If the goal of the spiritual journey, as I wrote last week, is to know and to heed God’s voice within, then the journey will consist of doing those things which help us to know God so well that we always follow his inspiration for us. I have come to think of the spiritual journey as doing those things which create the capacity within us to truly love and to be integrated—heart, mind, body and soul. Over the next three weeks I’ll be writing a three-part series: 1) about the spiritual practices that develop the capacity to hear and to heed God; 2) about building the capacity to love; and 3)about building an integrated self. It’s an artificial separation that I am proposing, because these three things are really one subject, but too much to cover in one essay.
So, looking first to spiritual practices that over the centuries have enabled people to draw close to God, we see that most of them have silence as part of them—meditation, contemplation, journaling, prayer which in a limited way uses words, but in the most expansive use is just sitting in the presence of God and communing silently. Being silent as a regular practice builds a spaciousness in us that creates a distance between us and our emotional reactions and our acculturated selves, so that we are no longer ruled by what the culture taught us. It allows us to dispassionately view what is happening to us without judging or condemning it. It brings us into the presence of God. It allows us to hear the quiet voice of God. It makes the rest of our lives run more smoothly.
Too many of us have learned to say prayers, usually rote ones, but the most powerful prayer is a silent one, just sitting in God’s presence. We don’t need to say “perfect” prayers, but we do need to pray out of our rawness, vulnerability, and intentions. See the Psalms if you have any reservations about this type of prayer: laying before God what holds us back from truly loving empties us out that God might fill us.
One specialized kind of prayer is setting intentions. By dedicating our mind, heart, soul and body to what we feel we are called to, we focus our energies and invite God into an area of our life that needs healing, thereby giving permission to the Holy Spirit to transforms us. For example, if your intention is to love someone more fully, you would gather yourself together—body, mind, soul and heart—to set that intention. That is all you have to do; the Holy Spirit will transform you so that your intention becomes a reality. Just watch over the next few months how your attitudes change towards that person. The best intentions are set about healing your own brokenness.
Even Bible study which depends upon words and knowing the Word is most productive when we are silently letting the words inform us of what God wants us to hear(Lectio Divina). What we are really searching for in all practices is the way that God is calling us from within to meet, to have a two-way communion, to listen for God’s voice within.
I would posit that each us has a method for hearing God’s voice that works best for us; what we need to do is to listen for what God is calling us to, to discern how best to learn to hear God’s voice. And that method may be an evolving one, doing this practice for a while, then that, as God calls you. Maybe you are now beginning to realize why we have to be able to hear God’s voice within; the Holy Spirit within us communicates with us each step in developing the capacity to hear and heed God, and thereby, the capacity to love and to have integrity. This is a life-long practice from the time you begin.