can be quiet in God’s presence, and to learn to pay better attention to the world around us. God is always speaking into our lives.



One way Benedict teaches us to listen with the ears of our heart is through lectio divina, the practice of reading and listening to scripture to hear whatever the Holy Spirit may want to tell us.

  1. Find a quiet place where you feel at peace and where you will not be disturbed.
  2. Read carefully the following Bible passage: John 1:35–39.
  3. Stop, close your eyes, and pray that God will show you what you need to hear in these verses.
  4. Read the passage a second time. Notice the words or phrases that jump out at you; write them down.
  5. Write down your thoughts and feelings about the passage and about the words and phrases that caught your attention.
  6. Read what you have written. Can you create a prayer in response to what you have heard God saying through scripture?
Enuma Okoro is a writer, speaker, and communications consultant.

—from devozine (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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