How Do I Hear God?
by Damien Ooi
As a Catholic, the greatest mystery for each of us is this – What is God’s will for me, personally?
I was baptized 11 years ago and as a “new born” with adult intellect, that question was top of my mind. I had squandered a big chunk of my life living in sin and offending him. Now, like the prodigal son, how do I make amends? I needed to find out quickly from God.
He obviously heard me and I was introduced to the Week of Guided Prayer offered by the Sojourners’ Companions where “pilgrims” like myself were guided on how to learn to hear God, not with our ears but with our hearts.
Every day we worry about many things and we have many decisions to make. How do we know which decisions are helping us do God’s will and which are doing the opposite?
Well, we know that God lives in us and the Holy Spirit guides us through our feelings, our inner being. St Ignatius of Loyola, who developed the Spiritual Exercises which use the Ignatian Contemplation method, learned that we need to discern the choices before us by praying to God about them and letting Him guide us through our thought and emotions.
We will of course need to first inculcate new virtuous habits such as setting aside time to build or deepen our relationship with God, learning 2-way communication, building trust and so on. Make no mistake, the ability to discern more accurately takes time and practice and it is not something we can will ourselves to do. However, it is attainable gradually through the grace of God in response to our level of desire.
The Week of Guided Prayer is a good way to get started on learning to discern our personal mission from God. A pilgrim will be guided on contemplating using Ignatian Contemplation and Lectio Divina, learn how God speaks to us through our thoughts and feelings and how to draw closer and closer to Him, with the help of a personal guide (a companion) within one short week.
Without doubt, our fidelity in reaching out to God will be rewarded as our purpose becomes clearer and clearer, and our love of God grows deeper and deeper. Personally, since learning how to communicate with God this way, I have drawn closer to God and I have greater insight into my personal mission from Him. Many others who took this road have seen their efforts bear fruit.
Here are some testimonies from past participants:
Maria L. participated in the Week of Guided Prayer at SVDP two years ago.
“I had no expectations when I signed up for the week of guided prayer. I just thought I never experienced praying with the Bible so it would be interesting to learn this! From Day 1 the experience was amazing. The week was like a retreat, the words of God came alive for me, it really spoke to me! Someone said to me before that if I ever encountered difficulty in life or needed to make important decisions, I only needed to open the word of God and pray with it! I never understood what that meant or believed it was possible.
But during the week, my companion patiently explained the techniques of doing just that. In the 30mins set aside each day, at the same time preferably, alone and in a quiet space, I prayed for those graces and began to read the words of scripture. God spoke! He comforted me in my distress, loved me when I felt inadequate, forgave me when I sinned, gave me hope when I felt disheartened! The week ended too soon but my heart experienced the joy and love of God!”
Julia L. completed her Week a number of years ago and she went on to become a Sojourners’ Companion herself.
“In the Week of guided prayer I was taught how to use the two Prayer methods on how to reflect on God’s word from the scriptures. With the help of a personal prayer guide I am taught how to get into the habits and routine to set time to pray / reflect daily using the scriptures.
My daily reflections help me grow in my relationship with God. “Hearing” God’s word for me makes my faith more meaningful and alive. God becoming much more real and close to me.
I believe to be able acquire this skill is one of the best gift God has given me. Equipped with this gift, I am more confident to face the challenges in life.
In 2017 I have decided to be a prayer guide to help others too develop this skill and to also receive this gift from God. God is always faithful, we just need to be faithful to hear His word daily.”
Belen T. who learned this way of prayer almost 20 years ago continues to enjoy the fruits of a much closer relationship with our Lord.
“After enlisting myself as a “pilgrim” in the WOGP held in our parish in 2003, my faith journey took on a new direction. By learning to pray with the Scriptures through Lectio Divina and Ignatian Contemplation with the guidance of a Prayer Guide, I realised that the Word of God was alive and truly relevant to my life! Before then, the Bible to me was a book rather hard to read and quite remote from life’s realities and challenges.
The process of reflecting on a Scripture passage through these 2 methods, praying for grace that flows from the passage, and journaling the prayer experience has helped me to become closer to Jesus and to listen as He speaks to me in my here-and-now. I must say that though it could be a struggle to make that regular “date” with the Lord and to pray with the Scriptures in this manner, it is really well worth the effort. The “reward” is a personal encounter with Jesus in which He brings on a reassurance of His love and quite often, an inspiration; a learning point; a call for me to act or make a change in myself and in my relationship; or to take on a new task.”
If you are still wondering what is God’s will for you, do consider signing up for the upcoming virtual Week of Guided Prayer for our parish, from 24 July to 31 July. Please share this with your family members and friends too. You may register online at www.sojourners.sg/about_WoGP.html. There is no fee but a love offering would be appreciated. More information on the Week of Guided Prayer or Sojourners’ Companions can be found in www.sojourners.sg. God bless!