How do we know when God is speaking to us?

At times we might be inspired with a wonderful idea or a great desire to do good and holy things, which we know to come from God and the Holy Spirit. At other times, visions, feelings, or promptings might be more difficult to distinguish—are they coming from God or from the devil, who attempts to confuse us and lead us astray? This question was on the mind of Wally from Buffalo, Minnesota, who called The Patrick Madrid Show for advice on discerning visions.

“First is to establish a biblical principle. In Deuteronomy chapter 18 beginning in verse 20, we read: ‘But if a prophet presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, “How may we know that a word is one the Lord has not spoken?”, when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the word does not come true, it is a word the Lord did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you need not be afraid of him.’ So this is part of a larger passage that tells how to tell a false prophet from a true prophet, and one of the litmus tests is if the prophet starts saying things … and if those things don’t happen, that’s a clear red flag that it’s a false prophet,” explained Madrid.

“Other prescriptions … would include anything that might entice you to sin or that might contradict revealed truth. So if an apparent apparition is telling you, well you really don’t have to pray anymore or you really don’t have to be chaste anymore, those kinds of things would be additional signs that this is a diabolical kind of manifestation.”

For more subtle ways to discern a message’s origin, Patrick recommended a book called Spiritual Theology by Fr. Jordan Aumann.