The subject of personal prayer has been very close to my heart these days. Perhaps it is because I am currently walking through a season where the Lord is teaching me more about this precious subject. It has been a very raw season for me where He has been stripping away most of my pre conceived notions about personal prayer, where He has been removing a lot of my comfortable little routines and I have been brought to a place of openness and vulnerability – but also a place of deep intimacy. Overwhelming but also so very lovely.

For a long time I honestly thought that to hear from the Lord meant hearing an audible voice. And because I have never heard this, I just assumed that it meant that I wasn’t quite holy enough or that I haven’t done enough to earn that privilege. So I spent my prayer time doing the bit that I could do. I had my time of praise, I did a little bit of bible reading and then I worshipped. Or rather I did my own version of these three things. My personal prayer time had structure and discipline but it lacked intimacy. This was driven by my own need to be in control, even of this sacred time and my unspoken fear that the Lord wouldn’t come. The fear of disappointment if I put my heart out there expecting to hear Him speak. It seemed safer to keep things at a relatively superficial level. But my heart was dissatisfied and restless and knew there was something more than what I was experiencing.

I had believed in the lie that I was not good enough to hear His voice. Subconsciously I rejected intimacy with God because I feared being let down. I thought there was only one way for God to speak – audibly – and because I never heard an audible voice, I just thought that hearing God speak was reserved for only for a select few.
But in the book of John 10, Jesus says otherwise. “ I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me’’ John 10: 14. And again, ‘’My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me’’ John 10:27. I was captivated by these verses. He promises that His own hear Him. So simple. So certain. So definite! I realised that I was created with the inherent ability to hear Him – I just had to change my definition of how I heard Him. The lie that I had been agreeing with that told me that I was not good enough to hear Him was broken. The fear of not having done enough to hear His voice was taken away and it was like a weight was lifted off. The striving in my prayer time was taken away. Brother Lalith, the founder of the Community of the Risen Lord always says that we need to believe the Word of God. If God says something then it is so. We do not need to add or subtract from it. And this was one such case. Jesus said that His sheep hear Him – I just had to accept and believe this.

I would like to share with you the ways that He has taught me to hear His voice. The easiest and the clearest way that I have learned to hear Him speak is through the Word of God. It is so vital that we make this a daily practice. That out of obedience and discipline we take time to sit and read the bible even on those days when our hearts are not fully in it. The quickening of your heart when you read a scripture, the way a certain verse would capture your mind – this is all Him speaking. And the more you spend time pursuing this, the more sensitive you would become to His voice. I have learned to write these down, to highlight, to underline – to make a habit of treasuring every word I receive for myself and for my family. I have also learned that journaling is a great way for me to make sense of what I read. So in those instances when I read something and it captures me but it doesn’t make sense straight away, I write it down and I write whatever I feel like the Lord is speaking to me. Often when I put pen to paper, even without having a clear idea of what to write, I find that the words flow and it all makes sense. The Lord also speaks through visions – to me these means images dropped into my mind in quick successions, ideas and thoughts that come up in my mind in times of prayer that are not natural to the way I think and act. And they are always accompanied by a sense of freedom, of breakthrough or joy.

The voice of God is addictive. The more you hear it, the more you want it. There are things we can do that sharpen our hearing, that increase our sensitivity to His voice and then there are things we can do that can deafen us to His voice. I have learned that I need to be intentional about intimacy with God – not in the sense that I can create it by my own self but rather that I am intentional about pursuing Him and running away from everything else that would deafen me to Him. I do this by listening to various Christian messages whenever I can. My favourite time is when I’m commuting to work because I am alone with nothing else to do and I am free to focus. And in His faithfulness, God always sends just the right message for the day and hour. We are intentional about playing worship music at home constantly. I didn’t quite plan on it but I find myself withdrawing from TV shows and movies. God never specifically asked me or commanded me not to – I just found that it blunted me from hearing His voice and I am not willing to compromise on hearing Him speak. His voice, His Presence, His nearness is too precious to ever be compromised.

And as I pursue His voice more, the more I hear Him speak unexpectedly. He is God – He is never limited just to our ‘prayer time’. He speaks in the car, He speaks at work, He speaks when I’m getting ready for work or putting my baby down to sleep. And I am discovering that He has something to say about everything – the way I dress for work or the way I prepare dinner for my family. Like the attentive Father, He calls me out on my behaviour and attitude. And like the kindest and most loving Father, He picks me up and carries me when it’s all a bit too much for me.

Dearest reader, if you are yet to experience this intimacy with God, I pray that you soon will. He has promised that He speaks to you. You are created with the inherent ability to hear Him speak, to feel His presence. I pray that God will give you the grace to simply take Him at His word and as you sit down in prayer, you will sit down in confidence that you will hear Him – because you most definitely will.

By Dr. Nidarshi Fernando