I think that many times in the past I prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit — but without a clear expectation in my mind that I would have it in the course of the day.
But, I have learned to expect the Spirit’s guidance — if, indeed, I have prayed for it.
The great preacher F. B. Meyer expresses it well:
Expect the Holy Ghost to work in, with and for you. When a man is right with God, God will freely use him. There will rise up within him impulses and inspirations, strong strivings, strange resolves. These must be tested by Scripture and prayer, and if evidently of God they must be obeyed. But there is this perennial source of comfort: God’s commands are enablings. He will never give us a work to do without showing exactly how and when to do it, and He will give the precise strength and wisdom we need. Do not dread to enter this life because you fear that God will ask you to do something you cannot do. He will never do that. If He lays aught on your heart, He will do so uninvited; as you pray about it the impression will continue to grow, so that presently, as you look up to know what He wills you to say or do, the way will suddenly open, and you will probably have said the word or done the deed almost unconsciously. Rely on the Holy Ghost to go before you to make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth. Do not bring the legal spirit of ‘must’ into God’s free service. ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.’ Let your life be as effortless as theirs, because your faith shall constantly hand over all difficulties and responsibilities to your ever-present Lord. There is no effort to the branch in putting forth the swelling clusters of grapes — the effort would be to keep them back.
— F. B. Meyer, quoted by Daniel Steele here: TESTINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
For myself, I find that the “impulses and inspirations, strong strivings, strange resolves” are more likely to arise when I am engaged in some routine task. It is not as often in a time of study or learning and general busyness. Inspirations come unbidden, but they are likely to arise when I am gardening or taking a walk — or even (in this season of the year) when I am shoveling the snow.
Meyer says “these must be tested by Scripture…” This is true, but this is not so much a testing by individual verses as by a person’s sense of the general tenor of Scripture — the trajectory of Scripture. How do my impressions — my sense of what I need to do — resonate with the story of Jesus — the best I understand it?
And, then it needs to be tested in prayer — a prayer that connects me with God — so that I sense God’s presence — and find the peace of those who trust. “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 NRSV). “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 NRSV). Prayer that leaves me frantic or angry or frustrated is not true prayer — somehow my prayer did not yet break through into the presence of God. I need more time. I need more stillness and silence. I need more time for praise and adoration — and less for myself and my (supposed) needs and frustrations.
And, then it needs to be obeyed. Like everything in life, following the guidance of the Spirit is something we learn by doing. When Paul testified about his conversion experience to King Agrippa in Acts 26 he says: “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision…” (Acts 26:19 NRSV). Having come to a new and startling revelation of Christ, it was now necessary to follow through with action. It is by obeying guidance that we come to more perfectly discern genuine guidance. We come to recognize God’s voice.
Then, Meyer assures us: “[God] will never give us a work to do without showing exactly how and when to do it, and He will give the precise strength and wisdom we need.” What God leads us to do, we can do.