Active Listening

God, we've stopped talking

“What would happen if we stopped talking?

What would you do if we gave up on confession altogether?

I mean to say . . .

Would it make a scrap of difference to you, God?


We only tell you what we want you to know.

We only speak what we can bear to admit.

We do not say anything that would unmask our shame.

With respect, all the rest we expect you to know.


What would be our state if we stopped talking

How, say, if we sit in silence and quietly look to you,

while you quietly look at us?

What then, God?


How long would we have to wait for you to speak?

Would your steady gaze unravel the past?

Would your whisper guide us through the maze?

Would your Spirit settle our plight?


O God, if only you would give us one of your looks!

One glance with your care would cure it all.

One look from you would be enough.

God we've stopped talking,

we are ready to trust in your vision.”

From: Tranquil Moments. The Poetry of Prayer. Hardie, Brian. Steel Roberts Ltd: Wellington. 2002

 Read at the Episcopal General Convention 2012 byDr. Jenny Te Paa from New Zealand


What a great prayer to read just before a time of meditation when we are trying to listen to God. Active listening is an art only learned with much practice. It means making eye content, having no agenda, not waiting for the person to take a breath so you can say your piece, allowing periods of silence, imagining that the two of you are the only ones present in the world, letting the person know you have heard them by repeating back to them some of what you have heard, occasionally asking clarification questions, validating, not judging, occasionally touching their hand if appropriate, only occasionally stating your views after you have listened. This is what we learn in spiritual direction training. Can these same guidelines be used for listening to God? Some people use icons as windows to make eye contact with God. Some like to be or look outside to see God’s work in nature as making eye contact. Some use a rosary as a source of hand and eye contact. No agenda, silence, imagining that the two of you are only present, writing down, journaling, or repeating what you think you are hearing, asking clarifying statements, responding only after much listening, all can be meditative tools for listening for God.

 Atwater, Eastwood (1981). I Hear You. Prentice-Hall. p. 83. ISBN 0-13-450684-7.  

 Reed, Warren H. (1985). Positive listening: learning to hear what people are really saying. New York: F. Watts. ISBN 0-531-09583-5.