In a world of noise, how can we listen to God?


From the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" (Mark 9:7)

I have a number of invisible friends who talk to me – audibly – on a regular basis.

Mostly they come to me while I am alone in the bathroom, first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Often they are with me over breakfast, and sometimes at other meals too. I like my invisible friends. They help me know what to think about things, they shape how I feel, and they affect my whole view of the world.

Before you start to wonder, let me explain: I am talking (of course) about the radio. I have BBC Radio 4 on for the Today Programme as I get up, and at various other points through the day. My invisible friends are the presenters who are such a familiar presence that I sometimes feel (wrongly, of course) that I know them well.

The chances are that you too have similar "friends". They may be radio or TV presenters; they may be singers on your iPod; they may be bloggers or vloggers or newspaper columnists. But they fill our ears and hence our minds, and therefore shape who we are and what we think.

And that bothers me. Because – good though they may be – as Christians we will want primarily to be listening to God.

It's not a new issue. As we continue our pilgrimage through Mark's gospel we find Jesus teaching his disciples (8:31) about all that must happen to him. And does even his close friend Peter listen to him? No – "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him" (v32). What Peter heard was inconvenient and challenging and he really didn't have time for it.

Shortly after this (9:2) Jesus leads some of his disciples up a mountain and, we are told, "was transfigured before them". His clothes "became dazzling white, such as no-one on earth could bleach them." (Lest we be tempted to think Jesus' followers made this up, the honest reporting of their reaction in v5-6 and v10 puts paid to any such notion.)

It's an eye-opening glimpse of the uniqueness and glory of Jesus! And the point of the event is clear. As Christ is transfigured, God speaks, declaring: "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

But if we accept in our heads that Jesus is far more worth listening to than our most-loved radio presenters, how in practice do we do that? First and foremost through the Bible. The Bible is God speaking. As Nicky Gumbel, the originator of the Alpha Course, puts it: "For Jesus, what the Scriptures said, God said (Mark 7:5-13). If Jesus is our Lord, our attitude to the Scriptures should be the same as his..."

And former Archbishop Rowan Williams says: "Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God – that is, they believe that the texts that make up the Bible were composed by the help of the Holy Spirit and that they communicate God's will perfectly when they are taken together and read in the context of prayer and worship..."

All very well, you might say, but I struggle to read the Bible. So here are some quick ideas and resources to help kick-start or revitalise your listening to God. I promise I am not being sponsored to mention them!

(1) The new best-selling devotional by Tim Keller focused on the Psalms. A Bible extract, a thought and a prayer, all on one page. 

(2) The Explore daily notes published as both a booklet and an app.

(3) The Pray-as-you-go online resource and app which has Bible passages read aloud and guided meditations.

As former Bishop of Durham Tom Wright says: "Each of us is called to do what the heavenly voice said: Listen to Jesus." Enjoy!

The Rough Guide to Discipleship is a fortnightly devotional series. David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex.