He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
To answer before listening – that is folly and shame. (NIV)
It doesn’t matter how much teaching we receive on the subject of listening, or how many times we are reminded by Scripture (James 1:19) to be quick to listen and slow to speak, most of us are not good listeners. Isn’t it true that when we are on the listening end of a conversation we are only partially listening? Generally we are working out our reply and looking for the opportunity to interrupt so that we can say what we want to say.
Our failure to be listeners exists despite our own experience of being in conversations where we know that the other person hasn’t heard a word we have said. Such experience means that we are all acutely aware of the need to be good listeners. It is foolish, rude, and shameful to interrupt with a response when the other party to a conversation has not finished speaking.
Listening requires focus and concentration. It is important that we hear correctly and understand what is being said, not just in conversations with other people, but when we come to God in prayer. So how do you approach God in prayer? With a listening heart or a chattering mouth? Or do you start out planning to listen but end up butting in so many times that you never really hear what God is saying to you? God speaks to us in many different ways. It is essential that we take time to ensure that we hear what He is saying. While that means listening carefully, it also means growing in our understanding and knowledge of Him. It is a bit like learning to speak a foreign language effectively. It requires practice and a lot of work to achieve real understanding.