The goal of Christian living is not simply to maximize pious and righteous activity, as if we are judged by the quantity of our good works. Although we are certainly judged according to how we live out our faith, the reality is that our actions must flow from our intimacy with Jesus Christ. In this way, we are called not just to do good works, but rather to do those good works to which we are called. Thus, Christian living is about discovering God’s will, and it is that discovery which forms the nucleus of our decision-making.
Mortal sin and our attachments to sin keep us from discovering the Father’s voice. The disorders and confusion that accompany our fallen nature cloud our ability to enter into relationship with God. We must be set free from our enslavement to sin and raised to a whole new height through the faith offered in the sacraments.
Along these lines, we must keep in mind the following when seeking to discover the Father’s voice:
1) We must cultivate stillness through constant vigilance and asceticism.
This does not mean that we need to constantly be fasting or praying formal prayers. Rather the idea is that we must cultivate the freedom necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to work. In the past, I have discussed four aspects of cultivating stillness: physical, psychological, moral, and spiritual (see www.contemplatio.us/cultivating-stillness/). The idea was that the totality of our human existence must be brought under the gentle rule of reason.
In addition, we must seek to preserve our sanctity so as to remain in a state of grace. Such vigilance is not the isolated activity of a strong will, but is the fruit of a heart that constantly turns to the Lord and seeks his assistance.
2) We must listen regularly to Sacred Scripture and allow it to inspire us.
Pretty self explanatory. In the Sacred Scripture, we discover God’s word and his definitive self-communication. All our inspirations and intuitions must conform to this norm.
3) We must relate to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a personal and intimate way.
Through sacred art and the use of our imaginations, we can connect with God and reflect on who he is in our life. In particular, we should use our imagination to connect us with the person of Jesus Christ.
4) We must listen to our intuition and allow our associations to open us to the work of Holy Spirit.
Most methods of prayer, such as Benedictine lectio divina, Ignatian imaginative prayer, centering prayer, or the Jesus prayer, are designed to help move believers from the head to the heart. In this way, we learn to move beyond our analytical thinking and be more in touch with our sense of intuition. Thus, inspirations will bubble to the surface, and it is precisely such thoughts, feelings, and desires which connect us with the Father’s voice.
5) We must practice discernment.
Not every intuition and inspiration that surfaces is going to be the work of the Holy Spirit. In time, we learn to discover the still, peaceful voice of God by learning to reject the lies and disorders of the devil. Proper discernment requires communion with the Church and the support of spiritual friends and family. In this way, our discernment is not an isolated activity that believers do by separating themselves from the Christian community. Authentic discernment is always other-centered and takes place within the context of wholesome relationships.
These five keys are a bit of a trial run on helping people to discover God’s will. If you think anything should be added or if it raises any questions, please leave a comment and I will be happy to respond.
I should also mention that this article is in part inspired by the work of Dr. Mark Virkler (http://www.cwgministries.org/Four-Keys-to-Hearing-Gods-Voice). Having been introduced to his work through a Facebook group, I decided to write this article as a response to ideas he presented.