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Spiritual Discernment Toolkit:

How to hear from God

We can hear from God in many ways—the Bible, the Holy Spirit, in nature, through a trusted friend, family member, or counselor, for example. God doesn’t necessarily speak as a human would, so you might wonder how to know if you’re really hearing from God. The resources in this toolkit are intended as an aid to help you hear from God and discern the will of God as you seek to live in faith and obedience.

The process of discernment—hearing from God—is a spiritual practice, a means by which we grow in our faith and relationship with God. Here are a few ways that you might step into, or “try on,” discernment.

Related: Obeying what you hear from God can be really hard, but also worth it

Listening prayer: how to hear from God more clearly

“This is really important because as followers of Jesus, we all desire to do the right thing and make the wisest choices. Yet we are constantly being bombarded with the noise of the world all around us. There are lots of voices telling us very different messages, and too often we find ourselves challenged and confused about what we should do in a given situation or what is really the best way ahead. These are times when we can seek God’s guidance through listening prayer.” –Rev. Jim Harrison

This popular, personal, and practical resource outlines what the Bible says about listening to God in prayer and provides a guide for practicing listening prayer in a small group setting.

Practice listening prayer

Discerning the will of God by tuning into the work of the Holy Spirit

“The Holy Spirit is an advocate, present to help us discover our place in God’s unfolding narrative. … Has the Holy Spirit ever gotten your attention in an extraordinary manner or after a time of extended prayer and stillness? When have you slowed down long enough to hear the Holy Spirit inquire about your life? What stirrings within nature have caused you to solely seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance?” –Rev. Jill Sweet

Three biblical figures—Moses, Elijah, and Mary—model postures that may help us tune into the work of the Holy Spirit today.

Tune into the work of the Holy Spirit

Declutter your spiritual life to help with spiritual discernment

“[We are called] to tell the truth, to root out whatever is harming or hindering our walk with God, and to continually revisit the spaces of our hearts and lives so that we don’t get cluttered up and lose the way again. These passages call us to listen for the sacred pulse, for God’s holy rhythms, and to return to those rhythms again and again so that we can dance with joy and freedom.” –Rev. April Fiet

This sermon walks through two Bible passages (Luke 15:1-10 and Exodus 32:7-14) to help us “look honestly at where we are and where God is calling us to be, and then making changes to get back on track.”

Declutter your spiritual life

Training ourselves to listen well so we can hear from God

“Listening more directly to God often involves the practices of prayer and engaging Scripture, but it can also involve other disciplines such as silence and solitude. The guiding posture that shapes listening as a faith practice is an expectant longing that God, who spoke creation into existence, will continue to speak with us today in ways that we can receive and comprehend.” –Rev. Chris Schoon

As part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s Faith Practices Project, this section on listening well includes points to ponder, Scripture passages on listening, a resource list, and guides to listening well individually, with a group, or as a family.

Listen well

Explore related spiritual practices

These spiritual practices intersect well with a posture of listening and may help with discerning the will of God.

 

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

–Romans 12:2

Group Discernment

Seeking guidance from God is not just an individual process. In fact, it rarely happens in isolation! Spiritual discernment happens in community, too, whether it’s related to a personal or collective step forward. These resources give pointers for discerning God’s will in a group context.

“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”

–1 Samuel 3:10

Media

Further reading

Stories and articles on spiritual discernment

Stories, advice, and thought pieces about discernment and hearing from God

kids at church hold number signs while confetti fallsChurch LifeDiscernment
May 22, 2024

Our Church Started Settling then Caught a Vision for Hope

We kept asking questions, petitioning God, and waiting for a vision worth following.
a four-way stone path set in grass with multiple logsDiscernment
May 14, 2024

Parting to Pursue God: The Importance of Discernment In Times of Division

We have a tendency to force ourselves into the instant-pot crucible of decision-making.
two people have serious discussion with different coffee cupsDiscernment
May 10, 2024

Knowing God’s Will in an Us/Them World

When we let our preferences take priority over God’s purposes, the enemy sows disagreement and division.
Mamie McIndoe is installed as a deacon at Marble Collegiate ChurchDiscernmentPurpose/Calling StoriesWomen in Ministry
April 23, 2024

How Discernment Led to Service as a Deacon: A Calling in Retirement

I was purposeful in this being a time to listen and see, to ask, “Where is the call?”
group of five people discern together in chairs outsideDiscernmentRelationships
March 13, 2024

How Hearts and Attitudes Changed During Disagreement

Minds probably were not changed during our time of sharing, but attitudes certainly were.
group of a few adults and children outside in South AfricaDiscernmentRelationships
February 20, 2024

Discerning How To Be the Family of God

How do we learn from our past in order to better live together as a diverse family of God?
close up of man's hands in contemplative prayer postureDiscernmentPurpose/Calling Stories
February 7, 2024

What I Discerned About My Calling During My Sabbatical

Most of the discernment happened around getting honest about what gives me life, what I love.
block of nine blank yellow sticky notes on gray wallDiscernmentLeadership
September 13, 2023

Three Things to Consider When You Want to Start Something New

Just because you think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean that you can build enough traction.
young woman prays in small brick roomDiscernmentPrayer
August 9, 2023

Why Centering Prayer? Biblical Grounding for Finding Rest in God

The intention of centering prayer is to consent to God’s action and presence within.
young Black woman reads Bible on an outside benchDiscernmentFaith Formation
February 28, 2023

Why I Continue to Trust and Read the Bible

We can discover God's will through God's Word, the Bible, and the Word-made-flesh, Jesus.
ornate wood cut-out of a dove lays on top of rough wooden tableDiscernmentSpirituality
December 13, 2022

How to Tune Into the Work of the Holy Spirit

When our longings and desires become aligned with God’s, we can identify the work of the Holy Spirit.
silhouette of man and woman sitting on a bench with a screened image of a bay in the backgroundDiscernmentStewardship
September 26, 2022

Why We Should Embrace the Difficult Conversations with Hope for a Brighter Financial Future

Often, God brings us to these "belly of the whale" moments in order to lead us into new life.

Personal calling stories

People share how they have received guidance from God in discerning their vocation

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