Hearing God’s Voice

If God speaks, why don’t I hear anything?

In the Bible we read that God spoke to people like Abraham, Noah, Moses and the prophets. Sometimes they even carried on conversations with God, conversations we can read in the Bible. God also spoke directly to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Paul. Reading these conversations, have you ever wondered: Why doesn’t God speak to us today as clearly as God spoke to people in biblical times?

There are times when God speaks to an individual in a dramatic or unusual way. But most of the time, we receive God’s guidance in the deep places of our hearts rather than through a voice that audibly speaks to us. In fact, I suspect that much of the time this is what was happening with the people in the Bible as well. I suspect that Noah and Moses and Mary were no different than we are, even if they seem in the scriptures to have heard God’s voice more directly or clearly than we do. I suspect that they heard God much as we hear God, in the quiet movements of their hearts. The scriptures make explicit and dramatic in these stories the way that, most of the time, the quiet voice of God speaks within us.

It takes time and practice to learn to recognize the voice of God guiding us, challenging us, encouraging us, and loving us. Hearing the voice of God is like knowing a person really well, so that you can anticipate what he is thinking or how she is likely to respond. As we come to know God intimately, we will also come to recognize and respond to God’s voice.

The greatest problem we face in hearing God’s voice is taking the time to listen carefully for it. When we are constantly running about and filling our days with busyness, we are less likely to perceive the voice of God. This is why silence and solitude are important spiritual practices. They create the space in which we can ‘tune in’ to that voice. God’s voice is best heard in silence. Why not take some time to listen for it today?

If you’d like to learn more about discernment, vocation, and listening for the voice of God, register for the Saturday workshop at the Monastery . . . .

Workshop: Saturday, November 13, 2010

Join Br. David, for a day long workshop on Discernment in Prayer. The purpose of workshop is to explore the role of prayer in making life choices, great and small, and these choices make up the pattern of our lives.

The workshop will include teaching and group discussion, as well as some time for individual reflection.

Click here to register


  1. Jonathan on October 14, 2012 at 02:48

    I recently saw a link to this series of posts on Twitter, I think it was because this workshop was repeated this past Saturday, and I was struck by the juxtaposition of this series with another article I stumbled across recently about how “Follow your passion” is really horrible advice. You can see one version of that article at http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/29/opinion/passion-career-cal-newport/index.html. On the one hand, that author’s advice (develop a valuable skill and use that to live the way you want to live) is very consistent with what I’m seeing in the job market at the moment. On the other hand, it seems inconsistent with a lot of what I’ve heard and read about discernment, and deeply inconsistent with how formal discernment seems to work in the church.

    Have I missed some crucial piece that would help all this fit together? How might his observations fit with vocation and discernment in the church?

  2. elizabeth wright on November 11, 2010 at 14:08

    yes – I agree. there’s no doubt that taking the time to listen does seem to be the greatest problem with our hearing of God’s voice. I always remember reading in one of Simone Weil’s essays, that for this divine communication, “there should be enough room, enough freedom to plan the use of one’s time, the opportunity to reach ever higher levels of attention, some solitude, some silence.” It sounds easy until you try it. I’ve spent years struggling to make this space in my life in many different circumstances. In practical terms, I think sometimes it just comes down to getting up (a lot) earlier or staying up late to sit alone and listen, regularly. Then, sooner or later, things get interesting. I regret not being able to go to this workshop as I will be on retreat – but I keep coming back to these notes and it’s been helping me get to the right questions for my own vocational discernment.

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