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Three Keys to Hearing God’s Voice

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Pope Benedict XVI tells us that as much as we may like quick answers, we can gain clarity on the enigmas of life only as we take the time to immerse ourselves in the word of God. So in this article, we want to look at how we can meet Jesus, the living Word of God, in the Bible, which is the written word of God. We want to make three practical recommendations that will help us hear God's own voice and sense his presence as we ponder his word in Scripture.

Read Every Day!
May every day of our lives thus be shaped by a renewed encounter with Christ, the Word of the Father made flesh." (Verbum Domini, 124)

The first step sounds obvious, but it's one that we can often overlook: Set aside time to read the Scriptures every day. Schedule it in your day. Do it first thing in the morning. Become familiar with the story of the Bible so that you can see how God has worked throughout the ages. Discover for yourself how patiently God has worked, teaching us his ways and preparing us for the coming of the Lord. And don't be afraid to use reliable commentaries and Bible studies to help you. The more you know about the background, history, and context of the Bible, the better you can piece together its story. . . .

Become Part of the Scriptures
"The word of God draws each of us into a conversation with the Lord: the God who speaks teaches us how to speak to him." (Verbum Domini, 24)

As you read every day, try to imagine yourself in whatever scene you are reading. When he read the Gospels, St. Ignatius of Loyola would often picture himself as one of Jesus' disciples so that he could observe closely every¬thing that was going on. He would imagine himself as an extra witness at the Last Supper, drinking in every¬thing around him as Jesus offered the first Eucharist. He would look closely at Jesus' face as he forgave the woman caught in adultery or as he challenged the Pharisees and Sadducees. He would join Mary Magdalene and the apostle John at Calvary and observe the sights and sounds of the day when Jesus died for him. . . .

Slow Down and Listen
"Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence." (Verbum Domini, 66)

Placing yourself in the Bible this way may feel like nothing more than playing make-believe at first. How can you tell if the things you are picturing are coming from your own imagination or from God? The key here is through quiet listening. We live in a very noisy, active world, and all that activity can influence our time with the Scriptures. It can be tempting, as you are placing yourself in a scene from the Bible, to lose sight of your goal and let your imagination run away with you. You may end up spending all your time picturing the scene in detail, imagining the people's reactions, and letting the story continue to unfold. But all this imaginative activity has to be balanced with silence and stillness. How else will you be able to hear God's voice? If a particular word or phrase or image catches your attention, stop and dwell on it. Slow down. Take your time. Don't worry about getting to the end of the story or the end of the psalm. Instead, mull over it. Wait for the Lord to speak to you. It could be as simple as Jesus' words "Have faith in God" at the Last Supper (John 14:1), or it could be as involved as Paul's statement that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). Whatever it is, take time to let it unfold. Repeat the word or phrase over and over again, asking the Lord what he wants to say to you. Write down any impressions you may have. Quiet your heart, breathe deeply, and receive whatever God wants to give you.

Selections from "Encountering the God Who Speaks"
the Word Among Us, May 31, 2011 (pp. 11-14)

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