Editor's note:

Found in archives dated in 1979, one year after the publication of Celebration of Discipline, these honest journal entries provide a helpful window into Richard Foster’s daily experiment with listening to God moment by moment.

—Renovaré Team

One great need today is for serious Christians to engage in original research in the life of the Spirit. Like any team of scientists, we would help one another immensely if we would share our findings. To this end I share some brief excerpts from my journal which tell of an experiment in attempting to draw closer to the divine heartbeat.

Monday

Today I want to begin an experiment of listening to God every moment of my day. I desire to know God’s voice in the daily junctions of my life, to learn his vocabulary through ordinary tasks. The promise is for an ever-present Teacher; my problem is the frequency of unexcused absences. I tend to attend “class” only in times of devotion or meditation. The need is to hear God speak through routine activities, to discern the divine word in daily ventures.

Tuesday

I think the Heavenly Voice spoke through my emotions today. Feelings of loneliness and of being shut out by others nettled me. I believe 1 heard two things. First, the feeling of self- pity shows my distance from a walk of faith. Second, Christ pointed to lonely hurting people and invited me to care for them.

Wednesday

A dull day, lightened by some meaningful conversation with H.T. in the evening. Went through the whole day without listening at all. Lord, how is it that I can have such wide fluctuations in my determination to open myself to your voice? 

Friday

Since engaging in this “original research”, I am hearing so many things about myself. The Teacher is faithful. I spoke tonight, and though people seemed encouraged and lifted, I was crushed. As I listened, I found that several things I said were completely unnecessary except for the fact that they placed me in a favorable light. I was angry and disappointed with myself, then realized that this too was the vocabulary of God. I closed the meeting with a prayer of repentance, though I imagine no one understood why. 

Sunday

My mind was engaged in a thousand things today. Listening to God was hard because inwardly I seemed so fragmented. Then suddenly I became aware of the silent creation all around me—trees, grass, sky—and I heard God. The word was “peace”. 

Monday

What a lesson in listening today! I had a meeting in a nearby city at noon, but left at 10 because I had several things to do. The tasks were finished much more quickly than expected and by 11 I was ready for the meeting. At first I was angry at the prospect of one full hour wasted, but then I stopped and tried to listen to the Heavenly Monitor. I felt impressed to go on to the church where the meeting was to be held—to find a vacant room for study, I thought. Instead I found the pastor who was desperately alone and wanting to talk with me. He proceeded to pour out his fears and hurts. It was a wonderful time and well worth the investment of an hour. Would I have missed this precious experience if I had failed to listen?

Tuesday

Is there any connection between attentiveness to the Divine Voice and the flow of creative ideas? All morning there was such a rush of fresh new thoughts that I barely had time to record them all.

Friday

At the beach today with Carolynn for rest and recreation of our marriage. Felt the need to be away from the “experiment” a bit. Wondered if I am straining too hard after God, and in the very act losing what I am seeking. Tried just to enjoy the wind and sun without getting any “message” out of it all. Sensed the divine nod in the decision.

Wednesday

The discipline of listening to God is still outside of me and something I must work at by an act of the will. How strange that it seems like work—shows how far we have fallen from the days of the Garden of Eden! But it is easier than when I began. I look for the day when it is such an ingrained habit pattern that I will find it as “hard” as breathing!

Monday

We all received the news today that C.M. has a terminal illness. Immediately I wondered if I should go to her and pray for her healing. (And One can think of many reasons why it would be right for her to get well.) Though I know it is normally God’s will for people to get well, somehow I felt a check, and so decided that I should take this morning to listen and see if I received any instruction. About 45 minutes later I was reading in The Little Flowers of St. Francis of a dying man who had a wonderful visitation from the Lord, in which God gave him great comfort and enlightenment and then took him home. Felt that to be the Lord’s word for me, i.e., pray that God will give C.M. great comfort and enlightenment and then take her home.

Tuesday

Nathan has been getting us up all hours of the night and then waking up to stay at 5:30 AM. It has been a great frustration to me, and although I have prayed often about it there has been no outward change. Early this morning (much earlier than I would have liked!) I realized that not once all week had I sought to listen to God to see what the problem was. So I went into the living room and sought to center myself into his life and light. And the answer came: “I want to teach you my patience. Too easily you get angry and out of tune with my way. You think you have a reason for your anger and frustration, and so you do. But I want to transform your inward spirit so totally that you will be full of peace and patience even when you have a right to be frustrated and angry. This is what it means for my words to be in you. When you are at peace you are in tune with me and then you will be able to pray for the children with spiritual success.”

After expressing my thanks for this “word” and seeking to bring my life in line with its truth, I prayed for Nathan. Immediately he fell into a deep sleep and did not awaken until 6:45 AM.

As I continued to listen, I received a second message, this time through Carolynn: “I think we should have the children stay up an extra half hour at night.” So simple, yet so wise, and somehow that little word of advice stood out from all the other words as a message from the Lord. It is strange, this sense of one sentence standing out from all the others, as if it were spoken in italics.

Thursday

I am finding that listening works much better when I am engaged in mission. Rather like those missiles whose guidance systems work only after the missile is launched.

Friday

Jesus came and took C. M. home tonight.

Monday

It is wonderful, this listening to God. Received a couple of “hate” letters today and immediately felt the joy of God at being able to receive their anger. Searched my heart and felt clear of all accusations. Sensed an increasing freedom from the need to justify or explain myself—a wonderful liberation. Felt the warmth of divine presence that was beyond the need for words. I am only just beginning to understand what Francis of Assisi meant when he spoke of perfect joy being found in suffering without cause.