Do you think all spiritual "feelings" are prompts from God?


#1

Do you think every feeling or thought you get about God, Mary or anything else spiritual is a prompt from God, or sent from God? Like God is giving you a nudge? Like, Oh, I think I’ll say the Rosary, or, Oh, I’ll go visit the church - is that always God giving us a hint?


#2

I don’t know if they’re necessarily “prompts” - though they very well may be - as I’ve found God’s will to be one of the hardest things to discern; however, I do believe that these are occasions when God is talking to us.


#3

There is a wonderful Catholic classic book specifically devoted to the type of question you ask: “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade. The whole focus of his book is learning to live fully *in the present moment *and learning to listen, respond and act upon our inner promptings. From his presentation, this is the essence of God’s will.

Here’s a small sample of his teaching for when we are just beginning in this way. The key is to understand the duties of our state in life:

In order to keep on the straight road leading to perfection, we must make quite sure that all spiritual promptings we receive are from God. We shall know they are not divinely inspired if the withdraw us from the duties of our state of life. For these duties are the clearest indication of God’s will, and nothing should supersede them.

As a for-instance - - - one way we might apply this quote could be for posting on these very forums. :slight_smile: While we might feel “inspired” to write something here . . . if it’s done at the expense of our work or immediate needs of a family member - say a child is waiting downstairs to play a game with you - then we can be assured the inspiration is not from God. The reason is that the prompting draws us away from our principal duties. Examples like this are endless . . . and we meet them in every moment of our day.

Then, after many years of diligent practice in this way, Fr. de Caussade describes how we become transformed . . . and act entirely by our now well formed intuition:

For these souls, their hearts tell them what God desires. They have only to listen to the promptings of their hearts to interpret his will in the existing circumstances. God’s plans, disguised as they are, reveal themselves to us through our intuition rather than through our reason.

They disclose themselves in various ways: by chance or by what seems to be a compulsive thrust which allows no choice of action, by a sudden impulse, by some supernatural rapture, or very often by something which attracts or repels us.

Now, if we judge all this superficially, it certainly seems that it is not very sensible to leave so important an affair to such uncertainty. Judging by ordinary standards, there is no order and indeed no sense, in this way of going on. Nevertheless, to obey this apparent disorder is to have reaced the summit of virtue, and it is one we do not reach without long years of effort.

Just a small taste . . . hope this helps!

Dave:)


#4

There is a whole spiritual art of discernment which is really a blessing in the Faith. Try to find an orthodox Jesuit, Benedictine or Carmelite to act as your spiritual director. Read St Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life on what to look for in a director and on the value of having one. :thumbsup:


#5

my immediate reaction to this is: inspirations to do holy things are not always from God. It is said (by St John of the Cross I think) that the Devil will rarely tempt a devout person to do something obviously sinful, but instead will tempt him to do something which appears good. Such temptation may be to do something to excess which is good, or something which is innapropriate or against the advice given by our spiritual directors but which is otherwise a good act. As DBT said, it could be something which is good in itself but which takes us away from our primary duties.


#6

It’s interesting you mentioned St. John of the Cross because I was thinking of him as well. :slight_smile: What was on my mind is that I’ve often wondered if there might be a contridiction between Fr. de Caussade’s teaching and that of St. John of the Cross.

On the one hand, Fr. de Caussade teaches we should follow any and all promptings that spur us to love more deeply within the context of the duties of our state in life. Similiar to the thoughts of St. Augustine, his basic idea is “Love and do what you will.” St. John of the Cross,on the other hand, might be interpreted (wrongly, IMO) to the other extreme . . . that we should be very hesitant to act on any inspiration . . . because of the difficulties in discernment.

I think the explanation to this is that Fr. de Caussade and St. John of the Cross are talking about different kinds of inspiration. At the risk of over generalizing, St. John’s treatment of this in the Ascent of Mt. Carmel is typically in the context of infused prayer . . . visions, revelations, locutions and so on. Generally speaking (and of course there are exceptions to the rule), we should be very cautious acting upon these types of inspiration.

What Fr. de Caussade is talking about, on the other hand, are more of the every day types of inspiration . . . “I feel drawn to do such and such activity,” " I ought to talk to this person" and so on. If we learn to listen closely, these types of promptings very often are the work of the Holy Spirit . . . but they aren’t a product of infused prayer per se. And I think this is the type of inspiration the OP had in mind.

Not sure if that makes sense?? But, in my mind at least, it’s a huge distinction.

Dave :slight_smile:


#7

hi Dave, I have struggled a little with Fr. de Caussade in my reading of him. I don’t know why. I cannot fault his message about total trust in God in each moment of each circumstance, but it always left me feeling a little flat. Maybe I felt he was being too passive (I think he has been accused of quietism (?), though wrongly). I think the problem is in me and my lack of humility in handing over my concerns to a loving God.

