8. Asking for a listening heart

listen to the whispers of your heartWhen Solomon inherited the great kingdom of his father David, God asked him what he wanted. Instead of asking for more power or greater wealth, Solomon asked for a listening heart, so that he could be able to take good decisions.

As we come to the end of this short series of reflections on discernment, this could well be our prayer too. Discerning God’s will for me does not depend on the skills I have learnt, much less on the level of my knowledge, but above all on the quality of my heart’s listening. So many holy people have never studied spirituality but they have a refined listening heart.

A listening heart knows how to be sensitive to God’s presence. It is built on a basic trust in God’s faithfulness and to his willingness to communicate himself: it is indeed possible to seek and find what is God’s project for me.

As I listen to God, I discover that I need to listen more to myself, even though I might have started with the idea that I need to listen less to myself. It is God who created me and sowed the seeds of desire in my heart, so I do have to learn how to listen to and understand my deepest desires, my dreams, my strong points, as well as my mistakes and disappointments. Just as I cannot love others unless I love myself, so also I cannot really trust God without trusting myself and what God is doing in me: God’s will is myself!

I do this not in narcissistic self-admiration, where everything is centred on my needs, but in a spirit of deep freedom, the freedom to serve and to love others even when it means carrying the cross and turning the other cheek.

Like all successful communication, this requires time and patient effort, perhaps with the guidance of someone more experienced with whom I share my quest. This can only happen in the context of a stable prayer life, that includes the daily examen of conscience.

As life becomes more complex, and as we become more allergic to rules, discernment will assume a much bigger role in our lives and in that of our communities, including that of the big community, the Church. We are blessed that many who preceded us, including Ignatius of Loyola, have left us many helpful indications on how to discern our decisions.

From God’s word:

◦ “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…’ ” – Mt 6:7-9

◦ “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” –  Mt 7: 7-12

◦ “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…” – Ps 23

Questions:

  • What have you found in these reflections that can be immediately applied to your life?
  • How happy are you with the quality of your spiritual life?
  • What do you find most helpful and life-giving in it?
  • What do you see you can do to improve it?
  • Should you look for some help?

More resources:

To help in your reflection – ‘Our Father’ by Andrea Boccelli:

‘Relaxed Discernment’ – with Fr John O’Connor:

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