How can I weigh whether the impression or insight that came to me in prayer is really an instance of God speaking?
Here are four clues that lend substance to the hope that God has spoken:
Truth is God’s identity. “I am the truth,” said Jesus, as part of a well-known quote at John 14:6.
In science, one of the signs that a theory is true is that it answers questions that weren’t even asked as part of the search. Newton’s theory of gravity explained not only a falling apple, but also the movements of planets and the pattern of tides—all previously assumed to be separate and unrelated to one another.
Truth has this characteristic. An insight from God is so true that it is surprisingly revealing. It is so true that the insight jumps the banks of the problem I have laid before God, with the overflow also cleansing other matters in my heart that I hadn’t even expected him to address.
Love is also God’s identity. “God is love,” says I John 4:8.
If God is leading me, then the way I am led should be clearly, powerfully, and even surprisingly the loving way. The fruit of the Spirit of God begins with love, says Galatians 5:22, so any understanding that truly manifests God can only increase my capacity to be loving.
Meanwhile, the fruits of my own ego and my weariness include impatience, expediency, brusqueness, and recklessness. The presence of any of these things suggests the source of the leading I am hearing is not God, but instead just some desire of mine wanting to dress up as God and claim his authority.
Both of the preceding points used the word “surprisingly.” God is surprising. As the creator, he is creative.
His originality provides an important contrast with the darkness that occupies the world and our souls, because the darkness does not create anything new. It merely claims, covets, or corrupts what has already been made. By tarnishing what used to be new, the darkness makes things old.
Meanwhile, a hallmark of the light of God’s will is the way it makes new things appear, including new possibilities, new joys, new friends, and—perhaps more importantly—previously “old” things made new again because God has washed them clean.
Is newness happening for you? Is renewal?
Complexity is what humans generate. It’s what we produce by grasping too much at once, and it’s what we accept or hide behind instead of seeking or facing the truth. Meanwhile, the way of God is straightforward, testable, and plain.
Imagine the way of God as water. Jesus offered this analogy multiple times. (See John 4:14 and John 7:38, for example.) One characteristic of water is that it always finds and flows through the simplest path available.
Is the answer you have found in prayer surprisingly simple and easy to describe to other people?