A habit of listening to God

(Continuing our conversation from yesterday)

“Yes,” I said. “Part of the value of Lent is the time it gives to cultivate habits of listening.”

“Habits of listening?”

I decided to find out whether he remembered something we had covered once before. “You know how I’ve talked about routine before.”

“Yep,” he said.  “You said, ‘For me, a routine is a set of thoughts and behaviors performed consistently. Repeated actions, routines, shape us and can then remind us of the context. It can be a bad thing, like flashbacks, or it can be a very helpful thing, reminding us of commitments.’ So what does that have to do with a habit of listening?”

I leaned forward. “As you look at your daily schedule, do you have a routine of listening to God? Or even for God? Do you have even ten minutes where you stop all your running, all the talking you do, all the sounds you have to drown out all the other sounds? Ten minutes where you say ‘God, I know you are here. So am I.’”

He shook his head.  “I know. You are wanting daily prayer or something. But that just feels like some kind of ritual. It feels empty. Repeating the same words.”

I nodded. I understood that feeling.

“It’s easy to turn a routine, a way of living, into a ritual.” I said. “We perform a ritual, hoping it has some value in itself. It’s a kind of magic. We wear our lucky underwear. We show up to church every week. Think of it this way: a ritual is something we do hoping to influence God. A routine is something we do to work on us. A routine like daily prayer or weekly Sabbath or a season of fasting can bring our minds back to the story of God’s work.”

“And,” I said, “you show up for our conversations every day. Not to make me happy, but to learn something yourself.”

“But that’s different,” he said. He paused. “Isn’t it?”

“Try it.” I said.  “Just for forty days. At 10 pm, take 10 minutes. Walk outside. Go into the bathroom. Go to the kitchen to get the coffee ready for morning. And say, ‘God, I know you are here. So am I.’ And listen.”


In Lent For Non-Lent People, I talk more about habits and listening and prayer.
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And Lent starts with Ash Wednesday on March 5.

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