Hearing God

"Anyone committed to the truth hears My voice." —John 18:37

Your oldest son is rebellious and secretive. You're afraid he's ruining his life. What should you do? Ask God.

There's less and less communication in your marriage. Something's got to give. What's the answer? What's God saying?

The doctor discusses the possibility of surgery, but you feel apprehensive. Are you unnecessarily afraid, or is God warning you not to have the operation?

These are just a few examples which show the absolute necessity of hearing God. We either hear God, or our lives are guessing games. If we can't hear the Lord, how can He be Lord of our lives? And if He's not Lord in the practical details of our everyday lives, then our lives are not on the rock foundation of Jesus but on the sinking sands of self (see Mt 7:24-27). We must be able to hear Jesus.


"Some people brought a deaf man to Jesus." —Mark 7:32 (our transl.)

We are born spiritually hard of hearing. This is part of our fallen nature. But after we are reborn in the waters of baptism, we can hear God. "Whoever is of God hears every word God speaks" (Jn 8:47).

However, even the baptized may be temporarily spiritually deaf because of sin. Every time we refuse to listen to God, we suffer a spiritual hearing loss. But if we make an act of faith in the Lord by repenting and asking His forgiveness, our spiritual hearing is restored.


"After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound." —1 Kings 19:12

If we are baptized, believing, and repentant, we can hear (1) God. But we can also hear (2) ourselves, (3) other people, and (4) the devil. These four voices or groups of voices compete for our attention. The situation is complicated because sometimes these voices combine. For example, we ask ourselves the question: "Is that just me or is that God?" It could be both God and ourselves as God speaks through us, or it could be only ourselves ignoring God. We need to be able to pick out God's voice from the other three voices. This comes from being familiar with God.

The sheep do not follow a stranger's voice (Jn 10:5). Hopefully, the voice of the devil has become strange to us, and the Lord's voice more familiar than our own or anyone else's. Just as a baby is born able to hear but only gradually learns to differentiate sounds, so we Christians have been "born again" able to hear the Lord but gradually we learn to pick out His voice. Just as a baby needs no techniques to learn to differentiate sounds, so we need no techniques. Like an infant with a parent, we merely need stimulation, interaction, and experience with God. In other words, we need a living, personal relationship with God. If we can't pick out God's voice, that says something about our relationship with Him.


"In times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, He has spoken to us through His Son." —Hebrews 1:1-2

Even when we have a good personal relationship with the Lord, we will still have some difficulty hearing God's message, because God is so great that He communicates in several ways simultaneously and in ways unimaginable to us. However, if we know the main ways He communicates with human beings, it will help us relate to Him.

The Lord communicates through people, especially through the Church. Each of us is only one part of the body of Christ. We need each other (1 Cor 12:21). We need the Church "the pillar and bulwark of truth" (1 Tm 3:15), and the Magisterium, the official teaching office of the Church. God chooses others to speak to us in His name. He calls brothers and sisters to affirm, confirm, heal, and command us. And when our Christian brothers and sisters pray for us, our hearing quickly improves a hundredfold.

Our Father speaks to us, His children, through His word. The Bible is the objective communication of God. It is our point of reference for distinguishing God's voice expressed in other ways. Knowing the Bible helps us hear God (see Rm 10:17). Thus, as St. Jerome says: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." When we look at the daily eucharistic readings, we often hear a prophetic word that speaks to our daily needs. Also, if we ask the Spirit to remind us of Scriptures that have meant something special to us, we will hear the voice of God. Furthermore, the Lord has probably capsulized our life's mission in one or two verses of the Bible. That mission-statement is God's voice echoing throughout our life.

The Lord communicates through prayer, especially listening prayer. We can learn to distinguish the voice of God by setting aside a daily quiet time when we don't do all the talking but let God talk.

The Lord also speaks to us through the events of our everyday lives. If we are under Jesus' lordship, everything has meaning. Even if we act independently of God, He will take over the situation, if we but repent. If others are acting sinfully, God will still turn it to our good, if we are living under His lordship (Rm 8:28).


1. We hear God when we are committed to Him, His Church, and His word. Jesus said: "Anyone committed to the truth hears My voice" (Jn 18:37).

2. We hear God when we become quiet both outside and inside (Ps 131:2). We live in the noisiest world in history. We must turn down the world's volume and turn off the TV. When we stop for five or ten minutes each day at a set time, we will begin to hear the Lord probably within a week.

3. We hear God when we simplify our lives. Never before have people been able to indulge their carnal desires as much as we do (1 Pt 2:11). Our life-style distracts us from God. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and even prescribed drugs may impede our hearing. When we simplify our lives, we seem to amplify God's voice. Simplify to amplify.


Our Lord is the Super-communicator. Let us sit at His feet and listen to His voice (Lk 10:39-42). It is our joy and privilege to hear His voice (Jn 3:29).


Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward Gratsch, February 24, 1999.
Imprimatur: †
Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, March 1, 1999.