Recently I was asked, “How do I listen to God?” which got me thinking about how and when I most clearly hear God. While we have to trust in faith that God wants to, and does, reveal Himself to us; it is not always easy to hear, understand and follow. To begin, make a point of spending time with God in prayer throughout the day. Take time in the morning, at midday, and in the evening to thank Him and to ask how you can know and serve Him better. By opening yourself to a relationship with God you will learn better how to hear His “voice.” In thinking about just the hearing part, I came up with a few ways that God has spoken to me in my life –
The first way I can recall God speaking to me in my life is through desire. At one point in my life, I began to feel that I wasn’t using the talents God gave me as full as I could. Many people call this “laid upon my heart,” but it is a sudden, rather unexpected realization that seems to come from nowhere.
The next way, related way, I’ve “heard” God is through unique ideas that cause me to stretch in a spiritual and worldly way. As a response to my sudden feeling that I wasn’t using my talents as fully as I could, I turned to prayer. I prayed every morning for God to show me some way to better serve Him, and after my prayer time I spent 3 or 4 minutes in silence. I prayed this prayer for weeks, until one morning, when during my prayer, I suddenly had three ideas. Each one would require me to do things that I had never done before in order for them to be successful (one of them was to found this ministry).
The final way that I’ve felt God in my life is through unexpected certainty. When faced with a decision and not knowing which way to go, I have often prayed for guidance (typically after laying down at night). There have not always been clear answers, but on 2 occasions there were. I have awoke in the morning, again after several (many) days of prayer, to just know the right thing to do.
Listening is only the first step, once we think we’ve heard God, there needs to be a process of discernment.
- Is what I think I’ve heard in line with Church teaching? If not, it’s definitely not from God.
- If what you are asked to do cause you distress or agitation it is not from God. God may call you to stretch beyond what you think you can do; it should not cause great anxiety, but rather peace.
- Lastly, God is always calling us to love. If an answer is not loving, than it likely does not come from God.
Then we need to go and do what He has asked. We may be successful, but we not be. Saint Mother Teresa said, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.” Do your best and keep up the prayers.
Another thing to consider is that God gave us our talents and our rightly ordered desires. Following them will also lead towards Him. As a husband and father, God often times speaks to me through my wife and children about love, kindness, and patience. And as a student of historical martial arts (as well as a practitioner and teacher), I find that God occasionally speaks to me during or after a practice session. Place your skills at God’s disposal and listen – you will probably be surprised and delighted by where He leads you!