Listening to the Holy Spirit: Finding Your Faith’s Ear

Seven ways to start or re-start your discernment skills. God speaks. How will we learn to listen?

Your equipping skill: Listening Prayers of the heart and growing in discernment

Listening to the Holy Spirit is Central to a living Faith.

What “listening to the Holy Spirit” means

  • The Holy spirit testifies to Christ, guides, inspires and motivates us.  Listening to the Holy Spirit means prioritizing God’s word above other sources.
  • Too often we worship our preferences.  This leads us to blind and deaf spots where we cannot hear what God has to say. 

What this does NOT mean

  • This is not divining the future
  • This is not “Fire Insurance”, insuring a financial or other success.
  • This does not put you or I in charge. Servant Leaders are First Followers
  • This is not manipulating God to do our will.
  • This is not prayer per se, but prayer is the vehicle by which we listen. It is God doing all of the work while we work at listening.

Equipping with Authority

  • This article is focused on the Concrete more than the theorhetical. God is the speaker and will use your preferences to find your listening ear.
  • Central to listening for God is Having an intentional plan. This post should not imply that teaching a mechanical skill-is all that it takes. These 7 actions are ways to intentionally equip yourself to listen
  • Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience are all tests for The Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture, tradition changes to meet the day but gives us context and community, truth makes sense by faith-Fod gave us a mind to use. Finally, all experiences teach something. Pay attention and listen carefully to all four of these as you do these activities. Keep it simple-listen.

1. Disciplined Time with God through Bible study and prayer.

  • God has already spoken through His Word. The more time you spend with God through reading His Word and through prayer, the more familiar you’ll become with His voice.
  • This is important because God will never tell you to do anything that contradicts His written Word. The more time you spend time with God, the more familiar you will become with His voice.

2. Memorize Scripture in context

  • The Bible is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It will change you, transform you, make you more receptive to hear God’s voice.
  • It’s not enough to simply read the Word. Search the Scripture and “Hide it in your Heart”. (Psalm 119:11)
  • Many times the Holy Spirit will use the Word to guide you. This becomes so much easier if you actually have the Word in your heart.

3. Create a balanced life of prayer: ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (Requests).

  • No one like to be around someone who does all of the talking.
  • Don’t just run into prayer with your checklist in hand and pray, “Dear God, please help me here, bless this, bless that, protect them, help me have a good day. Amen.” Spend time listening.
  • You may not hear anything, but it’s important to remember that prayer is a conversation with God, not a list of needs and desires. .

4. Seek Silence Every Day

  • Look at the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and you’ll see that God chose to speak to Elijah through a gentle whisper. God often chooses to speak through a still, small voice, and not a shout! Faith beckons us to listen in order to hear.
  • God wants us to remove all the distractions from our lives and focus on Him. Find a consistent time and a dedicated place to be silent before God everyday and hear God’s gentle whisper.

5. Have a Spiritual Director and wise counselors

  • God doesn’t speak exclusively to you. He also speaks to those around you. The book of Proverbs talks a lot about the necessity of seeking wise counsel.
  • When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, seek someone wise to be your prayer partner. Carefully and prayerfully seek the wise counsel of those around you. Pray for God to bring these human resources.

6. Intentionally Listen for God in Daily Decisions

  • Don’t just do something, Sit there
  • Practice makes perfect. We have been given a spirit of discernment by our Father. The Holy Spirit is God. God wants us to know the difference between God’s voice and the many enemies competing for our own thoughts.
  • It takes discernment, and the only way to figure it out is to start practicing. This does NOT legitimize procrastination.

7. Be obedient

  • Don’t just sit there, Do something. 
  • Listening to the Holy Spirit requires obedience. Search through the book of Acts. It is a diary of the Holy Spirit speaking to the early church. The “Spirit” is used in Acts 67 different times. The reason the Spirit is still leading and motivating the church today is because the church obeyed the Spirit when Jesus’ Church heard His voice.
  • Do the last thing God told you to do.  If God hasn’t spoken to you, perhaps it’s because you didn’t obey the last thing God told you to do. God may be silent until you finish what He started. When the Spirit speaks, it’s not meant as a suggestion. If you want the Holy Spirit to continue to speak to you, obey God when God speaks

NOW WHAT?  What transforming change will you make today? These “Doing” activities can and will point you to “Being” in Christ. The point of this excercise is to strengthen faith and create a more intimate relationship with God. Listen well and hear God’s loving and still small voice.

