The importance of consulting the Lord in the moments of our life. What does it mean to consult the Lord and what are the different ways to do it? Practical and theoretical guide to improve our spiritual life by making the Lord the main participant of our decisions.
2. Consult the Lord through prayer and angelic intervention
3. Consult the Lord through His Word
4. Consult the Lord through the counsel of wise men
5. Consult the Lord through prophetic revelations
6. Other forms & issues
6.1 The question of lots
6.2 The question of special signs
6.3 The question of dreams
What does it mean to “consult the Lord”?
Consulting the Lord means asking God for wisdom about a specific matter to resolve it in the most convenient and God pleasing way. It also means asking for divine guidance for the current time of our lives, regardless of whether we are going through some difficulty or not.
Consulting the Lord is not only good when we have doubts about how to resolve a situation, but also in those matters on which we consider ourselves experts, for wisdom belongs to God alone, and our knowledge is always limited, subject to error and unaware of future events. Therefore it is good not to rely solely on our senses and submit many decisions to God’s guidance, even if we are sure of how to proceed in a given situation. In the next section we will see some examples in which the lack of consulting the Lord resulted in a loss, or in falling into the enemy’s deception for having trusted in one’s own skills.
“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”; your face, Lord, do I seek!
Lord, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies. (Psalms 27:8.11)
Discernment and Prudence
If we define “discernment” as the knowledge of the holy will of God, then the act of consulting the Lord is that through which we seek to obtain that discernment on a particular matter. Natural operations to discernment are the separation or distinction of the good and the bad, of the good and the evil and the recognition of the spirits that are behind every thing, of its spiritual reality that is not visible to the eyes of the world. By spirits we mean a set of benign or malignant influences that act on the will of the individual. It is necessary for us to be able to “see” these spirits when they appear in our lives. The word “blindness” is used often to denote ignorance and error, especially our lack of discernment regarding spiritual things (Is. 42:18-20; Mt. 15:4; 2Co. 4:4).
This distinction or discernment of spirits can be done in two ways, a fast one, fueled by the impulsive fire of the Holy Spirit through the Gift of Counsel and a slower one, driven by the virtue of Prudence, which requires careful consideration of things. Fr. Antonio Royo Marín explains very well the difference between each other:
“Supernatural prudence judges rightly what must be done at a given time, guided by the lights of reason illuminated by faith. But the gift of Counsel quickly intuits what must be done under the instinct and motion of the Holy Spirit, that is, for entirely divine reasons, which are often ignored by the very soul that performs the act. This is why the mode of action is discursive in the virtue of prudence, while in the gift [of counsel] it is intuitive, divine or superhuman.” (Antonio Royo Marín, “Espíritu Santo, el Gran Desconocido”)
I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence, and useful knowledge I have. (Proverbs 8:12)
The gift of Counsel is essential especially in certain sudden, unforeseen cases that require an ultra-rapid action in which, if one delays a little, the possibility of responding successfully to them would be lost due to a change in the base situation. On the other hand, the reflexive use of the virtue of prudence is more apt to solve situations that require a somewhat slower and more laborious work. In this article we will deal with the latter case, in which the faithful Christian has some time to carry out an act of consultation and obtain a response from the Lord.
However, we also find it convenient to point out that the angelic intervention that we will study below, is also extra fast and usually anticipates certain events that we encounter, as a pre-warning even if we have not made any consultation, and this makes it much easier to be attentive then to the ultra-fast action of the gift of Counsel, thus giving us greater tools to act well when an issue arises that requires – or for which it would be very good – a rapid action.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in #547 lists three moments of the virtue of prudence, establishing that the first moment is that of consultation:
“The lay faithful should act according to the dictates of prudence, the virtue that makes it possible to discern the true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means for achieving it. Thanks to this virtue, moral principles are applied correctly to particular cases. We can identify three distinct moments as prudence is exercised to clarify and evaluate situations, to inspire decisions and to prompt action. The first moment is seen in the reflection and consultation by which the question is studied and the necessary opinions sought. The second moment is that of evaluation, as the reality is analyzed and judged in the light of God’s plan. The third moment, that of decision, is based on the preceding steps and makes it possible to choose between the different actions that may be taken.”
And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10)
Why is it important to consult the Lord?
We should seek the Lord for light and guidance in times of doubt, confusion, and darkness. No state is as difficult as when one feels his mind agitated, restless like a boat in the midst of stormy tides, without compass or direction. It happens in such a state, that a dangerous impatience is aroused, because we can become vulnerable to the spiritual attacks of deceivers: sorcerers, magicians, fortune tellers, idolaters and most of all worldly people who, separated from God, give vain advice which we may be tempted to follow in the midst of the storms of our life.
Following false seductive advice will make us turn away from God, because idolatrous and blasphemous spirits hide behind them. We must be aware that sometimes we will experience doubt and anxiety, and who should we look for in those moments, if not the Father of lights who dispels all darkness and provides the lights to our soul?
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who have observed his law; Seek justice, seek humility; Perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:3)
Sometimes we are overly confident in ourselves and do not turn to the Lord, believing that we can by ourselves.
These are some biblical examples in which we can see how working by ourselves, leaving God out of the decisions, we work and tire in vain, while by incorporating God in our decisions, the Spirit works wonders exceeding our expectations:
• Peter and the fishermen spend all night working, but they catch nothing. When Jesus tells Peter to sail to deep sea and cast down the nets, they catch so many fish that they are filled with fear. (Lk. 5:1-11)
• Peter was overconfident in his skills as an expert in steering the boat, but a heavy storm arose and he was unable to reach safe harbor in time, and the boat became in serious danger of sinking. It is only then that they turn to Jesus, who was asleep, and ask him to save them. Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea and calm ensues. (Mt. 8:23-27)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely;
In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Other biblical examples explicitly highlight the consequences of acting without consulting the Lord or ignoring His direction:
• In the book of Joshua, chapter 9, it is told of a deception from the Gibeonites, who thus succeeded in committing the Israelites to a covenant, as they trusted in what their senses saw, and without having consulted the Lord. They walked by sight, and not by faith. Israel’s sin was the failure to seek the Lord’s guidance in this matter. After discovering the deception, they had to honor the covenant to which they had committed themselves.
• The book of 2 Chronicles tells how the kings of Israel and Judah decided to unite in battle against a city. At the suggestion of the king of Israel, they consult God through the prophet Micah, who warns that the result of going into battle would be ruin. They proceed anyway without heeding his word. The king of Israel is wounded in the battle and dies. (2 Chron. 18)
• In the same book the great achievements and skills of King Josiah are recounted, however, in an act of carelessness, he acted without consulting the Lord when the king of Egypt, Neco, was passing northward and Josiah recklessly decided to attack him. He was wounded by an arrow and died causing great lamentation among the people. (2 Chron. 34-35)
Too often we act without asking God’s advice and this is not good. We are called to hope on the Lord before making our decisions, as they may become irrevocable or to our detriment.
Ah! Rebellious children, oracle of the Lord, who carry out a plan that is not mine, who make an alliance I did not inspire, thus adding sin upon sin;
They go down to Egypt, without asking my counsel, To seek strength in Pharaoh’s protection and take refuge in Egypt’s shadow. (Isaiah 30:1-2)
What are the requirements to consult the Lord?
To consult the Lord it is necessary to be willing to conversion. To have an interior disposition of humility, of recognition of our faults, detachment from sin and gratitude for the great benefits received from God.
On one occasion, the elders of Israel wanted to consult the Lord without removing the idolatries they carried within their hearts, the Lord said that He refused to answer to them, calling them to conversion and to turn away from their idols (Ezek. 14:1-8). The elders wanted to consult the Lord, but their hearts were far from Him. Idols prevent us from receiving God’s answers to our questions. “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt. 6:21).
As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, so turn now ten times the more to seek him. (Baruc 4:28)
When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.
When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts; Let them turn to the Lord to find mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. (Isaiah 55:6-7)
God through Scripture constantly calls us to “Seek his face“. To seek the face or countenance of someone is to seek to enter into his presence or to have a favorable audience with him; to seek God’s face implies a movement toward conversion, a becoming oneself more in accord with God’s will. In this regard one can “seek” the face of God by praying with a repentant heart in his presence.
Seek out the Lord and his might; constantly seek his face. (Psalms 105:4)
Consult the Lord through prayer and angelic intervention
• During the day be attentive to physiological signs and think about whether they might be connected to a warning, appeal or objection to some task that you are about to perform.
• When you want to consult the Lord about something, make the sign of the cross and in mental prayer express your concern, it is better if you have some time to wait for a response. If this is not the case, propose an action according to your judgment (if you think it is a good option) and ask the Lord if he has any objection to it. Wait 15 seconds and if you don’t notice any negative sign proceed as planned. If the doubt persists, you can consult through the Word of God (see method in the next section).
• It is practical to do the moment before leaving home, to put our activities in God’s hands.
The first and easiest way to «consult God» is through a prayer seeking divine guidance.
Prayer “is the living relationship of the children of God with their infinitely good Father, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2565)*. Inseparable from the Christian life (CCC 2745), it allows us to discern God’s will and obtain the perseverance to fulfill it (CCC 2826). It is a gift of grace, it supposes an effort, it is a spiritual combat against ourselves (CCC 2725). It helps keeping alive that ‘remembrance of God’ that prevents us from forgetting Him (CCC 2697).
*CCC: Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In prayer we raise our souls to God and ask him for good things. Humility is the basis of prayer (Cf. CCC 2559).
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt 7:7-8)
As a result we could experience a direct intuition of God’s answer to our consult, which as St. Paul says, is an “illumination of the eyes of the heart” (Eph. 1:18) with which we will find the light to resolve the situation, or otherwise in an indirect way, He could answer us through the lips of someone we come across, for which we will have to be attentive to every word we hear.
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. (Mt 16:17)
Every person receives from God a guardian angel. It is good and sensible to pray to one’s guardian angel for oneself and for others. Angels can also make themselves noticeable in the life of a Christian, for example, as bearers of a message or as helpful guides. Our faith has nothing to do with the false angels of esotericism.
Angels protect every human being (Cf. CCC 352), since:
“From infancy (cf Mt 18:10) to death (cf Lk 16:22), human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession (cf Pss 34:8; 91:10-13; Job 33:23-24; Zac 1,12; Tob 12:12) “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (St. Basil, Eunomium 3, 1). Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God. (CCC 336)
The totality of ways in which angels can interact with men is unknown, but some of them are known by Tradition, the Holy Scriptures and divine revelations.
One of the ways in which their help can be manifested is through physiological reactions in our body, which in some cases move us to hurry, others to stop or change a path, and in others they try to move us to reflect or warn us before doing something. At other times, thoughts may suddenly arise that move us to do something good or turn away from something sinful. Finally, their actions could even extend into some dreams (exceptionally), as happened to the Wise men from the East (Mt 2:12) and to St. Joseph, warning him to flee to Egypt taking the child and His Mother because Herod wanted to kill Him (Mt 2:13).
It is easy to see then, how we can often avoid dangers and remain safe with their help, mostly from sinful occasions, preserving our souls and spiritual health, not excluding the risks to our body and our physical health.
It is necessary to voluntarily request the assistance of the angels, since they do not violate our free will, as well as not to expect to count on their help if we devote ourselves to a sinful life away from God.
A tender way of entrusting ourselves to their help is to make the sign of the cross and say by mental prayer, where one will go before leaving our home, hoping for our guardian angel, to protect and warn us from the dangers we could meet. This can be taught to children so that they get accustomed to request their help and have a significant advantage during their lives.
