I can usually tell when my students are listening to me or not. Their attention is usually fragmented by any number of devices or distractions that surround them on a daily basis, so I must be aware when they are listening and when they aren’t. Often times it’s some social media-like thing that they are immersed in, or they’re lost in thought about some problem they’re facing at home or with someone they’re dating, or sometimes both. The issue is that because of the demands placed on them in life and the social expectations they should be living up to, there is too much going on for them to participate in active listening. Although, I can’t really point the finger much. At home, my wife often accuses me of only hearing every third word she says, as I often get the gist of what she is saying right, if not the details. I suppose for my students, the same can be said about me in that I just have too much going on in my life and head to actively listen sometimes.
When we want someone to actively listen to us, we sometimes ask them to look directly at us when we are speaking, in an effort to make sure that they are listening attentively. In my class, when I am saying something important that I don’t want to have to repeat, I often times ask them to “Listen with your face” so that I can make sure they hear every word and idea that I am saying. Perhaps committing more than just your ears to hearing is the key to actively listening. Since more than one sense is necessary in these situations, so it can also be said of worship. When we pray or worship God, whether on our own or together, we can and should be committing more than just our minds and ears to Him. In Romans 12.1, Paul doesn’t limit us to only those two commitments, but feels as if we should be using as much of ourselves to glorify Him. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Many years ago, I decided that it was not enough to just commit my voice to God in worship, but to commit as many of my senses to Him as possible. So, when we would recite a prayer or song, I would make sure to not only speak it, but to commit my eyes to Him by reading along as well, even if I already knew the prayer or song by heart. Additionally, I could commit my ears to Him by listening to the church body around me participating along with me in the song. I can feel the power of His prayers and songs by touching the prayers and verses as I recite them aloud. I could take in the smells of candles and incense, knowing that they are there to bring glory to Him. And I can taste the communion wine and bread, remembering the sacrifice He made for me. However, despite committing these five sense to Him, there still remains a sixth one that is most important: the heart. We can utilize our sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch to glorify Him, but if our hearts are not for Him, then those commitments are meaningless. It is the heart that guides our mind and actions, and without it, those senses and commitments are meaningless. So, this week, let’s not only commit all our senses to Him, but our hearts as well, so that we can fully promise ourselves to Him in life and in spirit. Instead of just listening with our faces, let’s listen with our hearts, too. Amen.