Some resources for further study:

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

Anatomy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer (Praying together)

When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor ( The Section on Silence)

The Once and Future Wesleyan Movement by Scott J. Jones ( The Holy Spirit p. 57)

(c) Alan Van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”, 2022 all rights reserved.

Honest Joe! August 2017 Worship together!

honest joe source slide in jpgThis month’s series looks at the life of faith through the lens of Joseph, son of Israel/Jacob. He was the pampered youngest son of a family that put the fun in dis-functional. We will explore four answers to the questions we have about faith in real life and in real time. Joseph’s story is an important cross road in both Jewish and Christian history. Join me in studying through his story! Joseph is more than a colorful coat!

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Monday School: Our Theological Underwear as United Methodist; First of Two Weeks

Underwear is the foundation of our clothing.  It is usually unseen, intimate, different preferences on different people and keeps the rest of our ensemble together.  Our theological doctrines do the same thing.  They hold us together and serve as  the foundation of the ways that we speak of God.  They are usually unseen, intimate and  more assumed than taught.  Now and then a disciple needs to get down to the basics.  This week our group will put our core teachings right out in the open and studied them together.  In our United Methodist context, these are found in the General Rules and the Articles of Religion.   The goal is two-fold:  first to understand more of our BASIC Methodist beliefs, and second, how to better express our beliefs to others

You can read the one-page General Rules with us by clicking here.

You can read the 2- pages of the Articles of Religion with us by clicking here.

Our small group meets for 90 minutes each Monday at 6:00 we began by discussing how we “do” theology.  Methodists teach that there is a process to growing into our theological understanding.  we start with Scripture, use our God given brains to reason, reflect that with our Christian tradition and then translate into our living experience.

We discussed at length the three General Rules to Do no harm, do good and attend to the spiritual practices that lead us to God.  Many stories of how God had gotten our attention were shared from our diverse group.  We discovered that while these rules are Methodist and Wesleyan they are basic to any Christian of any background because they come directly from the Gospel .  Everything starts with grace.

I shared two things that boil my blood when people feel obligated to tell me what a Methodist is.  The first is when they tell me that we don’t believe in the Bible and don’t actually have any doctrine.  Second that we are about salvation by good works.  Teaching, learning and witnessing to our theological heritage is the antidote to this whenever, “Two or more are gathered.”

The question was asked if these two statements were meant to replace Bible study.  A great question but our answer was a definite NO!  The doctrinal statements flow from scripture but cannot replace scriptures role in the life of piety.  Searching the Scripture is central to the method of Methodism.  We are seeking God’s perspective.  One of our number shared that it was through prayer and Bible study that they were able to give a difficult thing up to God.  This led to the discover that “God, turns out, could do much better with things than I could anyway.”

We read through the first 5 of the Articles and will probably finish next week.  They are precisely written and intentionally placed in an order of importance.  Everything flows from God, trinitarian in our understanding, but ONE GOD.  Before we could subdivide the doctrines we must be in complete agreement of one God who is the source of forgiveness and gives us the living resurrection in Jesus Christ.  We also discussed the sufficiency of Scripture and what that means to our salvation.  While scripture does not directly speak to every single thing, it contains our sufficient road map to being and living as saved Christian disciples.

Wonderful things happen when we study our own doctrine and discover a solid place to find ourselves in Christ.  Our discussion was definitely Weslayan and United Methodist in scope, however, these things are so basic and scripturally driven that they can be applied to most any thoughtful Christian.

Next week we continue with the articles of religion.  You are welcome to join in or read along from where you are.  We will read them one at a time and find the thread of Jesus’ grace and the Holy Spirit that ties them all together.    All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00.   Everyone is welcome to add with a comment on the doctrinal statements below.

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Thank you Captain Underpants for adding a little humor to a serious subject.