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Monday, February 3, 2014

"Listen: Praying in a Noisy World" (Reuben P. Job)

TITLE: Listen: Praying in a Noisy World
AUTHOR: Reuben P. Job
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2014, (144 pages).

When God speaks, we need to listen. When God has spoken and we have no clue what it is, then we have not really listened. Reuben Job, invites us to a 40-days journey of praying and listening to God even when the world around us is noisy, distracting, and complicated. The desire to listen is indeed a reflection of our desire to love God and to love our neighbours. Instead of constantly being on a lookout for a solution out there, why not consider preparing our inner hearts to listen inside? Prayer, Scripture, questions, and guidelines are listed for each of the 40 days to help readers put into practice the art of listening. We are urged to use the "Prayer of Presence" to recognize God near us. We learn to adopt "Silence" as a counter-cultural practice, to turn our attention away from the worldly matters toward God. Key to listening is the use of "Scripture" which forms the core of all the reflections. Then there is the "Reading" of a story followed by a "Discovery and Dialogue" to reveal more insights. Finally, there is the "Response" to what we have listened.

It is quite typical for us to rush from place to place, even when our hearts are unprepared. Doing things is a way to prove we are useful. After going around our day simply doing stuff, at the end of the day, it may be frustrating when we start to ask what all of our doing actually mean. Was it worth it? Could there have been a better use of our time? What is God's will in all of these? I know there are many Christians who are passionate about Christ and are earnest about living out their faith. The struggle is about how they live out a quiet faith in a noisy world. According to retired United Methodist Bishop, Reuben Job, it all begins at home in our hearts. It starts with listening, praying, contemplating, and deliberating our actions. I know of people who tend to see the practice of faith daily as an either-or option. Some say that they need to begin the day well with their devotional or "quiet time" in order to make their day right. Others say that due to practical considerations, they can only do their devotionals at the end of the day. Yet, others may say that an appropriate combination of the two is more important. Maybe, I can propose an alternative. This is what I call a disposition approach. Train ourselves to be willing to listen at all times, especially in our waking hours. This is because God cannot be bounded only to our desk or during moments of our "Quiet Time." God can speak anytime, anywhere, and anyhow. God can even choose not to say anything at any given circumstance. Like the parable of the Ten Virgins, we need always to keep our lamps filled with oil. In the same light, we need to keep our attentiveness to God full. Through the practice of the 40-days exercises, we learn to train ourselves with better listening skills.

There are several gems in this book. Some of my favourites are:
  • "We must rely first on the ever-present spirit of God, not on particular methods or models of prayer and discernment, for guidance, direction, and companionship."
  • "Christians at their best are good listeners, and the Christian church, when most faithful, is a listening community."
  • "When everything else seemed frightening, the rhythm of my heartbeat gave him confi dence, comfort, and peaceful rest. Today, how do we intend to hear the heartbeat of God?"
  • "Prayer is not meant to be complicated, complex, and left to professionals. Prayer is for all of us. it is simply offering the fears, needs, hopes, longings, and questions of our minds and hearts to God as honestly, earnestly, and accurately as we can. Our prayers also express the essence of who we are and what our relationship is with God. Yet it is not our initiative that begins our prayer. Rather, it is God’s seeking love and invitation that awaken within us the desire, courage, and need to pray."
  • "Positioning is also critical to growth in our relationship with Jesus Christ. The gentle breath of the Holy spirit is always touching us, but it is our responsibility to position ourselves in ways that make it possible to receive the gifts that God waits to bestow upon us."
These plus many other beautiful reflective quotes culled from many prayer masters like Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, Richard Rohr, Brennan Manning, Eugene Peterson, plus writings from Abraham J Heshchel, Ben Campbell Johnson, Dallas Willard, and others, provide a wide contemplative circle of friends readers can learn from.

While this book is appropriate for all seasons, it can be meaningfully done this coming season of Lent, which is also a 40 days period of reflecting on Christ's journey to the Cross.  Kudos to Reuben Job for giving us such a wonderful resource to cultivate contemplative prayer and spiritual listening.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Abingdon Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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