The Art of Listening While You Read

Robert Mulholland in his book Shaped by the Word says that when we come to the Word, "we often are not looking for a transforming encounter with God. We are more often seeking some tidbits of information." Yet reflective reading is not reading done for the purpose of learning facts to teach others. That is a side benefit. 

When we are reading to become living epistles, we are not reading for information as much as reading for personal transformation. We come to the Word not simply to learn what it says, but to allow it to shape us--to form our thinking. We are not reading merely trying to understand it, but to allow it to form who we are. One sentence may be all we read but we dwell in it.

Compare how we read a letter from a close friend to how we scan the newspaper for news. Reading that invites the life of God into our spirits has more in common with the first. We read as though we are savoring the words of a love letter or pondering the meaning of a poem. It is not like skittering over the surface of a popular magazine. Instead, we read and reread scripture and listen for the words that resonate.

Years ago there was an ad for Corn Flakes that said, "Taste them again for the first time." Listening with all our hearts entails reading each sentence as if for the first time, expecting God to give us a personal message. Once we have read a thought that seems meant for us, we start dwelling on it. We may want to stay in a "holding pattern" over a single phrase or verse, and ask, "God, what are you saying to me just now?" 

Dear Lord, help us to remember that to listen with our hearts, we must engage our minds. 

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Ps. 119:103).