When my wife speaks to me she expects me to take my eyes off my computer screen or off the page I am readying and look at her. I used to tell her that where my eyes are has nothing to do with my ears still working, but I don’t say that any more! She thinks I can listen better when I focus on her and her alone. Now I expect the same thing with my children. I want them to stop when they are doing when I have something important to say. I want them to give me their total attention, their complete focus.
God expects that from His children as well. He expects us to listen expectantly, quietly, patiently, confidently, dependently, openly, attentively, carefully, submissively and reverently.
In addition, listening means having a sensitive spirit. The basis of God speaking to us is His Holy Spirit speaking to our human spirit. God lives in our spirit after salvation. He speaks from there. This is how God the Father communicated to His Son when on earth as well. “Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that …” (Mark 2:8). We must learn to be sensitive to His voice, recognizing and obeying it whenever He speaks to us.
Finally, listening requires focus and sacrifice. One of the ways we can help focus on our communication with God is through fasting. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2).
Fasting is often neglected today, but when done out of a right motive it can be a real help in spiritual warfare. Jesus fasted often (Matthew 4:1-11, etc.). Jesus assumed His disciples would fast (note the “when,” not “if” in Matthew 6:16). Fasting is a spiritual exercise distinct from prayer, although often done in connection with prayer. It is still something for us to do today (Matthew 9:15). Usually fasting is done from food (all or a certain food group, like sweets, or a certain meal a day, or no food all day). Sometimes drink is abstained from, other times not. Sometimes sleep (II Corinthians 6:5; 11:27) and/or sex (I Corinthians 7:3-5) are included. Be sensitive to how and when God leads you to fast.
The motive in fasting is not to punish self for sin or prove sincerity to God so He will smile with more favor in a certain situation. Hunger pictures humility (Psalm 69:10; Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 11-14; Hosea 13:6). Enduring hunger teaches self-discipline and works against pride (Ezra 8:21; Isaiah 58:3). It provides an attitude of submission. Fasting also opens up more time to be available to pray and seek God. It shows a willingness to sacrifice anything to get closer to God. It serves notice to demonic forces that you are serious in your pursuit of God’s will and glory (Jeremiah 29:13-14). A side benefit of fasting is that one can learn to depend on God for self-control and thus better control their appetite (I Corinthians 6:12-13; II Peter 2:19). This also helps with self-control over sexual sins as well.
Fasting brings humility which helps us better connect with God. Psalm 35:13-14 says “Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.” Daniel 9:3 says “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”
What works best for you to focus on God when you need to hear Him speak instead of letting your mind wander to other things? Practice it now.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)