“For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Pss 91:11-12)
Consult the Lord through His Word
• Having a New Testament (the material book, not digital format) at your disposal (The New Testament from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew to Revelations, or if you do not have one, use a complete Bible but it is recommended to use the New Testament if you are not used to it) make the sign of the cross and in mental prayer express your concern asking the Lord to give you wisdom through His Word in regard to the matter you want to consult. Open the New Testament to a page chosen at random and read where your gaze landed (if the New Testament is divided into sections titled by the editor, as it is usual, read the entire title to where it ends). Read slowly the verses and meditate on them for an appropriate time, discerning what the Lord is telling you through his Word.
• You can also “ask for a Word” from the Lord with the same method, to help guide you through the week, month or year. In this case, it is convenient to write it down and meditate on it frequently.
The scene that is recounted in the Acts of the Martyrs, regarding Saint Euplius, is revealing: Having been brought before the judge Calvisian because he had been found with the Gospels at a time when it was forbidden due to persecution, When questioned, he answered the judge:
—”Yes, they found me with them.”
Calvisian ordered, —”Read them.”
Euplius, opening the book, began to read: —”Blessed are those who are persecuted…”
(Taken from “El Silabario del Cristiano” by Msgr. Olgiati)
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Being the Bible a work inspired by the Holy Spirit, which contains the Word of God revealed to men, it follows that in it we find the highest expression of the gift of Counsel, and therefore it is useful and suitable for obtaining discernment about any question. «It is necessary, in particular – wrote John Paul II in the Novo millennio ineunte – that listening to the Word becomes a vital encounter, in the ancient and always valid tradition of lectio divina, which makes it possible to find in the Biblical text the living word that challenges, guides and shapes existence».
It is said in relation to St. Francis of Assisi, in the “Second Life of St. Francis” [*1], how the saint used the method of consulting the Gospel at random to help a man named Bernard find discernment:
Bernard, a citizen of Assisi, who later became a son of perfection, wishing to follow the servant of God in total contempt of the world, humbly begged him for his advice. He told his case: “Father, if one, after having enjoyed the goods of some lord for a long time, no longer wished to keep them, what should he do with them in order to act in the most perfect way?” The man of God replied, “He should return them all to the lord, from whom he received them.” Bernard said: “I know that what I possess has been given to me by God, and if you advise me to do so, I am ready to give it all back to him.” The saint replied: “If you want to prove with facts what you say, as soon as it is daylight, let us enter the church and take the book of the Gospel and ask Christ for advice.
When morning came, they entered the church and, after having prayed devoutly, opened the book of the Gospel, willing to carry out the first advice offered to them. They opened the book, and Christ manifested his advice in these words: If you want to be perfect, go, sell everything you own and give it to the poor (Mt 19,21). They repeat the gesture, and the reading appears: Take nothing for the journey (Lk 9,3). Again a third time, and they read: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself (Lk 9,23). Without delay complied with everything to the letter, without missing a beat. Many others, in a short time, freed themselves from the mordacious cares of the world and, under the guidance of Francis, returned to the infinite good in the true homeland. But it would take too long to say how each one achieved the prize of the divine call.
Continuing with the examples we will see the case of St. Augustine. He tells in his book Confessions [*2], that while he was under a tree, he heard the words of some children from the neighboring house who repeatedly chanted “Tolle lege, Tolle lege“, (take and read).
Thinking if there was some child’s game that justified listening to those words, Saint Augustine concluded that it was not so and in his mind he inquired if it was not a sign, a divine call to go look for the Letters of Saint Paul to the Romans that he kept inside his house. He entered, opened the book at random and read there the first thing that came to his sight [*2] reading these verses: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Rom. 13,13-14). The saint wrote: “In an instant – as soon as I had finished reading the sentence – all the darkness of my doubts dissipated, as if a light of certainty had taken over my heart“. This incident was essential for Saint Augustine, feeling that it was God himself who addressed these words to him in an intimate and personal relationship.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (Jn 1:9)
On repeated occasions it is read in the writings of María Valtorta, that she sometimes took the Bible and opening it at random, she read where her eyes landed [*3]. She even on more than one occasion receives instructions to proceed in this way at the request of her Guardian Angel or of Jesus. She herself tells in her Notebooks, that she used to have a dynamic in which she opened the Bible at random and Jesus gave her a teaching about the reading that was chosen.
