Originally published Sept. 30, 2021.
Do you ever feel like God is just silent in your life? That he is not talking to you? When I speak to high school students and young adults, I frequently hear them say, “God doesn’t talk to me.” We have all felt like this at some point in our lives, and it can be frustrating and discouraging. Sometimes we might even feel that because God doesn’t speak to us that he has abandoned us or that he doesn’t love us.
But here’s the reality of the situation: God is always trying to speak to us through the Holy Spirit. We just don’t know how to listen!
Listening to the Holy Spirit
So how do we learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in our lives?
One of the things I love to do is study the lives of the saints, because they show us how to have a deep relationship with the Lord. As I’ve studied some of my favorite saints, I’ve noticed they have three things in common: a deep devotion to Sacred Scripture, a love and commitment to the sacraments, and profound personal prayer lives. If we want to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, then, we need to make these three things significant parts of our daily lives.
Read Sacred Scripture
I recently read a book on St. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young Italian who died in 1925. One of the things that amazed me about him was his passion for and commitment to Scripture. Frassati had a little pocket book of the Gospels that he carried with him, and as he sat on busses or trains, he would read it. If we want to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in our lives, we have to be reading Scripture.
Scripture is the primary way God has chosen to continue to communicate to us. The Bible is his word, inspired by and a work of the Holy Spirit. If you want to hear God speaking to you, read Sacred Scripture every day!
If you are overwhelmed with where to begin, start with the Gospel of Matthew. Work your way through the four Gospels and then read the book of Acts. Once you’ve done that, start over again in Matthew and read through the Gospels and the book of Acts again. Start with one chapter a day. It takes 5-10 minutes to read one chapter of the Bible. If you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts, that’s 117 chapters total, or 117 days, which is just under four months. If you repeat this cycle every four months, you’ll read these five books of the Bible three times a year.
If you want to learn to hear the Holy Spirit speaking in your life, you have to keep Scripture in front of you. Dedicating yourself to 5 or 10 minutes a day is a great place to start.
About a year ago I was introduced to St. Giuseppe Moscoti. He was a Catholic doctor who lived from 1880-1927 in Italy. As a doctor, Moscoti had a very busy professional life, but he always made a point to make time for one thing: daily Mass.
If we want to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Liturgy must be an integral part of our lives. The sacraments are the normal way in which God has chosen to encounter us. He works in us and through us in his sacraments, so we must participate in them! In particular, we should attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of Confession.
Strive to make these two sacraments a regular part of your life. Be sure to attend Mass every Sunday and if possible, try to attend Mass one or two days during the week. The Church also encourages us to go to confession once a month. If you don’t already, make it a point to build the habit of monthly confession into your schedule. Make it simple, like going to confession every first Saturday of the month.
We know the sacraments are a place where God seeks to encounter us with his grace, and it is here we must go if we want to learn to listen to him.
Daily Prayer Life
Another saint who has inspired me over the past few years is St. Catherine of Siena. The more I read and learn about her, the more I am amazed by her boldness and courage. Catherine lived in Italy from 1347-1380 and is a mystic and Doctor of the Church.
Catherine had a profound prayer life, often spending hours praying and conversing with the Lord.
Although we aren’t all able to spend hours each day in prayer, we can still learn from Catherine’s example. If we want to learn to listen to God speaking in our lives, we must prioritize spending at least a little time in prayer each day.
Building a personal prayer life can often be overwhelming for people, especially if they are just beginning to build the habit. As with any other habit you’re trying to form, when it comes to prayer, start really simple: Pick a time. Pick a place. Pick something to pray with.
Pick a Time
Pick a time each day to pray. Consistency helps build habits, so if it can be the same time everyday, that is great!
Your prayer time might be first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, when you first get into the office, or at night before bed. Just pick a time and stick to it. And remember, start simple. If you’re not already in the habit of praying daily, begin with 10 or 15 minutes. As time goes on and you learn how to pray you’ll be able to increase that time to 20 or 30 minutes.
Pick a Place
Picking a consistent place where you pray each day helps you build the habit of daily prayer. This could be a Church, your favorite reading chair, your kitchen table or your desk. Strive to make the time and the place you pray consistent, as this will help you build the habit of praying.
Pick Something to Pray With
When you go to prayer, take something with you to pray with. This can be a chapter from the Bible, the Mass readings for the day or some sort of spiritual reading. As you learn to listen to the Lord, you will focus better if you have Scripture or some spiritual reading to meditate on in your prayer.
Your daily prayer time is a great place to spend five or ten minutes reading Scripture, as mentioned earlier in the article. Starting with Matthew, you can read one chapter a day, spending a little time meditating on it, and praying over the things the Lord is trying to reveal to you.
God desires to encounter each of us. Striving to make Scripture, the sacraments and personal prayer regular parts of our lives will teach us to hear his voice. Just like the saints, whose lives we imitate, we can learn to listen to the Holy Spirit when he speaks to us.