God’s voice or my voice?

August 10, 2011

I was asked by someone today who had been praying with scripture, “How do I know if it is God’s voice or my own voice I hear in prayer?”  Whew!  That question made me stop and ponder how to answer that question.  How do we really know if it is God’s voice or our own?

I am no theologian or expert in this area.  I believe we each have to discern for ourselves and to foster an awareness of how God speaks to each of us.  I can only draw from my own experience in discerning whether it is God’s voice or my own.
Pausing to think on this question in my own experience, though, brought these insights to mind:  

– When an idea or thought or word or phrase has come out of “no-where” during prayer, and then it continues to return over and over again, I find that it is typically something God is trying to tell me.

– When I have an overwhelming feeling when reading scripture or praying, whether it be of great joy, peace, anger or it moves me to tears, I know it is something I need to pay attention too. 

-When a short phrase or word captures my attention or something internal feels a nudge or stirring while reading scripture, I know it is something I must pause sit with and pray on.

-St. Ignatius teaches us to be aware of our emotions:  to be aware of the moments where we give and receive love AND to be aware of the moments where we do not give AND receive love.   By reflecting on these, I am often able to see where I am experiencing God’s presence and where I am not.

A few more thoughts from Fr. Armand Nigro, S.J. that he offers when reading Scripture: 

“When something strikes you….when…
 -you feel a new way of being with Christ.
-you experience God’s love
-you feel lifted in spirit,
-you are moved to something good,
-you are peaceful,
-you are happy and content to just be in God’s presence….

this is the time to PAUSE.
It is also the time to PAUSE when you feel disturbed, puzzled by something in scripture.” 

How do you discern if it is God’s voice or your own?

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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  1. Jared Dees

    What a great question and well though out answer. Thanks Becky. When I read Scripture in the morning, I’ve been following some of the things you mention based on my experience with Jesuit spiritual directors, but I’ve never seen it spelled out like this. Thank you!

  2. Becky Eldredge

    Thank you, Jared. It was a challenge to put it into words. It was also a helpful reminder to me about what I need to pay attention too.
    Thank you, Jesuits, for being such great teachers to all of us!

  3. Garrett

    Great post. I had an experience recently that I was sure was God because, as you said, it came out of nowhere. And I became overwhelmed with emotion. It was an amazing thing.

  4. Becky Eldredge

    Garrett, that is quite a gift! I am always surprised that God sometimes communicates that clearly with us at times. I hope that whatever you experienced continues to deepen in you.

  5. Tiger12

    I am new to this. How do I change my text font? I am using a google account

    Once I had an experience when I was sitting at a table fervently praying for God to teach me how to pray. I felt very serious and really needing an answer. An image formed in my head of myself 60 years later sitting at a table fervently asking God “teach me how to pray.” I laughed with big belly laughs and released a lot of tension, which I think is what God was wanting for me. It was so great. I still laugh about it.


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