Listening Prayer



On a visit to South Africa, Bishop Graham Cray, the Missioner to the UK’s Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York, issued the following ‘health warning’ to the church, which we have paraphrased as:

We must be careful not think we can simply take models of church and mission off the shelf. Rather than cloning, we ought to be listening to, and following, the Holy Spirit.

He added, that this “Invitation To Improvise!” is on offer to the church, community and / or network. Bishop John V. Taylor says we must:

“Relinquish missionary presuppositions and begin in the beginning with the Holy Spirit.  This means humbly watching in any situation in which we find ourselves in order to learn what God is trying to do there, and then doing it with him.”



In an attempt to get in touch with, and deliberately reflect upon, the revelation of God, Integral Mission South Africa has been learning to listen alone and with others.  Although one’s ultimate aim ought to be to hear God in the every-day-ness of life, the following meditation may help to practice His presence in stillness and space.

John Main, Benedictine Priory of Montreal founder said:

“The all-important aim…is to allow God’s mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do, to everything we are.”

Try to being silent (alone or with others) for five minutes:

  • Sit down
  • Sit still and upright, comfortable and alert, with their backs straight
  • Close their eyes lightly
  • Breathe calmly and regularly
  • Silently, interiorly, say a single word, e .g. sha-lom, reciting it as two syllables of equal length as they breathe in-and-out
  • Listen to the word as they say it, gently and continuously, but not to think or imagine anything – spiritual or otherwise
  • If thoughts or images come, they are to be regarded as distractions; if significant they will most probably come back in the second half of the prayer. Instead people are to let them float away, and – for now – return to simply saying the word sha-lom

After 5 minutes of silence invite the Holy Spirit to speak to your imagination through words, scripture, song, poetry and pictures, etc.

If you think it might help, feel free to download our ‘Christian Chime’ which features 5 minutes of silence in which to rest and five minutes of silence in which to hear God - 5 silent 5 prayer

About admin

Phil Bowyer is one of the founders of Integral Mission and Soul Action South Africa. He creates space for people who are exploring how to respond to various forms of poverty to connect with one another and God's mission. He is the author of several books on Integral Mission, incl. A Different World, Express Community and The Whole Wide World.