Yesterday I made a point about the Hebrew word (dabhar) that is used for God's Word. This word means much more than the sound of words in our ear or the registry of a meaning upon our mind. The same Hebrew word is used for God's creating the world by his word. And this is the same word that expresses God's revelation in Jesus Christ. When the word became incarnate it was this creative, powerful, faith producing word, which became the Logos of God (cf. John 1:1).
We listen to words at many different levels and in many different contexts. Words come at us in many forms and at many levels. Some words go no further than our ears. We hear sounds and that is it. Others enter our minds and make us think. (I am convinced that this is how most people read the Bible!) Some words touch us on the surface of our emotions and bring shallow feelings of joy or sadness.
The deepest form of listening, that which the biblical writers speak about regularly, is to listen with the ears of your heart. Such words will impact us powerfully. They can and do change us. This is real listening. We usually listen to dear friends in this way, a way that is rooted in the love of a relationship. The words of such friends might hurt us but they ultimately enhance our sense of self-worth and change how we see ourselves and the world around us. More times than not they encourage us to keep moving in faith and love.
This is how God wants us to hear his words in Holy Scripture, with holy listening that touches our deepest inner being, the heart. Jesus told Mary and Martha that Mary had chosen the better way because, rather than serving his meal and speaking to him, Mary sat with him and listened with her whole being. We also recall that on the Road to Emmaus the two disciples hearts burned within them while they were listening to Jesus open up the Scripture and reveal himself to them. This is what needs to happen to you and me? We need to experience the Spirit opening our hearts to the Scriptures so that we might see and hear Jesus speaking to our hearts.
When we listen to the word in this way we experience deep feelings of love, joy, freedom and need. We experience hope and confidence, awe and wonder. We may even experience regret about sin or shame. But even this regret, or sorrow, is godly and is clearly meant to lead us into the love of Jesus. Whatever you feel when you properly read/hear the Word of God you know that you are rightly listening to the Word of the Lord. Do not settle for less. Refuse to study the Bible as an academic text or a devotional manual. Open your heart and your soul to God and ask him to speak to you.
Caution: If you read God's word and you have continual feelings of guilt, fear and loathing, or excessive anxiety, then you need some help. Find a spiritual adviser or solid Christian counselor. Speak to a trusted friend. But do not accept constant anxiety as the norm for what happens when you listen to God's Word from the heart!