I have spoken with folks who feel they have had such clear direction from God that they feel God did indeed speak to them. For lots of us, though, it is not so clear. We pray. We study. We meditate. We worship. We fellowship. And we try to figure out what God has in mind for us. I believe that discerning God's plan in my life will be a life-long journey where sometimes the way is clear and other times I struggle to hear past the noise of daily living.
But as time goes on things do become clearer. I started quite certain that robbing banks, murdering people and telling lies were all bad. I'm willing to stand on that. But so much of life is less clear cut. Should I visit my grandma every week? What if she is mean or dangerous to my children? Should I take job A or job B, attend school A or school B, major in A or B? By house A or house B or rent?
All these daily decisions involve thought and wisdom and careful consideration. But prayer makes a difference too. Because most of us praying folks have had times when we felt strongly drawn to do something that doesn't exactly make sense. It is very easy to justify giving to the church "when things get better," but most of us who decided to do it even when it was not so easy have found it is a very good thing. Folks who have asked God to help them find a faithful and sensible life partner often report much better outcomes than folks who trusted their 'feelings' even when their common sense was yelling "not safe, not safe."
Personally, I would prefer that God send me a telegram or email with clear directions, a timetable and a map. But that is not the way this works. Because it is about more than just "not sinning" or "doing the right thing". It is about developing a habit of considering God across all aspects of our lives. It is about learning through baby steps to find our way with a heart for and growing trust in God.
I read this today: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” * And I realized how accurate is this picture, like a small child learning a parent's voice, trusting a parent for instruction and guidance. The more I pray, study, worship, meditate, ask for God's help, and welcome the demise of my willfulness and selfishness, the more natural it is to grow more humbly confident that God does speak to me, even if it is not by words in my ear.