By Fr. Daniel Pinell
God wants to have a relationship with us. What makes the redemption brought to us by Jesus Christ so wonderful is that we have the privilege of calling ourselves sons and daughters of the most high God. The relationship a father has with his children is one of the most intimate we can experience, and I believe this is the relationship God desires to have with us.
But too many of us do not have this relationship with God for many reasons. For some of us, life distracts us with its myriad of callings and enticements and we make no time for God. For other of us, we believe that an intimate relationship with God is only reserved for a few privileged souls who were marked from the beginning, destined to be saints. And so our relationship with God feels dry, superficial, and almost obligatory. We present Him with a list of needs and wants. Petitions abound in our prayers. And our one-way communication with God leaves us wondering, “Is there more to this relationship?”
A key, I believe, to moving forward in intimacy with God is discerning His voice. I believe God wants to speak to us. I believe He wants to communicate with all of His children. He wants to communicate with every one of us not just so He can guide us, as important as that is, but also because two-way communication is essential to intimacy in any relationship, let alone our relationship with God.
But, how do we hear God’s voice? These three simple steps will help you get started.
1. Familiarize yourself with the Word of God. God speaks to us through the Bible. Through our daily reading of the Scriptures, we get to know God’s character. What is He like? What does He desire for us? We must get to know the One we are trying to communicate with and the primary way God shows us His character is through the Word of God. Once we know God as He is revealed in the Scriptures we can recognize His voice when He speaks to us personally. Anything that we hear from prayer must not contradict what God has revealed from the Scriptures. If it does, we can be sure it is not coming from God. But to have the Scriptures as a standard of discernment we must first familiarize ourselves with it.
2. Believe that God desires to speak to you. I would bet money that God is already speaking to you! He does so through the Bible, through others, or sometimes through our intuitions. Make some time in your prayer life to ask God to speak to you, and practice listening prayer in silence. God can then speak to us in many different ways. He does so by impressing some thoughts or images in our minds. He even uses our imaginations! Do not always expect an audible response from God! Though that can happen, it is very rare. Many times His voice is a small whisper, audible only to our souls and minds amid quietness.
3. Let peace guide your discernment. Once you have received something from God, peace is a key ingredient in discernment, that is after running it through the standard of the Word of God. Does the message I’ve just received give me peace? Or do I have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right? Don’t confuse peace with comfort. You will find that God can speak hard truths to our hearts, and this can make us uncomfortable, or even cause us pain. But underneath those feelings of pain and discomfort, there is an overwhelming sense of peace that surrounds His voice. Let peace guide you to His voice!
I believe that if you follow these 3 easy steps, you are on your way to having two-way communication with God! Remember that listening prayer takes practice, and it will not always be easy. But also remember that God desires to speak to you, and grow you in your relationship with Him.