The word “listen” can have several meanings. It can mean “pay attention to” or it can mean “remove noise so that you can hear” or it can mean “if you obey me it means you are listening to me”.
Spiritually, listening means all 3 of these. If we want to hear God we must pay attention, quiet ourselves and then obey what we hear.
To pay attention to God means to move our attention away from other things to Him. In the area of prayer our attention is distracted by many thoughts and feelings. The more a person enters into the “prayer closet”, into silence and solitude, the more internal noise will be heard. We learn to overcome distractions using methods such as recollection and detachment, but it all begins by a desire to hear God.
We quiet ourselves as we practice contemplative prayer. This isn’t easy to do, and it requires an attitude of seeking God and of waiting on God. As we develop relative inner silence we begin to hear God speak. Waiting to hear God takes patience and persistence, but if we want to have a personal relationship with Jesus that involves conversation then we must not only talk but we must hear.
Obedience to what we hear is crucial to hearing more. As Jesus said in John 14 “He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he that loves me will be loved by my father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him”. To him who has more will be given. This obedience involves moral purity, purification of relationships and inward purity. Whether the “hearing” is in the silence or prayer, or in hearing the words of the bible, a person must obey what they hear if they want to hear more. Or, in other terms, we must love God and obey Him if we want to deepen our relationship with Him.