“Sometimes it’s pretty easy to hear God’s messages,” he said. “But sometimes I feel like I’m not hearing anything. How can I be more receptive?”
That was the gist of a comment by a teen at a recent gathering of young Christian Scientists here in Boston. I loved his question for two reasons. First, it showed a fundamental conviction that God is talking to each of us, and that we can hear Him. (If you’re not sure how to recognize God’s messages, check out “ ‘What does God’s voice sound like?’ ” in the Q&A section of TeenConnect.) Second, it’s a question that most praying people I know have asked at one point or another: How can I hear God more consistently?
Hearing God is a work in progress for me, too. But I’ve learned a few things along the way that help when I’m feeling disconnected.
Stick to the facts. Everything around us argues that if there’s even a God at all, we’re “here” and He’s “there.” So what Christian Science presents—that we are all actually one with God, forever inseparable from Him as His spiritual ideas—is pretty revolutionary and powerful. It means we aren’t on our own waiting for God to send us a message. We are one with the Mind that knows everything! I find it helpful to affirm my inseparability from God on a daily basis—and to reaffirm it in those moments when I’m praying, but I feel like there’s no one on the other end of the line.
It can be tempting to blame ourselves for not hearing God, or to think that we’re doing something wrong. But the suggestion that the ideas we need aren’t already present is really just the belief that we’re cut off from God, which is never true. That’s why countering “I can’t hear God” with the spiritual fact of our oneness can open the way for us to hear, or discern, more of that free flow of ideas that’s always present.
God is talking to each of us, and we can hear Him.
Grease the wheels. While it doesn’t help to play the blame game when you feel like you aren’t hearing God, I have found it useful to examine the way I’m approaching my prayers. For example, am I really prepared to hear whatever God has to say—even if it’s not what I want to hear? Am I completely open to a path I hadn’t considered? Am I 100 percent willing to let go of unproductive patterns of thinking, or character traits that are getting in the way of seeing myself as good and God-created?
Humility, openness, and willingness are just a few of the qualities Mary Baker Eddy explores in her awesome chapter “Prayer” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. That’s often where I turn when I’m looking for a prayer upgrade, because that chapter isn’t just about what prayer is; it’s also about how to pray effectively. It reminds me that hearing God is about the heart more than the head—the qualities we’re bringing to our prayers and our listening, rather than the words we’re saying.
Expect the unexpected. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned about hearing God is that I can’t predict how God’s messages are going to come. Sure, sometimes it’s an inspired thought, or a line from the Bible or Science and Health. In the past, I ranked these messages from God as “the best” and felt like I was falling short if my prayers weren’t answered this way.
Then one time, after I received some upsetting news, the message I got from God wasn’t a thought at all, but the sweetest feeling of being so loved. God didn’t tell me something comforting, but I felt comforted as I prayed. Another time, I saw the vastness of the ocean and understood in a new way what it means that God’s love is infinite. These experiences, and others like them, prompted me to ditch my ranking system and to be more open to the endless variety of God’s communications. After all, why would an infinite God have only one way of giving us what we need?
I can’t predict how God’s messages are going to come.
I’m convinced that as we pray and learn more about God, we’ll keep growing in our understanding of how to hear His messages, feel His presence, and know His power. In the meantime, during those moments when we feel like we’re struggling, I’ve found this divine promise from the Bible reassuring: “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). To me, that says we’ll always know what we need to know because of the nature of God, and the nature of what we are as His children. The fact is that we’re designed to hear God—yes, consistently.