The Promise is to You

Recognizing the Lord’s Voice

“How can I know what the Lord is saying to me?” It’s a universal question with high stakes. We long to hear the voice of the One who is Love and Truth, and we need to be able to recognize his voice so we can follow him.

It’s astounding to even consider that God who created the universe and keeps it spinning would let us hear his voice. Yet we dare to believe it because he took on human flesh and walked among us. He is our Good Shepherd who said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).

So how do we hear God’s voice?

The primary way God speaks to us is through Sacred Scripture, which is the Word of God. It is God’s revelation of himself to humanity throughout history. “Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and lives among them, so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself” (Dei Verbum, 2).

As we read Scripture, not only do we learn about God, but we hear him speaking to us and we grow in fellowship with him.

Have you ever heard someone say that when they were reading Scripture, it seemed that God was speaking to them directly? Countless people have testified that “the words seemed to come alive.” Indeed, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Our hearts may “burn within us” as the disciples on the road to Emmaus experienced when Jesus opened the Scriptures to them.

By reading Scripture attentively, we can hear what God is saying and thereby learn to recognize his voice. Becoming able to recognize his voice in Scripture enables us to recognize his voice in prayer.

This is not “too good to be true.” Pope Francis recently said, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord wants each of us to personally experience his love and to hear his voice.

When we believe we hear the Lord’s voice in prayer, there are several ways to confirm it. St. Paul wrote, “Test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21).

  1. Is it consistent with Scripture and official Church teaching? God will not contradict himself. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Become familiar with Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church so that you can recognize what is true.
  1. Does it come with a spirit of love? God is love and his words bring life. If the words come with a spirit of fear, guilt, condemnation or anything that is not consistent with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, they are not from God. Deep interior peace is a hallmark of God’s words.
  1. Ask someone with a strong sense of discernment to confirm it. Our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us to discern what the Lord is saying. Seek out a spiritual director or someone else whose gift for accurately hearing the Lord has been confirmed.
  1. Test it and look at the fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Mt 7:18). If it is from the Lord, it will bear good fruit.

Some tips:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to hear his voice. We cannot do it on our own.
  • Make time daily to read Scripture and to listen for the Lord’s voice in prayer. There is no way to know him without spending time with him. The closer our fellowship is with him, the more his powerful love will transform our words and actions, making them even more fruitful.
  • Set an alarm so you’ll know when to end. That way you won’t keep checking the clock and you’ll be able to immerse yourself in prayer. I set an alarm 5 minutes before I want to end my prayer time, and then press the snooze for another 5 minutes so that I can wrap things up without a rush.
  • Start your time of prayer by quieting your mind and heart. It’s hard to hear him through distractions. Consciously put your concerns into his hands. Then you’ll be free to pay attention to him.
  • Focus on God and be alert to anything he says or does, such as giving you a prophetic word or a vision. Often his voice comes through spontaneous thoughts that we know we never could have generated on our own.
  • Write down what you sense the Lord is saying. This is significant. It will help you to focus on his voice. Later you can look back to see what he said to you and if there is anything you wrote that was not of him.
  • Pray for the charismatic gift of discernment. This is a supernatural ability to instantly know whether something is of God or if it is of human, angelic or demonic origin.
  • Persevere in prayer. If you don’t hear his voice, don’t give up. Discouragement is not of God. Stay faithful to reading Scripture and listening for him. He will be faithful too. VermeerChristInTheHouseOfMarthaAndMary

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power” (Eph 1:17-19).

 

By Christy Whiting, director of Upper Room.

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2 Comments

  1. Roger
    Posted June 9, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I’ve recently been reading, and profiting greatly from, /Searching for and Maintaining Peace/, by the wise and Godly Fr. Jacques Philippe. It’s a thin volume, easy to read, and it has a whole section on this very question. He says many of the things listed here, but also addressed the question of the attitude with which to approach discernment, and how to respond when the Lord doesn’t answer. I cannot recommend the book too highly.

    • Elizabeth Chewter
      Posted June 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I would second that, and add that ALL of Fr. Jacques’ books are worth reading for his profound insights, and practical teaching. He has lead two of our women’s retreats at CTK and I was absorbed by all he said, from start to finish.

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