The first thing in understanding how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit or the leading of God is in knowing that humans are spirit beings. God created man in His image and likeness (Gen.1:26). From Scripture we understand that God is a spirit (John 4:24). He has no physical form. Neither is He an emotional force or a giant mind. God is a spirit being and man was created after the same likeness.
Spiritual communication is different from how we interact physically (by touch, handshakes or a hug), or by emotions (feelings of love, happiness, peace, anger etc) and intellectually (reason and logic). The spiritual dimension to things is hard to explain with words. If you will permit me, the closest I can get in describing the communication of the spirit is to use the words “instinct”, “gut feeling”, “deep within your heart” etc. Paul in his writing to the Romans, describing how we know we are a part of God’s family says “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom.8:16). He describes it as a witness within our own spirit. A witness as described by the- free-dictionary-(d0t)-com is “An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony”.
It is through this witness of the heart (or spirit) that we interact in the realm of the spirit, and this is how the Holy Spirit primarily leads us. The challenge then becomes how does one differentiate between the leading of God through the heart and one’s own thoughts or emotions. The leading of the heart which many call the “gut feeling” is the best assurance we have in making decisions. It is to be trusted beyond the fact at hand or the feelings of one’s emotions. However a person must be trained and sensitive enough to know the difference between the prompting of the spirit and the voice of reason and emotions.
Every Christian must continuously work at training the human spirit so they can learn to trust the prompting of their heart as a sure guide in every situation. In order to keep the lines of communication pure and clear, so you can more precisely follow the leading of God, do the following:
1. Believe that God is willing to lead and direct you and He will.
Scriptures reveals this truth to us. Prov.3:5, Ps.32:8, Isa.30:21. He is the shepherd of our souls (1 Pet.2:25), and like every good shepherd, He desires to lead us and guide us and protect us. Meditating on the twenty-third Psalm gives a picture of His character as a shepherd.
2. Pray a lot (in the spirit and in understanding).
As you and I know, prayer is our direct access to God. Prov.3:6 says, “acknowledge Him in ALL your ways and He will direct your path”. Prov.16:3 says, “commit your plans to God and they will succeed”. The Amplified Bible gives us insight to how this success happens, it says, “He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will”. When we pray and acknowledge God in our every endeavor, and every step of the way God supernaturally causes us to be agreeable with Him.
You will find that you have stronger promptings to make certain decision, make certain phone calls, prepare a certain way. Most times these actions cannot be explained, but you find yourself doing them because deep within you, you will feel they are the right things to do at that particular moment.
Through prayer, God also orders our footsteps. These are situations in which things happen that inherently force us to make certain decisions. These decisions appear to be of our own reason and volition, however when we look back, we realize that they have the fingerprints of God all over them.
3. Spend time reading/meditating/studying the Word of God.
Because the Word of God is God’s mind, His will, His desires, as you read the Word of God and meditate in it, you can better discern the divide between your own thoughts/emotions/reasons, versus God.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb.4:12)
It is like spending time with a person long enough, say a spouse, you will be able to distinguish your spouses voice in a crowd of a hundred people because you have spent enough time with them. Or say you overhead some people describing the actions of a certain person, or the speech of a person, you can easily identify if that was your spouse they were talking about because you know how your spouse thinks and talks in various situations. As you spend time in God’s Word, you become more familiar with how God “speaks”, “thinks”, and “sounds”.
The leading of God is not as dramatic as most people think it to be; doing these three things consciously will help a great deal in training you to hear from God. Then when you have those gut feelings/instincts/perceptions/discernment, if you have done these, you can trust them to be God because your lines of communication are clear. In addition to this, do all you know to do in ever circumstance, and trust that God is always responsible for ordering your steps (Ps.119:133).