Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, “Prove that you are a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.” There also is a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.” But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favour rests on you.” That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen.
That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us “my Beloved.”
Many days it would appear that the only voices that we hear are those that shout: Prove! … Shame! … Don’t Care! … Try Harder! … Succeed More! … You’re Powerless! There is no shortage of voices that sing the chorus that sets us back and brings us down. Harmony is not required in this carping choir of denouncement and exhortation. All that is required is a reasonable willingness of single voices to remonstrate anyone and everyone who will listen. And we seem to be too often, willing listeners to these voices. Sometimes we add our own voice to the chorus. Sometimes admonishing ourselves even!
Nouwen’s reminder above is that there is a voice which should be heard – a voice that is too often drowned out! The voice of the One who loves us is too often drowned out by the gnawing negativity of the voices of conceit and condemnation. So what are we to do?
Too often we succumb to the tune being sung by that unholy choir. We need to become active listeners. We need to get engaged in the art of hearing the still small voice that loved us into being. We need to hear the plea of the psalmist and take heed – “Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10. Ironically sometimes the art of active listening requires us to be less active, less busy, less engrossed in work, less overloaded with social activity, and less talk! Active listening requires stillness.
Let us all commit to take time for prayer. Time on Sundays to be with community in prayer to listen for God is important – make the time! Time each day to be still and listen for the voice that reminds you that you are loved is important – make the time! Time to listen to others in stillness that they might hear what God has to say as they share with you is important – make the time!
I encourage us all to tune out those vicious voices that cause us to believe that we are anything less than God’s beloved.
If we listen closely we will hear the Master’s voice reminding is that we are loved and we are treasured!