I think the explanation to this is that Fr. de Caussade and St. John of the Cross are talking about different kinds of inspiration. At the risk of over generalizing, St. John’s treatment of this in the Ascent of Mt. Carmel is typically in the context of infused prayer . . . visions, revelations, locutions and so on. Generally speaking (and of course there are exceptions to the rule), we should be very cautious acting upon these types of inspiration.

I seem to remember him speaking of the Devil’s inspiration consisting of lots of noise and clatter, whereas the Spirit is gentle and persuasive.

What Fr. de Caussade is talking about, on the other hand, are more of the every day types of inspiration . . . “I feel drawn to do such and such activity,” " I ought to talk to this person" and so on. If we learn to listen closely, these types of promptings very often are the work of the Holy Spirit . . . but they aren’t a product of infused prayer per se. And I think this is the type of inspiration the OP had in mind.

This makes sense. I personally need to be more receptive to the Holy Spirit’s everyday promptings. Greater trust in Jesus is needed for this I have been learning lately. I think my failing in the past has been that I did not trust that I would be given the grace to do the things which were being asked of me.

Not sure if that makes sense?? But, in my mind at least, it’s a huge distinction.

Dave :slight_smile:

It makes perfect sense, thanks :slight_smile:


#8

I would say no.

If you have a well informed conscience, sometimes these come from your subconcious, trying to keep you on the path to holiness.

Likewise if you develop the habit of doing spiritual things, likewise the subconcious.

And always there is the possibility of God’s prompting eitherly directly or via another being such as your guardian angel.


#9

I think the point Fr. de Caussade makes in “Abandonment to Divine Providence” is for the type of inspiration we’re talking about here we don’t spend much time discerning “where” the prompt comes from (God, self, devil). The important thing is to recognize whether the inspiration is in conformity with the will of God. His will being the fullfilment of the demands of love - in this present moment - and as determined by the duties of our state in life. When these conditions are met, we should act upon it.

Sometimes these prompts come directly from the Holy Spirit as he emphasizes in the latter part of his book . . . and sometimes they are the voice of our own sub-conscious ever striving toward holiness just as you say. But when it is directed toward the right interpretation of the will of God aren’t they one in the same? After all it is He who continually beckons us, purifies us, increasing the longing in our hearts, and forming our thoughts, words and actions until they are as His. This “co-uniting” is the essence of St. Teresa’s teaching on the union of wills, IMO.

And with time and practice, as the soul tends ever more toward perfection, we don’t need to think much on this at all . . . we just know and respond: intuition. Paraphrasing St. Teresa’s maxim: “The important thing is not to think much, but love much.” What Fr. de Caussade adds to this is the notion of right here, right now . . . in the present moment.

Dave:)


#10

I was thinking about this again this morning and it occurred to me how wonderfully simple all of this is . . . it’s just that we complicate it so much with all our words trying to describe it :slight_smile:

If I could boil down everything I’ve learned about spirituality and direct it to the OP’s original question, it would go something like this:

  1. Pray always, in all times and cirumstances.

  2. “Tune-in” to the world around you . . . the people, events and circumstances of your immediate surroundings. This is where the Holy Spirit meets you and speaks to you . . . if we can learn to listen. And “seeing” what’s around you is the first step in listening. Combined with an habitual prayerful attitude (#1), this is how we are made receptive for His prompts and inspirations. Oh, how we tune-out the world as we go about “our” business :o So many missed opportunities in all our present moments.

  3. Act upon any good impulse that pops into our mind as it occurs.

If we are diligent in #1 and #2 it will be amazing how many times #3 occurs in any given day. Just a few examples that come to mind . . .

  • One moment we might feel drawn to give a word of encouragement to someone who is feeling down.

  • The next moment we might bite our tounge when that particularily troublesome co-worker rags on you again.

  • A moment latter, we praise God for a small act of virute we see in this very same co-worker.

  • Another moment, we stop our day dreaming to silently adore Him in our heart.

  • The next moment, we “change the subject” of the train of thought going on in our mind when we recognize it has the potential to lead us to sin.

  • The next moment we pick of that piece of trash in the parking lot instead of stepping over it.

  • A moment latter we smile and nod at a person passing our way.

  • The next moment we say a silent prayer because someone we haven’t thought of in a long while popped into our mind.

  • On another moment we pitch in and give a helping hand.

  • Another moment, we give up our recreation and down time to spend time with a family member.

We could go on and on forever about these types of prompts and inspirations that come to us in the present moment . . . for they are endless really.

Pray, listen, act.

