In marriage coaching, we teach the skill of active listening to your spouse so that they will listen and respond in turn. I want to explore the idea of active listening to God. Not too long ago I wrote about becoming a person to whom God listens and responds. It begins by talking with God, but actively listening to Him is equally as important.

Did you know that there are fifteen micro-skills involved in active listening? The first skill that spouses learn is to listen for understanding. Listening for understanding begins by giving your full attention to the person who is speaking. I recently listened to an audio book titled, Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others, by Steven Furtick. He described the numerous daily distractions that keep us from “accurately and actively hearing God’s voice.” Furtick references an article he read on the internet which claimed that the average person has more than 60,000 thoughts per day. If that is true, that would be approximately 1 thought every 1.5 seconds during a 24 hour time period. Regardless of the true number, I’m sure we agree that there are plenty of competing priorities each day which require us to divide our attention among them. These competing priorities make it difficult to perfect the skill of active listening. God is talking to you right now. Does He have your full attention?

Listening for understanding requires listening without criticizing, or prejudging, or becoming defensive, or giving advice. How many times are you able to sincerely listen to God without engaging in any of those behaviors?

Listening for understanding requires checking in at times with the person who is speaking to ensure that you have both a clear and a complete understanding of the situation. You know you have a clear understanding when you are able to accurately reflect back both the content and the feelings behind the message. You know you have a complete understanding when the other person has nothing more to explain or communicate on the subject. The other person truly feels understood when both those goals have been achieved.

Do you take time to check in with God to ensure that you understand what He is saying to you? How do you check in with God? What does that look like?

Finally, do you practice listening for understanding when your spouse has something to say? Have you ever thought that God might be using your spouse to communicate with you? How does that change the conversation?