The method of consultation using the Bible has traditionally received criticism, some consider it as a divinatory act, even qualifying it with the term “bibliomancy“. Having personally considered this risk, and being influenced by similar criticisms, I used to associate it with a superstitious practice and therefore avoided it.
When some years ago I joined a Catholic prayer group within the Movement of the Word of God, I saw to my surprise that this method of consultation was used in each and every one of the meetings, and that they referred to it simply by the expression “Asking for a Word“, which was then meditated by the whole group, sharing among us what it suggested to each one. It was then that I assimilated and understood how magnificent the method was, the enormous spiritual fruits obtained through it and how God responded to our spiritual concerns with surprising precision guiding us with His Word in all that we needed to improve as a group.
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
While it is true that one should not approach the Word of God for material gain, like worldly men would read a horoscope, if it is done with due respect and knowledge of whom we are addressing, it is a totally valid method to consult the Lord and is highly recommended during all seasons of our life. It is also a very apt method to use as part of group spiritual exercises, allowing the Lord to give us the appropriate Word instead of using words pre-selected by those who coordinate the groups.
Unlike the previous method that could be used on simpler, more succinct questions, consulting God in His Word requires more thought on our part, which makes it ideal for deeper or more complex questions. When we consult the Lord we will do it for ourselves and not in relation to another person, since we will not be able to make discernment for another. It is also important not to use digital means to get a random reading, as might be done with some phone applications. The traditional analog way (opening a material book) should be used.
In the contemplation of the Word we have a most sweet model, Mary, who kept all things, pondering them in her heart (Cf. Lk 2:19).
Desire therefore my words; long for them and you will be instructed.
Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. (Wisdom 6:11-12)
[*1] Celano, Vita Seconda, X, 15
[*2] S. Agostino, Confessioni, 8, 12.
[*3] Maria Valtorta. We quote some of the references in which M. Valtorta explicitly mentions this method in her Notebooks:
• Notebooks of 1943 > writings dated: November 3 and 4, September 16 and October 1st.
• Notebooks of 1944 > November 16.
• Notebooks of 1945 to 1950 > writings dated: April 10, 1945; Jan. 15, 1946 at 5,30; Tuesday March 12, 1946.
Consult the Lord through the counsel of wise men
• We must identify a wise “man of God” who has a virtuous life and demonstrates knowledge in the Holy Scriptures (The ordained priest would qualify in this regard). He may be asked for spiritual guidance or direction regarding a certain matter.
To distrust of oneself and trust in the counsel of a wise and prudent person is a repeated rule in the books of wisdom (Cf. Prov. 12:15; Prov. 3:10-16; Prov. 27:9; Sir. 9:14; Sir. 32:19). The counsel does not belong to man, but to God from whom it ultimately proceeds. (Cf. Prov. 8:14).
Counseling presupposes a sapiential knowledge in the one who gives advice. In other words, it is advisable to avoid giving bad advice which, when followed, could lead to mistakes that would be difficult to repair. Naturally, he who possesses a virtuous life appears to be someone trustworthy to give advice.
“Seek counsel from every wise person, and do not think lightly of any useful advice.
At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper. For no other nation possesses good counsel, but it is the Lord who gives all good things. Whomever the Lord chooses to raise is raised; and whomever the Lord chooses to cast down is cast down to the recesses of Hades.” (Tob. 4:18-19)
One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of counsel. Therefore, whoever intends to give good advice must, first of all, be in tune with God, since it is not a matter of giving vain opinions, but of giving good advice to those in need of guidance.