Dave:)


#11

that is very good advice Dave, thanks. I must admit, I tend to cut out the world around me at work and just get on with the job, busily thinking my own thoughts. Being in tune with my surroundings and acting on impulses is something I will have to try :slight_smile:


#12

Well said in post #10, Dave! :thumbsup:

That’s exactly what we ought to do - live in the now and consecrate our daily lives moment by moment - the spirit of St. Therese’s little way.


#13

Oops! wrong click!


#14

Hi Nick9 and Inlight :slight_smile:

Yes, that’s what we’re talking about here . . . consecrating the present moment. This idea is so basic to everything . . . yet it is so rarely talked about.

Two images come to mind about all of this. The first is St. John’s discussion in Spiritual Canticle about the “Holy Spirit breathing through us.” Note, he didn’t say in us . . . but through us. And I think that’s exactly the way it is. The Holy Spirit blows where He will, using us as His instruments (whether we know it or not) in all the seemingly random events of our lives. And when we are given the grace of “knowing” we become acutely aware of the interconnectedness of it all . . . just as St. John describes. And instinctive cooperation with this action is the union of wills of which the saints speak . . . according to St. Teresa, much more desirable and important than the union of contemplative absorption for which she is so well known.

This, in turn, reminds me of Brother Lawrence’s statement “I no longer believe, I see.” For on some level I can imagine how someone who truly consecrates all their moments like this and “knows” their cooperation is given a mystical insight that is truly extraordinary. It’s as if, for some moments at least, they are given a peak beyond the veil . . .

Dave. :slight_smile:


#15

I would love to have this grace! Instinctive cooperation and union of wills…this has to be the summit :slight_smile:


#16

It is. :slight_smile: And it is a grace open to all. Pray, listen, act.

Dave.:slight_smile:


#17

I was just about to add something similar, that this summit is something that anyone of any ability can reach because God only asks of us what we can manage.


#18

I too have the same question as the original poster, and have read this whole thread without any ‘real’ definitive answer. Is there a way to know? Without question? That it is of Divine origin?
If the answer is to Love another, how can that go wrong?
If the answer is cooperation with our station in life, does this really count?
If the discernment of our prompts are needed… Why?

The Golden Rule gives us a guide-line of what to do, and not do, based on our own being. Love is a highly misdefined word… what does it really mean? Don’t we have to look at Christ to get the full meaning of Love?

Also, if our station in life is to be maintained, wasn’t Christ pulled from his carpenter station in life for his higher calling? Where not the Apostles pulled from the boat to become “Fishers of men”? Was not Saul blinded to change his ways in becoming Paul? Most all the Saints have given up one station in life to pursue the one that is More Charitable in becoming a Saint.

And if discernment is needed to ‘evaluate’ the prompt, how does Faith figure into this? And once thought over, if we go with it, what are the ‘motives’ for doing so? Doesn’t doing it give us a good feeling, or is it Pride? Now we have to discern more!

What are the True answers?


#19

It can be God giving us a hint and sometimes is. However, I have suffered from scrupulosity for years and am in therapy for some depression/anxiety issues. Sometimes I feel like I “should” be doing something and that comes from myself…not God. God is not the author of my deep psychological issues. (should statements can be cognitive distortions…those are the “shoulds” i am referring to here)

That being said, I really do believe that God does give us such inspirations at times. St. Ignatius of Loyola said that at every moment, God is laboring to speak to us. You can probably find his rules for Discernment of Spirits online. He has rules to help discern what to do in consolation/desolation, what is likely from God, etc.


#20

Actually, why do we have to have a clear cut yes or no to these questions?

Talking about our day to day lives and what we choose to do, as long as we follow the guideline of the Gospel principles, 		know our responsibilities,  and set our priorities right, we are fine. 

An idea of saying rosary or going to adoration could be a nudge from God or could be our own thoughts either prompted by divine or by our own reasoning. We don’t have to analyze where this idea comes from. We won’t go wrong by praying a rosary or go to adoration. Of course, if the baby is crying or the aged parent needs our help, we take care of their needs first before going to our room, close the door and say the rosary, or driving to church for Eucharist adoration.

Some key point has been discussed here is to live every moment with the love of God in our hearts.

If in Jesus we live, move and have our being, then we sanctify all the trivial things and we are pleasing to God. Life is made of all trivial things. Yet, in this seemingly routine life, God gives us various opportunities to make good choices. Like Dave listed earlier – picking up a trash in the parking lot, pray for an annoying co-worker, they all could be significant.

We can smile at a person who looks sad, we can introduce ourselves to the person sit next to us at Mass, we can compliment someone’s appearance and make the day for her, we can walk a person to the place he wants to find, instead just pointing to him the directions. The list can go on and on, the key point is to set our priorities right and do our best each moment.

In order to consecrate our daily lives like this, we have to develop and keep a living relationship with God. That’s why the practice of the presence of God is so important.

Each of us has to consciously seek after God and develop a more matured spiritual life.


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