When I was in my early twenties, my girlfriend broke up with me. I was devastated as I was head over heals for her. Honestly, I thought she was the one. I was so sure, in fact, that I went to God with a prayer in order to seek His guidance on whether I should wait for this woman to return to me or move on.
In order to seek this out, I prayed a 9 day prayer, called a novena, to one of the Catholic Church’s most celebrated saints, St. Therese of Lisieux. I asked for her help to lead me to do what God wanted by asking her to send me a rose on the ninth day if I was supposed to wait. Even though in was in the bleak mid-winter, I saw a rose on everyday of this novena, including the ninth day. I would also discover later that the final day of my novena was in fact the birthday of St. Therese, January 2.
Truly an amazing display of God’s goodness. I proceeded to wait a whole year for this girl and it often seemed like she was never coming back. But I learned to trust in the Lord and truly witnessed His faithfulness when she started making a move on me.
We talked at length every day for a month before we started going out again. She even shared how she also prayed a novena about me to St. Therese and that God answered her prayer with a sign as well. We dated a year, I proposed, and now we have been married for ten years and have four amazing kids.
A beautiful story of how God can interact with us and lead us to good things. (I share it in more detail on our podcast, which you can find here) I have heard many others share stories of similar ways that God has answered novenas and how the saints in heaven have participated in this as well.
What is amazing is that I am hearing about how this is not the only way people are hearing from God. In modern times, many are being guided by God in the depths of their hearts and minds to discover more about themselves, their lives, and the richness of walking through life with the Lord. Honestly though, this has been true throughout history.
Not only does every book of the Bible contain stories of God interacting with humanity, but we have numerous records of similar accounts throughout history. We can trust, therefore, that God has not ceased speaking to humanity today, but has continued to lead us just as He has notable figures like Gideon in Judges 6, David in 2 Samuel 7, Peter in Acts 10, Paul in Acts 16, and many more.
In the late 1800’s, the aforementioned Therese of Lisieux, wrote, “I know and have experienced that ‘the Kingdom of God is within us,’ that our Master has no need of books or teacher to instruct a soul. The Teacher of teachers instructs without sound of words, and though I have never heard Him speak, yet I know He is within me, always guiding and inspiring me; and just when I need them, lights, hitherto unseen, break in upon me. As a rule, it is not during prayer that this happens, but in the midst of my daily duties.”
The tremendous holy woman is basically telling us that God moves within her, which is true for all who are baptized and living in the state of grace, and gives her “lights” which communicate to her understandings or teachings. She shares that God guides and inspires her beyond her time of prayer to help her grow as a person and to grow closer to Him.
Some may read this and think that it means that hearing from God in this way is only meant for a special few. However, if this were the case then it would not make sense for St. Paul to highlight the need for everyone to seek to hear from God, which is also referred to Biblically as prophesy.
In fact just after giving his famous instruction on love in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul instructs us, “Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1) What this means is that Paul is telling us to seek to hear from God. In fact, it is right up there with our mission to love.
In order to follow this teaching, we must be ready to listen to God. The following steps are how we can prepare ourselves for exactly that. By following these steps, we can ensure that we will one day be able to say with St. Therese, “I know He is within me, always guiding and inspiring me”.
- Desire it – God usually does not force Himself upon those who do not truly want Him. Desiring to hear from God is a beautiful way to open the door to Him and give the Lord permission to act in your life. Therefore, the best way to start hearing from God is to ask Him for this gift.
- Wait in the silence – This means that we need some time to think, reflect, and pray without distraction. There is time for work, friends, watching movies, music, and fun, but give some time to quiet too. St. Therese did mention that God most often spoke to her during the activities of her daily life, but she still maintained and interior disposition of silence. She kept herself free from distraction and noise in order that she could be sensitive to the callings of the Lord. We can do this throughout our day as well by recalling that we are in God’s presence at all times.
- Let His Scriptures Shape you – The Truth is that God has spoken a lot and we find what He has said in the Bible. It is a beautiful love letter to humanity where He tells us who we are, where we have come from, and what we are meant for. Digesting the words of Scripture will fill us up with the truth about reality and familiarize ourselves with God’s voice. This will allow us to better test what we receive when we believe God that God is speaking to us.
- Patience and Perseverance – We are so used to everything coming to us immediately that waiting on God can be hard. However, we need to wait with patience and perseverance trusting that God is working even if we don’t realize it. It’s important to not fall to the temptation of unbelief because God takes longer than we would like. He usually stretches us for our good, so that we remember that He is God and we are not. For if we get that understanding confused even worse things can happen.
- Know how God speaks – God does not always speak in plain clear English or even in words, so we want to be open to how He speaks. He also speaks to us in parables that require time to unpack the full meaning. This is another reason why reading the Bible can help us hear God better because we learn that God will speak with words, visions, dreams, moments of understanding, through the Scriptures, and through other people. By knowing that God speaks through these modes, we will better receive His message.
- Test everything – This last step is for when we believe that we have heard from God, but still good to keep in mind as we prepare ourselves to listen to Him. Things can get confusing, so we want to be sure that we are authentically hearing from God. This means that we should follow St. Paul’s advice when we believe that we are hearing from God. In 1 Corinthians 5:21, after telling us to not despise hearing from God in prophecy, Paul says for us to “test everything”. We can do this by: Always asking God if it is truly Him speaking. Ensuring that the message being shared with us agrees with the Church and Scripture. Judging what is being said by the fruits it bears.
Another temptation with this is to look at those who have failed in this last step and done or said things that have not come from God and then say that hearing from God does not really happen. This would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater and miss out on a true treasure of our faith. It is a treasure that is meant to be enjoyed by everyone and not just a select few.