Listening to Ourselves and Others: Week 2 Discussion Questions
1. Was there anything that caught your attention or resonated with you from the message on Sunday? Was there anything that did not sit well with you?
2. Psychologist David Benner wrote, “Most people think they already are good listeners. They may have learned to be reasonably attentive when others speak and assume that this is all that is involved. However, what they are often listening to is their own thoughts about what they are hearing.”
- Have you found this to be true?
- What do you think prevents you from being a better listener?
3. The story about Jesus’ encounter with a woman from Syrian Phoenicia is recorded in Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28. Read both accounts, and then discuss the following:
- How does this story make you feel?
- What is Jesus’ initial response to the woman?
- Why do you think he responds this way?
4. The speaker on Sunday suggested that various interpretations were helpful in understanding what was happening:
- Jesus used the woman’s faith to teach his disciples in a memorable way
- Jesus provided an opportunity for the woman to restore her honor
- Jesus listened and learned
Which of these interpretations do you find most helpful, and why?
5. How does the idea of Jesus listening and learning from other people make you feel? Why do you feel that way?
6. The speaker on Sunday referenced the ongoing, eternal conversation of God (see, for example, John 11:41-42, John 5:19, John 16:13). Read Galatians 4:6. What does this verse tell us about our role in God’s conversation?
7. Spend some thinking about a situation in your life where you want to hear the Voice of God, or a relationship where you want to do a better job of listening. Share briefly with the group, and then pray for one another.
Practice for the week: Listening to God, to Others, and to Ourselves Try to make time this week to do each of the three following exercises.
- Listening to God—Imaginative Prayer Exercise Invite God to speak to you. Then slowly read and experience this imaginative prayer.
You are sitting on a stool in a small room. It’s dimly lit, with only a soft glow coming from a light overhead. What are you thinking? How do you feel?
You look up, and you notice there’s a door in front of you. It opens, and there, standing in the doorway, is Jesus. What does he look like?
He comes into the room and greets you. How does he greet you?
You notice that he’s holding something in his hands. It’s a gift. He lifts the gift gently in your direction and you’re meant to take it. What is it? Are you willing to take it?
Then, he bends down and comes close to your ear. He whispers something to you that he’s been wanting to say to you for a long time. What does he say?
- Listening to Others—Practicing Active Listening Ask God to bring into your day someone to whom you can give the gift of listening well. As you listen:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Be non-judgmental and listen in order to learn
- Keep asking yourself W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?)
- Communicate your attention through eye contact, smiling/nodding, reflecting back what is said
- Be patient—don’t interrupt or rush to fill any periods of silence
- Listening to Ourselves—The Welcoming Prayer You can also listen to a recorded version of this prayer online here.
Step 1: Awareness. Sit quietly and notice how you are feeling. Focus and sink into your emotion. Go toward it rather than suppress or resist it. Stay with this step of noticing and sinking in until you really experience a connection to the feeling. You may feel it in your body, and it can help to place your hand there as a way of connecting with the emotion more deeply.
Step 2: Welcome. Welcome this emotion as a friend that is going to help you discover something about yourself rather than as an enemy to be defeated. Don’t judge yourself, but simply accept how you are feeling right now. Name the emotion and say, “Welcome… fear/anger/worry/sorrow etc.” Repeat it, and sit with the feeling until you experience a genuine sense of owning and accepting it in this moment. Then allow yourself to honestly discern where this emotion is coming from. Usually this is from a thwarted desire for one or more normal and basic human needs:
- Safety and security
- Esteem and affection
- Power and control
Step 3: Let Go. When you have allowed yourself to name and accept the feeling, let it go by saying, “God, I give you my fear/anger/worry/sorrow, etc.” Consciously let go of
- Your demand for safety and security.
- Your demand for esteem and affection.
- Your demand for power and control.
Sit quietly and invite God’s loving, affirming and totally accepting presence.