My wife and I have an adult daughter who is moderately hearing impaired. We first noticed her condition when she was about 18 months old. After extensive testing we arrived at a treatment regimen that helped her to grow into adulthood confidently. Fortunately we had a very good hearing assistance program in Vanderhoof at the time. Our daughter however greatly assisted her own development as she learned to “listen”. She was certainly not “listening impaired”. In fact, it was her need to enhance her communication skills by looking at aids to hearing that facilitated her development. She went on to graduate with honors from High School and from the University of Saskatchewan with Majors in English and Religious Studies. I also know that her success in learning to listen has greatly assisted her spiritual life and her relationships with people generally.
Good communication requires good listening skills and every good relationship requires good communication. We shouldn’t suppose that it would be any different in our relationship with God.
So how does God speak to us and how do we detect His voice? There is little doubt that God does speak audibly at times to some. One need only look at scripture. St Paul’s journey on the road to Damascus is a good example of that [Acts 9: 1-19]. For most of us however, God will use a myriad of ways to speak to us. The key here is learning to listen.
Prayer puts us in the presence of God. God most often speaks to us in the silence of our hearts and our minds. We need to bear in mind however that we do not pray very well when we recite canned formulas of prayer quickly and with distraction. Effective prayer might be liturgical prayer such as the Mass or devotional prayer of any kind including praying the scriptures. I remember God clearly speaking to me in a small group gathered to study the process of “Lectio Divina” as a method of encountering scripture. We were reading a portion of John’s gospel concerned with the discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum [John 6: 22-27]. The words that jumped off the page at me were “Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten; When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus”. It was clearly revealed to me that Jesus wanted me to be a “boat”, in other words a means by which other people could be introduced to the person of Jesus.
God indeed does speak to us if we are listening by entering directly into our thoughts and desires and he does this for everyone without exception. We need to practice good communication however if we want to mine our loving relationship with our Creator. Don’t expect God to speak to you in a thunderous voice but rather quietly and gently in the recesses of your heart and mind as God attempts to assure you over and over that you are His beloved creation and the apple of His eye. God will direct you and help to move your relationship with Him along so that it becomes ever more life giving and more important to your daily sustenance then the physical food you consume. Once you have experienced this presence of God, prayer for you will become a great joy and a staple of daily living.