When I first began to truly understand that prayer was a conversation between me and God, it was a pretty exciting thing. However, the whole “listening” to God thing was difficult, and frankly, I didn’t know how.
My grandfather always taught me that God speaks to us in the same voice that we speak to ourselves. This is good advice, but I remember it being difficult to discern my voice from God’s (who am I kidding? Often it still is difficult for me). My grandpa gave me a few guidelines to help in the discernment process:
1. Without fail, the first thing God will say to you is “I love you”.
The true Father that He is, God never begins a conversation with us without making sure we are as aware as we can be that He loves us. Don’t rush over this part of prayer. Let Him shower you with His love for as long as He wishes to.
2. God will never tell you to do anything contrary to His Law and His teachings.
Since a lot of prayers are prayers for direction, this rule is very important.
I recently saw “Eat Pray Love” with Julia Roberts. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie in which Julia Roberts’ character hears God speak to her in the middle of the night. She is on the floor crying and calling out to Him, asking for Him to tell her what to do. She hears Him simply say, “go to bed.” So she does. However, she goes to bed and then proceeds to tell her husband she wants a divorce, assuming that this is what God wanted her to do.
We often confuse our warm and fuzzy feelings during prayer for the will of God, but that’s not always the case. I really do believe that Julia Roberts’ character heard God tell her to go to bed. After that, though, she was likely listening to her feelings. This is why we have the teachings of God and the Law of God–so that our feelings don’t become our guide. Usually, our feelings guide us to do what we want to do, and unless we are perfectly holy, that may not be the same thing as what God knows we should do.
3. God is persistent.
The good news: If you didn’t hear Him, or had your doubts that it was in fact Him, God will keep saying what He is trying to say to you until you hear it.
The bad news: If you didn’t hear Him, or had your doubts that it was in fact Him, God will keep saying what He is trying to say to you until you hear it.
Our own emotions and feelings will eventually pass away. God’s will for our lives never changes.
4. God will never put you down
Read that again. That little voice in your head telling you you’re not worth anything because of x, y, or z— some mistake in your past, your situation in life, etc.— that’s not God. Remember rule #1: God starts with “I love you”. It would be inconsistent for Him to end with, “you’re worthless”.
However, this does not mean that God won’t push us to be the best version of ourselves. If God is not challenging you in your prayer, perhaps you need to take more time to listen. None of us will ever be perfect in this life. We will always have things we can work on. God gives us the grace to conquer one sin in our life and then opens our eyes to see another. This is a good thing! He is perfecting us so that we can experience a deeper level of happiness. The voice you hear that says, “You will never amount to anything because of ____,” is your own. The voice you hear telling you, “I love you so much that I need to tell you that you need to change ____ part of your life,” is the voice of God.