Kingdom Practice: Spiritual Listening

Sibyl Towner

Sibyl Towner

Introduction.  This week we are practicing spiritual listening.  Last night, Sibyl Towner, co-founder and spiritual director of oneLifemaps, LLC and co-author of Listen to My Life, reminded us of the truth that every person longs to be listened to, and taught us how to give the gift of listening to one another.  Specifically, Sibyl led us through three-way listening, in which we simultaneously listen to what is happening inside of us, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the person who is speaking in order to be fully present and attentive.  As Sibyl reminded us, this is a “practice” and we won’t do it perfectly, especially at the beginning, so let’s take small, low-risk steps together and be surprised by what God does.

Spiritual Listening

To demonstrate the power of spiritual listening, Sibyl recounted the story from Luke 24: 13-35, in which two of the disciples encountered Jesus on their way to Emmaus.  Though Jesus obviously knew exactly what had happened and all the disappointment and despair his disciples felt when he was crucified, he asked them to tell him the full story of what had happened, listening to them as they walked.  We invite you to reflect deeply on this story.

The elements of spiritual listening…

Participation is invited, but not demanded

Invite the Holy Spirit


Focused attention

Unconditional acceptance

No fixing, advising, or rescuing

Listen to the silence

Affirm the gift of the story

Two small steps to get started…


(1) Listening “On the Way”.   Consider leaving early for a meeting you have at work, or walking your neighborhood without ear phones, or staying a few minutes longer wherever you are and ask the Holy Spirit to identify someone or place someone in your path to whom you can listen and be present.  When you encounter that person, remember the three-way listening technique and offer the gift of listening even if for just a couple of minutes.  

(2) Listening with your family or friends.  Try practicing spiritual listening with someone in your family or with a friend by following the elements above.


Additional Resources

Books:  Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, Alice Fryling.

Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction, Margaret Guenther.

Articles:  3-Way Listening, Sharon Swing.

Listening the Other into Free Speech, Mary Sharon More.

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