Among the ancient authors, these persons were called «spiritual fathers», not necessarily priests, and «spiritual mothers». Endowed with simplicity and humility, ready to listen and guide others within the framework of faith, the “spiritual father” becomes capable of registering the “movements of the soul”; of reading the heart of his “spiritual child” and of guiding him in that invisible struggle against evil spirits.
Plans fail when there is no counsel, but they succeed when advisers are many. (Proverbs 15:22)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in # 2690 states:
“The Holy Spirit gives to certain of the faithful the gifts of wisdom, faith and discernment for the sake of this common good which is prayer (spiritual direction). Men and women so endowed are true servants of the living tradition of prayer.
According to St. John of the Cross, the person wishing to advance toward perfection should “take care into whose hands he entrusts himself, for as the master is, so will the disciple be, and as the father is so will be the son.” and further: “In addition to being learned and discreet a director should be experienced…. If the spiritual director has no experience of the spiritual life, he will be incapable of leading into it the souls whom God is calling to it, and he will not even understand them.”
Counsel is also necessary for those who are already advanced in the way of faith, as emerges from this reading from the book of Acts:
“Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.”
Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2)
Consult the Lord through prophetic revelations
• In relation to certain issues that exceed the personal sphere and affect the whole of society, it is very important to seek discernment in prophetic revelations. To do so, we must look for prophetic messages (preferably starting with the oldest ones first) looking to see if the issues of concern were addressed. For instance, in relation to global vaccination campaigns; movements towards a unique world currency; a unique religion, etc., few Christians are aware that multiple prophetic revelations have been given addresing these issues with great anticipation and containing instructions on how to act and what to expect.
In relation to certain issues that exceed the personal sphere, it may be helpful to seek discernment in prophetic revelations, since God does nothing without first warning his servants, the prophets (Amos 3:7). This will allow us to walk on safe paths in times of darkness and uncertainty:
“(…) one must believe in them [prophets], who manifest what is good to know so as to proceed along sure paths, provided they do not say things incompatible with Faith and the Great Revelation.” (María Valtorta, Notebooks 1945-1950, September to November of 1950)
The knowledge that God has of the future acquires special importance, which is reflected in the custom of consulting God (Gen 25:22; Ex 18:15; 1 Sam 9:9). God himself affirms his knowledge of future events for being God (cf. Is 45:21; 46:9.10; 41:23). The prophetic word is able to inquire into the future in relation to the lordship that God has over the future.
And he said to them: Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! (Luke 24:25)
We have written an article on false prophets that we recommend to make discernment easier, you can read it here. For the sake of brevity we will give some basic rules of discernment that must be fulfilled in every authentic prophet:
1- The prophet must recognize Jesus Christ as God and Lord.
2- The prophetic messages must call to conversion and to turn away from sin.
3- They must not convert the grace of God into licentiousness, for instance by not recognizing the duty to keep the commandments, or in some way relaxing or derogating that which is certain not to change over time.
We have noticed again and again that many times authentic prophets are in some places rejected as false. This happens sometimes because those who accuse belong to an enemy religion (expressed it in a polite way that remains truthful, it is outrageous and sad to speak of infiltrators), and do not want people to be informed of what God warns through his prophet, and in others by simple ignorance or lack of gifts of discernment (the ability to recognize true prophets is a gift that was not given to all Christians and many go as blind leading other blind). In general it is safe to say that it is not appropriate or prudent to accuse a supposed prophet of being a false prophet if he or she complies with the three basic rules mentioned above and in any case it requires great care in its analysis so as not to sin against the Holy Spirit (by affirming for instance that they come from the Devil when in reality they come from God).
Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. (1Thess. 5:20-21)
Other forms & issues
The question of lots
Historical Use in the Old Testament
The expression «to consult God» sometimes indicated a search for divine guidance in connection with the Urim and Thummim when the high priest sought to discover God’s will by throwing the sacred stones (Num 27:21). It is not clear exactly what this involved, but we assume that the two stones were flattened in shape with inscriptions on both sides, and the answers would be “yes” or “no” depending on whether the stones fell on one side or the other. The results could then be Yes, No and also Undefined (in the case there was no uniformity in the result).
