St. Teresa of Avila said, “Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us.” But as with any relationship, our conversations with God require not just talking to him but also listening. The Holy Spirit can lead us to holiness, but we cannot follow if we are not listening.
One of the reasons it can be difficult to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit is we are surrounded by so much noise. Fr. Paul pointed out, “It takes an intentional consciousness to tune-out all the noise that is around us. It could be inner noise within ourselves – our worries, our fears, our anxieties within ourselves. We have to learn to tune all that out and really ask the Holy Spirit to come in and be the Lord of that area of our life where we are worried, fearful, and anxious.”
Then, of course, there is plenty of noise coming from the outside. Between our family, co-workers, obligations, and the noise of the news cycle it can be difficult to find any quiet in our lives.
“There has to be a conscious effort to tune those out,” Fr. Paul advised. “That’s the first step. Silence is the key to opening ourselves to hearing the Holy Spirit. Jesus is always knocking on the door of our hearts. The Holy Spirit is always looking out for our greatest good. And I think we have to really be open to that.”
Being open to the Holy Spirit is the first step, but we also have to recognize the voice of the Spirit when we hear it. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will speak to us through the words of a friend, and sometimes it’s a small voice that we hear within ourselves.
Fr. Paul explained how we can know it is the voice of the Spirit, saying, “We know it’s the Spirit because the Spirit always speaks in a fruitful way. When you’ve been praying for awhile you know it’s the Holy Spirit and not just your own voice.”
Sharing his own personal experience, he said, “It’s an inner voice, and my own experience of it is that I hear my own inner voice but I know it’s not me. I know it’s the Holy Spirit saying within me to be patient, listen, stop, go, different admonitions to me, in a sense. So you have to be able to realize this is not just my own voice, this is God speaking. Because there is wisdom there. When the Spirit speaks it is always a voice that speaks with wisdom, encouraging me to do the right thing.”
Listen to the full conversation below: