by Sister Frances DeMott IBVM
(Member of Renewal Service Team for Diocese of Marquette MI)

On numerous occasions a friend will approach me and begin to share what is happening in their life. Before they are finished I'm sure to hear the phrase, 'The Lord said', or, 'The Lord told me,' as a prefix of a statement expressing direction from God for a specific situation, for discernment in seeking His will or affirmation of His care and love.

Doesn't this sound familiar? 'The Lord told me to sell my home and move to Marshfield,' or, 'The Lord said not to visit my son at this time,' or, 'The Lord asked me if I noticed the progress I had made in the area of self esteem.'

A friend of mine used to share what God was doing in his prayer life and I would invariably end the conversation with, 'That is so wonderful but how do you hear God speak? How does He speak to you? He never speaks to me.' 'You have to get quiet inside, very very quiet,' he would say. I would walk back home convinced that God speaks to him but He doesn't speak to me.

I took it for granted that this is the way it was and ever shall be, Amen! At the same time I longed to hear the voice of the Lord. The Scripture where Jesus promised that His sheep would recognize his voice flashed through my mind.

At meetings, I must admit I experienced receiving direction from the Lord and shared it as others did. We would lay different issues, questions, etc., before the Lord in prayer expecting him to show us His desire and He would do so.

For example, it is the responsibility of Kathy Gautcher and myself, as members of the Upper Peninsula Service Team, to put on a Day of Renewal every few months in our region of the diocese. We set aside a day to come together in prayer seeking God's will. At one such meeting we asked the Lord what He wanted to do for the Day of Renewal that was coming up. We entered into prayer by opening our hearts, expecting that He would reveal His desires. We praised God in word and song. We surrendered ourselves, our thoughts and desires, making ourselves (through the power of the Holy Spirit) an empty vessel, a blank sheet of paper, a docile ball of clay, becoming very passive. I received in my mind a vision of a great harvest, an orchard with trees laden with ripe unblemished apples. Mary, our Blessed Mother was there and she called, 'Come, my children, you must help me gather this fruit for my Son who has labored so strenuously because satan is about to shake them down and bruise as many as he can.'

My partner had another vision and prophecy immediately following mine. 'My children, I want to give you the tools for gathering the harvest. These tools are the Charisms of Healing, Discernment, Tongues, Prophecy, etc. You use these tools efficiently at the prayer meeting but you leave them there in a box by the door when you go home. I want you to take them home with you and use them all during the week.' What the Lord gave us in the vision (in our mind) and the prophecy was that the harvest is great. Bring home the tools, the Charisms, to gather in this harvest.

That became the theme for the Day of Renewal, Bringing Home the Charisms. We continued in prayer asking what Charisms should be taught? Who should do the teaching? Where should the Day of Renewal be held?, etc. The Lord spoke in many ways to reveal His desires. If the vision or the prophecy or the thought had a rightness about it, if there was a sense of truth and peace we discerned it to be from the Lord. A joy would rise up within us especially when we shared and found out that the other person had received the same thing. This was very confirming.

But in my private prayer, when I was alone with the Lord, I didn't hear Him speak. After three years of saying, 'He doesn't talk to me,' the Lord convicted me one day and spoke to me right on the spot. 'Sister,' He said, 'I do speak to you but you don't listen to me.' There was a hurt sound in His voice and a sad expression on His face. This all happened in a flash within me.

Since then, I am very careful not to accuse the Lord of not speaking. Rather, I say, 'I can't hear the Lord talk to me.' And my prayer goes like the verse in the song; 'Take the deafness from my ears, when I am dull and slow to hear.'

I'm beginning to hear now and I find myself using that familiar phrase, 'The Lord said,' or, 'The Lord told me,' when I am sharing. How does the Lord speak? Very, very quietly inside. Just now He said, 'This is enough for tonight, you are very tired.'