In this breastpiece of decision you shall put the Urim and Thummim, that they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus he shall always bear the decisions for the Israelites over his heart in the presence of the Lord. (Exodus 28:30)
We know that the Urim and Thummim (the lights and perfections, or light and truth) was a kind of oracle manipulated by the high priest to know the divine will, and that it also came to be used as a kind of divine test to discover the guilt or innocence of suspected persons. It was placed in or on top of the breastplate of the high priest, Lev 8:8; and it is probable that the high priest had it on whenever he wore the ephod, since it was worn outside the latter, and whenever the high priest asked God’s direction. There being two possible answers, only one question at a time would be considered (see I Samuel, 14:41-42; ibid 23:6-12). Many scholars maintain that in most verses where the expression “consult the Lord” or its equivalents appear, the Urim and Thummim were used (see Judges 1:1-2; ibid 20:27-28; I Samuel 10:19-22; II Samuel 2:1, etc.).
God ordered in several occasions to resort to the lots, for instance when He ordered it for the partition of Canaan among the twelve tribes (Num 26:56; Jos 14:2; Jos 18:6). The portions of land of the twelve tribes were allocated in this way and therefore the portion corresponding to each of them was called “the lot of their inheritance”. It was also the method chosen by God to determine the order of service of the priests (Lev 16:8; 1Chr 24:5; 1Chr 25:8).
Lots were often cast by the Jews, as well as by other ancient nations. The most common way of casting lots was to use pebbles. One or more of them were marked, and then shaken together in one of the folds of a garment, in an urn, or in a helmet, before proceeding to the drawing of lots.
Into the bag the lot is cast, but from the Lord comes every decision. (Proverbs 16:33)
In the New Testament
The only instance in the New Testament of anything reminiscent of the use of sacred lot as a means of discovering the divine will appears in the Book of Acts in connection with the election of the apostle Matthias. The apostles cast lots as to whether Joseph (nicknamed “the Just”) should succeed Judas Iscariot, or whether it should be Matthias (Acts 1:15-26).
After the apostles received the Holy Spirit, there was no further record of this method of consultation.
We consider that it is a method that could become acceptable in certain cases, in relation to the existence of multiple equally good options, having discarded the bad ones, and after verifying that there is no other way more suitable or appropriate to the case.
The lots can be used to consult randomly (in an analogical way) readings of piety for the purpose of spiritual exercises, especially those in which written works are used that are separated in multiple volumes, and therefore difficult to consult by opening a book in one of its pages at random.
This is what we have done for instance with the Valtortian Spiritual Exercises, to consult randomly (and in an analogical way) a text of the works, which are separated in several books or volumes.
As for how to do it, we could give a simple example as follows: Pieces of paper of equal size are cut, one for each of the volumes of the work or works to be consulted, each paper is given an inscription to know which volume it represents, then they are placed in a bag and someone extracts one of the papers, once chosen, it is consulted at random as it would normally be done by opening the volume by one of its pages. In some cases, dice may be used for convenience. A great example of the use of lots in this regard is explained in the Valtortian Spiritual Exercises.
The question of special signs
Many times we Christians ask God for signs about a decision or choice that we must make. And surely in many cases, when the faithful live their faith deeply, the signs do appear in one way or another if one is attentive. Where God’s blessing is present, all kinds of signs and wonders occur:
God added his testimony by signs, wonders, various acts of power, and distribution of the gifts of the holy Spirit according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4)
However, we consider that asking for signs is not an ideal method to consult the Lord, and that it can lend itself to committing the sin of tempting the Lord by asking for signs that do not correspond according to the order of things. Let us remember that the Pharisees and scribes annoyed Jesus by asking for extraordinary signs practically under threat:
The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore. (Mark 8:11-13)
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply: An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. (Matthew 12:38-39)
We should never ask for a sign as an excuse to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the history of the People of God there have been several special signs, but always related to events of great historical and mystical relevance. We will see some examples as illustration:
• The dry shoot, miraculously blossomed in winter:
Related to the prophecy of Isaiah, which states:
“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11:1)
St. Paul associates this prophecy of Isaiah with the person of Jesus, according to whom the Messiah would come from Jesse, father of David:
And again Isaiah says: “The root of Jesse shall come, raised up to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:12)
In revelations to Maria Valtorta it is indicated that when Mary was a consecrated virgin in the Temple, and had come of age, according to custom she was to marry a man of her lineage, therefore of the house of David. The High Priest used this prophecy to consult the Lord by means of a special sign as to who should marry the Virgin Mary.
