I'VE noticed that many people have observed recently that the art of listening seems to be in danger of disappearing in today's world. The pace of life has increased so greatly that there is often little disposition to listen patiently and sympathetically to what someone else has to say. Sometimes it even appears that people are so self-involved that they have little or no interest in the other fellow's thoughts and problems. It's almost as though we were becoming a society in which everyone is talking to himself and no one is listening! When you stop to think about it, the selfishness that makes such a me-first attitude so prevalent is an outgrowth of the materialism that seems to predominate in today's society. But as we individually challenge the materialism that leads to this unhealthy tendency toward a non-listening, non-caring attitude, we help to nurture mankind's natural and praiseworthy desire to help those in trouble.
Everyone appreciates a ``good listener'' -- and each of us can aspire to be one. In fact, a good listener who listens from a spiritual standpoint is actually expressing love; he is showing compassion for and a sincere interest in his neighbor. In Philippians, Paul counsels us, ``Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.'' I've found this to be a good reminder to be interested in others, to care about them, and to make an effort to understand them.
Learning to listen to others does more than bless them, however. The ability to really listen blesses us, as well. John said, ``He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?'' Or, we might say, He that listeneth not to his brother, how can he listen to God? This points out that developing an ability to listen rather than always trying to convey information is invaluable when it comes to effective prayer. Our primary task in prayer is to listen to what God is telling us -- not to inform Him of our desires. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error.''
It has been noted that the Lord's Prayer -- that great healing prayer of Christ Jesus so dear to all Christians -- does not include the words ``I'' or ``me.'' It is truly a selfless prayer, a ``listening'' prayer. When we pray it, we need to listen to God to get the full benefit of its message. We need to listen for God to reveal what it means to hallow His name; listen to hear what His will is; listen to understand and experience the ever-presence of His kingdom; listen to understand that our ``daily bread'' -- our moment-by-moment supply of all needful things -- comes from God; listen to learn how to forgive and how to be forgiven; listen in order to be delivered from evil -- from sin, sickness, and death. Each time we pray this prayer and listen, deeply listen, to God's, divine Love's, message for us, a fuller spiritual understanding of God's all-power and total goodness will surely follow.
Let us cultivate, then, the spiritual listening attitude, which enables us both to live in harmony with those around us and to commune with God in prayer. This can't help blessing us -- and others, too!