“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.” – Mother Teresa
“The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says ‘Amen’ and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him our ideas.” Frank Laubach
Any real relationship is a two-way street where both people speak and listen to each other. Listening honors the person that is speaking. Listening means that you care and want to know and understand what is being said.
The same is true for our relationship with God. Just as we bring our prayers and petitions to God, He speaks to us. By listening to God we honor Him, love Him and seek to know Him better.
Listening to God allows us to discern and know what his will is for our lives (Romans 12:2 Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.)
Listening to God helps us to know His voice so that when he calls us to do something or say something as we are going about our daily lives we can respond to that prompting of the Holy Spirit and do whatever it is that He wants us to do.
As you make prayer and listening to God’s voice part of who you are you will discover that you can live your life in constant communication with God (Our Father) who promises to never leave us or forsake us.
How does God speak?
Still small voice: God speaks to us in many different ways. The main way that He speaks to us is through his ‘still small voice’. That phrase comes from and experience that Elijah had on Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-13). God appears many times throughout the Old Testament in fire or clouds. The earth quakes in his presence. But God does not need demonstration of power and might to speak and his words are just as powerful spoken in a still small voice. This is the voice of God that you will hear (as you get to know it) throughout your day and in every part of your life. In John 10:14 & 27 Jesus says, “I am the good Sheppard, and I now mine and mine know me … My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Sacraments: God speaks through the Sacraments. During Mass there are many opportunities to hear God speaking to you and to get to know his voice.
During the readings: the scriptures are quite literally the Word(s) of God. That is God speaking directly to you.
During the various prayers: God may speak to you with a phrase or prayer in a way that is new, even though you have heard it many times before.
During the Eucharist: God is constantly speaking – His love in the sacrifice of the Mass (Christ Crucified), his mercy and grace in allowing us to take part, his salvation.
During the Homily: God may be trying to communicate with you through the priest’s words. He is God’s anointed one and is filled with the Holy Spirit to speak God’s words to us.
By paying attention to the pieces of the mass we can be aware of what God is trying to say to us and we can learn to recognize his voice.
So, during Mass, listen for things that stand out. It could be a word, a phrase, a verse, a prayer, a point from Father’s homily or God could speak in that still small voice as you participate in the Eucharist, as you literally consume Christ.
Scripture: God speaks through Scripture. Beyond the sacraments you can learn to recognize God’s voice through your own personal study. Read the Bible, read it prayerfully (We’ll discuss this more in the section on Lectio Divina – week 7).
When you’re reading the Bible, ask God to reveal himself to you. Pay attention again to phrases or verses that stand out. Write those things down, think about them during your day, ask God how to apply that phrase or verse to your life and then listen for His answer. Then talk about it with a trusted Christian friend or your priest.
Prayer and Listening: God speaks through our personal times of Prayer and Listening. Practice makes perfect as the phrase goes. With learning to hear God’s voice you have to take the time to sit quietly and pray and try to listen for his voice.
The more you take the time to do that, the more you will be able to recognize His voice. The better you are able to recognize His voice than the more you’ll hear Him when He speaks to you – even if you weren’t trying to.
How can we begin to listen?
The theme that runs through all of these ways to know God’s voice is that they all require action on your part. You can’t just ‘be’ a Christian – Christian life requires doing. Doing means actually praying, by yourself, just you and God. Doing means actually reading the Bible, just you and God. Doing means not being dependent on another person for your knowledge and understanding of God but actually entering into relationship with Him (seems to be a recurring theme hmmm?)
Doing means not just going through the motions at Mass but engaging your mind, heart and strength in your devotion. (Deut. 6:4-5 – Shema Yisrael : Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One, You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength). Doing means being serious about being Catholic and not just participating because this is your culture or your parents beliefs.
The reason you have to set aside time for the Sacraments, for studying the Bible and for prayer is because often God’s voice, his still small voice, can be drowned out by the noise in our lives. Our friends, activities (softball, horses, theater, etc.), family, cell phone, Facebook, school, etc. – all of these demand our time and attention and unless we deliberately shut out/shut off those things and focus on God, we can’t hear his voice. Learning to hear and know God’s voice is a lifetime commitment and it becomes easier and easier the more you do it.
A concrete way you can start doing this is to read some Scripture every day, pray about it and try to listen to what God is trying to teach you. Here is a week’s worth of readings to get you started:
Day 1: John 6
Day 2: John 10
Day 3: John 14
Day 4: John 15
Day 5: John 16
Day 6: John 21
Day 7: 1 John (the whole book)