Hearing God – Reflection for 8 Mar 2020
“Now the LORD said to Abram…” While I marvel at the faith of Abram at picking up and moving according to the call of God, I am even more impressed by the clarity with which Abram hears God. I would like to think that if I really knew what God was saying, following Him would be much easier. Indeed, I have great faith in God, I just doubt that I hear Him well. How do we hear God and know that what we are hearing is God?
This is the practice of discernment, discerning the voice of God from the myriad voices that bombard us, distract us, and tempt us. Discernment begins with knowing the character of God through the Word of God. God has chosen to reveal Himself in the Scriptures and in the person of Jesus. Many of us have allowed our primary understanding of Scripture to come second hand from teachers, preachers, authors, or even Google. All of these can be good or useful, but they are not a substitute for reading the entirety of the Bible. Within the Biblical narrative, we are challenged to know and explore the full personality of the Living God instead of the thin caricature that we often settle for in an attempt to simplify and control God. There are a number of reading plans that take us through the full Bible, and the Daily Office lectionary will take us through the majority of the Bible in a year. The first step in learning to discern the voice of God in our own lives is to know the Word of God that is given to us.
A next step in hearing the voice of God is the practice of listening for the voice of God in prayer. Too often, our prayer life can turn into a one sided conversation in which we speak to God and never take the time to listen.
Another step in discerning the voice of God is learning how God has spoken to people in the times since the Bible was given to us. This is where the traditions and practices of the Church can guide us. We can also see in the Church the way that those before us have misheard, misunderstood, or ignored the voice of God in their time. Just as we listen to the voices and experiences of the past, we should also listen to the voices of our community. We are bound together as the Body of Christ, and in most cases, we should discern no longer as individuals but as a community.
Once we have listened for God in Scripture, in prayer, in the community of the Church, we can pass what we think we are hearing through a final lens. What is the end? Will what I think God is calling me to do glorify God? Will it bear the fruits of the Spirit or reflect the works of the flesh? Will I measure success according to the Kingdom of Heaven or the ways of man?