Before working through this Guide, make sure that everyone has caught up through the teaching on May 15, 2022.
Begin your gathering by taking communion together, whether as a full meal or some version of the bread and the cup that proceeds the meal. If you don’t already have a Communion liturgy, pray these words from Paul to the church in Ephesus:
I pray that out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3v16-19)
Read This Overview Aloud Together
As we continue the practice and pattern of learning what God’s voice sounds like by what he has already said and done in the pages of the Scriptures, our next task is to begin learning how he speaks uniquely to each of us. Simply put, God knows how we hear his voice, so he will speak to us in a language we understand. In Psalm 139, David declares that God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, so God is intimately aware of every single part of us, even more than we are of ourselves.
God made us as integrated beings. Think about how we listen and interact in conversations, as we interpret them in our bodies: leaning in to hear more, eye contact or lack thereof, smiling or scowling, feeling elated or frustrated. Words only make up part of how we understand what people are saying. We watch facial expressions and body language, listen for tone and inflection, note each time they reach out to put a hand on our shoulder or how much distance they keep.
And because we are not just spirits, because we are embodied, our conversations with God will work this way too: when God is speaking to us, we interpret or understand it in our bodies. God will use bodily sensations, an image in our mind, a sense or feeling, an emotional stirring, a memory, or whatever it takes to get our attention so that he can tell us of our belovedness. His words will ground themselves in our bodies.
In the Bible, which is our guardrail and guide in learning God’s voice, we find two foundational and core principles to hold while learning to hear God: 1) more than anything God, our Beloved, longs for us to know our belovedness, and 2) that God wants us to hear him more than we want to hear him.
Oftentimes, the best place to begin learning how God speaks to us individually is by answering the question: Where do you most come alive? Whether it’s out in nature or at home baking, exploring new places or going back to familiar ones, being active or still, journaling or running, we can understand this “aliveness” as something we were made to enjoy, as God’s pleasure in us. The places in you that were designed to come alive are the places where our access to God is most uninhibited. That sense of “aliveness” is often how God is training you to hear his voice. For us to learn to pay attention to what he’s saying, we must, like Jesus, withdraw to these solitary places to be with and engage God (Luke 5v16). This week, we want to begin exploring how God has designed us to hear his voice and to practice doing just that.
Discuss The Following Questions
- Have you heard God speak to you? Where in your imagination, body, or emotions have you heard him speak? (e.g. maybe you’ve seen an image in your imagination, felt a warmth in your chest, literally seen a bone be mended, etc.)
- What makes it hard for you to trust that what you’re hearing is actually God’s voice? How can you know?
- Where do you come alive? How can you look for the ways God speaks to you while you’re in those places or doing those things?
Do This Practice Tonight
Two common barriers that come up for us in learning how God speaks are 1) constantly surrounding ourselves with noise and 2) not knowing what to actually expect God to say.
Much of the time, trying to hear God speak in our lives is like trying to hear someone tell us a story at a concert – there’s just too much going on. For this reason, Jesus often removed himself from the crowds and the busyness and got alone to be with God. We can hear God’s voice more clearly as we allow our outer world to quiet and our inner world to still.
Which leads to the other problem: Sometimes we don’t get quiet because we aren’t sure what God is going to say. Whether conscious or not, we feel like he is disappointed or angry with us. But, in Jesus, we learn that God wants to invite us into friendship with him, he wants us to hear how much he loves us. And as we learn to expect and to trust that, learning to hear him will feel a bit more approachable.
Solitude is the practice of removing ourselves from the noise and learning to hear God whisper our belovedness. So tonight, even though we’re not able to really practice Solitude, we do want to practice listening for God to whisper our belovedness. We will do this by reading and reflecting on Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus, a tax collector whose house he invited himself over to have dinner. (Leader’s Note: It can be helpful to read all of the following directions out loud to the group before beginning, so each person knows where the exercise is going.)
1. Settle in & Welcome the Holy Spirit – Go ahead and settle in and get comfortable. It could help to position yourself into an open or receiving posture (e.g. hands open on your lap, eyes closed, feet on the ground or crossed in front of you). Once you’re ready to begin, invite the Spirit to reveal to each person what God is like as you read Jesus’ words. Invite his creativity to stir your imaginations and his comfort to meet each of you.
2. Read Luke 19v1–10 – Next, slowly read Luke 19v1–10 out loud, holding a brief silence afterwards.
3. Read Again, But Put Yourself in Zacchaeus’ Place – Before you read it again, say this to your Community: In Jewish tradition, inviting someone to eat with you was a way of inviting them into friendship. So, as we read through this story again, try to put yourself in Zacchaeus’ place. As you imagine the story, watch the way Jesus approaches you and speaks to you, hear his tenderness, and receive God’s invitation to you of deep friendship.
4. Hold Silence – After the second reading, spend a minute or two in silence as each person dialogues with God. Some may choose to write in their journals or make a note in their phone.
5. Process Together – Finally, after spending sufficient time in silent prayer and reflection, break the silence by thanking God for speaking and revealing himself. After ending this prayer, open a conversation about what stirred in you during that time. Whether profound or totally normal, did anyone hear God whisper their belovedness? What did it sound or feel like?
Read The Practice for the Week Ahead
For the week ahead, there are two Practices to try:
1. Practice Understanding Delight as God’s Pleasure: We want to end where we began: Where do most come alive? This is the question to consider as you plan out your Practice for the week ahead. Spend some time processing that question with the Spirit, being sure to not over-spiritualize it. Once you’ve landed on something, or at least on something to try, make some Solitude time to go to that place and/or to do that thing. Give it however much time you can and repeat it often, remembering that the longer we’re able to practice doing something – in this case hearing God’s love for us – the better we get at it.
While you’re in the place or doing the activity, take a moment to ask the Spirit to translate the “aliveness” that you feel as God’s pleasure and delight over you, as God whispering to you your belovedness. Invite the Spirit to remind you that his base emotion towards you is delight. He longs to be with you, to spend time with you, to teach you to hear his voice. And then just be in the moment; feel the warmth of his deep love towards you.
2. Begin and End Your Day With Truth: Secondly, we can practice hearing God whisper our belovedness by beginning and ending each day with an outloud declaration that reminds us about and trains our minds to dwell on what is true. For example, try beginning each day by saying: Before anything has happened today, I am God’s beloved son/daughter. And try ending each day by saying: Even after all that happened today, I am still God’s beloved son/daughter. After making each declaration, pause for a moment and ask God to root that truth deep inside you.
End in Prayer
Close your time together asking for God to remind you that he delights to whisper our belovedness. Invite him to continue doing so and to draw your attention to it in various moments. Thank him that his affection for us is trustworthy.