by Rev. Dr. Benjamin T.G. Mayes
God laid it on my heart.” “God said to me . . .” “I saw words appear in my breakfast cereal, and I knew it was a message from God.” Does God really speak to people in these ways? Some people do experience a feeling in their heart while they pray, or they even hear words in their heart. But who is speaking?
First, even though Scripture says that we must “listen to [God’s] voice” (see Jer. 11:4; John 10:16), if you don’t hear any voices when you pray, nothing is wrong. In fact, everything is just fine. When the Scriptures say we must listen to God’s voice, this really means listening to God’s Word being preached and listening to what the prophets and apostles have written in Scripture.
Second, there is a difference between the desire of your heart and God’s command. God may give us various good desires for specific vocations. For example, He might lead a young person to desire to become an overseas missionary. But that is not God’s command. The command or vocation comes later through the Church.
Third, if you do hear a voice in your heart, is this the voice of God? It could be angels or your own heart or even demons. Sadly, there is no way to be absolutely certain that it is God. Only the prophets could be certain that they heard God speaking. Also, when we say that we hear the voice in our heart, consider what Scripture says also comes from our hearts: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matt. 15:19). Indeed, these feelings and messages in our heart vary from day to day and even hour to hour. It is a miserably uncertain thing!
Can the voice in our hearts be a good thing? Indeed it can, if it leads us into Scripture and brings us closer to the Church, where God’s message is spoken with all
But can it also be a bad thing? Sadly, yes. Some people value the voice in their heart more than God’s certain message in Scripture. Other people think the voice in their heart is equal to Scripture and must be obeyed. And still others torment themselves trying to find out what God’s will for their life is. There is no need to live with such guilt and uncertainty. If God wants to make us certain of His will, He has written it in Scripture. If it is not in Scripture and does not go against our duties (that is, our vocations), then we have freedom.
To hear God’s voice, don’t listen to your heart. Listen to the prophets and apostles in Scripture: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:12). Christ’s Word in Scrip-ture is certain, no matter what your breakfast cereal might say.
Order A Year in the New Testament, which will guide you through reading the New Testament in the course of one year. The daily devotions follow the seasonal movements of the Church Year, allowing Scripture to inform and shape your Christian prayer and devotion.
For 75 years, Portals of Prayer has provided God’s Word as a source of assurance, comfort and strength. In honor of that anniversary, Daily Devotions presents memorable and timeless devotions straight from every issue of Portals of Prayer. Despite the span of years, the variety of authors and the topics discussed, one thing above all connects the devotions together: the Gospel of God’s love and mercy in Christ Jesus is proclaimed.
About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes is an editor at CPH for Luther’s Works and Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces.
2012 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.