Knowing the revelation of Isaiah, the High Priest summoned all the unmarried men descendants from David, asking them to present themselves at the Temple with a dry branch on which they were to inscribe their name. St. Joseph was one of those summoned who attended the meeting, and he brought with him an almond branch from the field that belonged to Mary’s family, since Joseph had known his father Joachim as a child. Joseph’s branch miraculously blossomed in winter, giving God’s sign as to who was favored to marry with Mary (St. Joseph is depicted in tradition as holding a blossoming almond branch in his hand).
• The astounding wonders performed by Moses (Exodus ch. 4)
• The dream of the king discovered and interpreted by Daniel (Daniel ch. 2).
• The star that mysteriously guided the wise men from the East to the birth of Jesus Christ (Mt. 2:2).
• The descent of the dove upon Jesus and the voice from Heaven heard as Jesus was being baptized (Lk 3:21).
The question of dreams
In the first book of Samuel (1 Sam. 28:6) it seems to be hinted that dreams could be one of the ways of consulting the Lord:
He consulted the Lord; but the Lord gave no answer, neither in dreams nor by Urim nor through prophets. (I Samuel 28:6)
But we understand that based on the multiple cases that are mentioned in the Bible we can rule out that it may be a method of consultation itself, but that exceptionally dreams are used by God as a way to communicate unilaterally in urgent situations, so it seems to arise from the following cases:
• God appeared in a dream to Abimelech and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman you have taken, for she has a husband” (Gen. 20:3).
• God appeared in a dream to Laban and said to him, “Take care not to say anything to Jacob” (Gen. 31:24).
• The Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph so that he would not turn away from Mary (Matthew 1:20).
• The magi from the east are warned in a dream to return to their land without going back to Herod’s palace (Matthew 2:12).
• The Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and asked him to flee to Egypt with the child and his mother because Herod wanted to kill him (Matthew 2:13).
• In a dream Joseph is told of Herod’s death, and in another dream he is warned not to go to Judea (Matthew 2:19-22).
• The wife of Pontius Pilate, tells him not to intervene in the matter of Jesus for she suffered much in a dream because of him (Matthew 27:19).
As one can appreciate, they would not qualify as forms of consultation, but would be (on exceptional occasions) unilateral warnings or communications in which angels intervene as part of their regular operations in their assistance to men.
Empty and false are the hopes of the senseless, and dreams give wings to fools.
Like one grasping at shadows or chasing the wind, so anyone who believes in dreams.
What is seen in dreams is a reflection, the likeness of a face looking at itself.
How can the unclean produce what is clean? How can the false produce what is true?
Divination, omens, and dreams are unreal; what you already expect, the mind fantasizes.
Unless they are specially sent by the Most High, do not fix your heart on them.
For dreams have led many astray, and those who put their hope in them have perished. (Sirach 34:1-7)
For the idols have spoken nonsense, the diviners have seen false visions; Deceitful dreams they have told, empty comfort they have offered. This is why they wandered like sheep, wretched, for they have no shepherd. (Zechariah 10:2)
In the last days, the Holy Spirit will work in a special way, enlightening the understanding of many. Perhaps because of the impossibility of accessing truthful information through the official channels of diffusion if these were to become at the service of the antichrist?
It shall come to pass I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 3:1)
It will come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)