Part of my therapeutic approach with my patients is healing the whole person; this means body, mind, and soul. We are more than just our minds, although we experience mental hardships connected to our brains. We are more than just our body, where we feel somatic reactions to adverse life experiences, and we are more than a soul, where we find communion and connection with God. I have found that some clinicians focus on the mind-body connection, which is essential in its own right; however, they unknowingly neglect the soul, a vital part of our healing recovery in counseling.
An avenue through which our soul is healed is through prayer. Many patients of mine express their desire for a prayer-filled life but often find themselves disconnected from the reality they experience within prayer. Many seem to have lost heart over prayer. I completely understand; I have my own mixed story and emotions when it comes to prayer. For what we long for is the development of conversational intimacy with God…
Like anything you enjoy doing, I'll bet it had to be learned, so it is with prayer. Hearing God's voice is something we practice and learn over time, like driving a car, playing a musical instrument, or shooting a compound bow. Let me offer you a few helpful tips to clear the foggy air that can sometimes complicate and overshadow prayer, making prayer feel intimidating.
Start by asking simple questions. You don't learn to ski on double black diamonds, and you certainly don't start learning to play the piano by learning Mozart's Symphony No. 40, and you don't learn to hear God speak to you by starting with significant life issues, like, "Should I quit my job?" "Should I ask Sandy to marry me tonight?." Does God speak on those issues? Absolutely, but you've got to start with simpler stuff. "Do you want us to go to the lake this weekend?" "Should I talk to my friend about what has been bothering me?" Often, I'll start with a simple question, "God, do you love me?" because I know the answer is, "Yes," if I hear anything but; I know I am not yet settled down and attuned.
Don't fill in the blanks. This means if I'm asking God, "Can I buy that Traeger grill?" I've got to be honest enough not to "fill in the blanks" and speak for God. I've got to be willing to hear either yes or no, or I'm not really asking, am I? It is important to note that surrender is a HUGE piece here regarding hearing God's voice. If I'm not open to hearing "no," honestly, I'm not open to hearing God's voice.
Give it time. Especially when it comes to more significant life questions such as relationships, job offerings, and vacations we want to take. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us ask God and wait 15-20 seconds. We interpret that God isn't going to answer or He has abandoned us altogether, and we go with what we "feel" inside. Ask God your questions; if you don't hear anything, give it a few days or a week. Trust me, He will speak.
Allow for creativity. God speaks in all sorts of ways. Certainly through scripture, yes; also through good counsel. God is so creative, and He loves to be playful with us. There are countless times I've read a specific excerpt from a book I was reading, and the deep questions I've been pondering are seemingly, in part, answered. Listen to God's voice within you (He lives in you, remember), but allow for the creativity of God to shine through. Moves. Books. Songs on the radio. Nature. Art. Something a friend casually says to you. Billboards and Signs.
Lastly, Get confirmation. Especially on the big questions you are seeking answers to. Do not base life-altering decisions (career change or marital relationship) on a one-time listening prayer experience. Ask God to confirm what you heard Him say. Before taking the leap, get some backup from trusted mentors, friends, or a spiritual director.
In my short walk with God, I have stories to share of great rescue, joy, sorrow, and unexpected gifts that have sprouted from practicing the art of conversational intimacy with God. He speaks to us, friends, and it's His mission not simply to know of Him but to know Him deeply. As it is our right as His sons and daughters to hear the shepherd's voice.
*For further resources on hearing the voice of God, I would highly recommend Walking with God by John Eldredge.*
Grace and Peace,
Andrew M. Forbeck MA, PLPC, SATP