I grew up thinking that a vibrant life with the Holy Spirit was reserved only for “super spiritual” people. I knew a lot about God. I loved Jesus. But being led by Holy Spirit? Even after years of Bible classes and volunteering in local churches, this idea still felt above my pay grade.

But what if a life guided by the Holy Spirit isn’t reserved just for the “super spiritual”? What if the intimidation I felt surrounding the Holy Spirit was a subtle tactic of the enemy to keep me from experiencing the fullness that God had designed for me?

Being led by the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the life God has designed for every one of His kids, including you and me. It’s not reserved for some elite echelon of superstar Christians.

The Holy Spirit is the advocate and comforter Jesus promised His followers, the helper who would teach and guide them (John 14:16, 26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit is also God’s provision to us for overcoming sin so that we might live holy lives. Paul writes, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16, 18, NIV).

Being led by the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the life God has designed for every one of His kids, including you and me.

Led

Notice the phrase “led by the Spirit.” Led here is a present-passive verb, indicating that it’s something God does and we submit to. Sin isn’t something we can power through with our own strength and effort.

To overcome sin and the “desires of the flesh,” we must let go and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. As we do so, God transforms us into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

So if God has given us His Spirit to lead us into holy living as we become more like Jesus, how do we follow?

First, it’s important to remember that God created every one of us uniquely. God doesn’t want an army of robots programmed to mechanically follow His orders.

The way you hear and follow the Holy Spirit won’t look exactly like someone else’s story. But one common denominator among all people who learn to hear and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance is this: they are intentional.

When sailors raise their sail, the boat is able receive the wind and let its power propel them forward. For Christians, engaging intentionally in spiritual practices is like a raising our sails.

Raise Your Sail

If you desire to be led by the Holy Spirit—in your daily life, your workplace, ministry, family, and relationships—I encourage you to raise your sail. Following are just a few spiritual practices that have helped me through the years.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all method, and what helps you hear and follow the Spirit in one season of life may not be helpful in another. So hold these ideas loosely. They are not tasks to add to your already full plate.

One common denominator among all people who learn to hear and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance is this: they are intentional.

Jesus beckons us to walk with Him, to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29, MSG). Or as Paul writes, “to keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25, NIV).

Spiritual practices help us release our attempts at control and let the Holy Spirit take the lead:

Listening Prayer—Lectio Divina

My prayers seem to include a whole lot of me “talking at” God, but it’s pretty hard to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading if I never stop to listen. In Latin, Lectio Divina means simply “divine” reading. For me, it’s become a way to listen in prayer.

In this ancient Bible-reading method, I invite the Holy Spirit to highlight certain words or phrases in a verse or short passage. I read it several times slowly, out loud when possible, and notice what stands out to me.

Sometimes I write that word or phrase in my journal or on a sticky note that I place on my computer that day. And I meditate on it, revisiting the word throughout the day and asking the Holy Spirit to show me what He wants to reveal.

Listening Prayer—Drawing

I am artistically challenged. When drawing, my people and trees look suspiciously alike. So when a spiritual mentor once encouraged me to start drawing my responses to Scripture, I wasn’t too enthusiastic. But I tried it anyways.

For a couple months, I traded my pen for colored pencils, and as I read Scripture in the morning, I drew what stood out to me. And the craziest thing happened. I stopped trying to say things just right or journal pretty sentences. Drawing tapped into a different part of my creativity. I knew the result wouldn’t be pretty (and that no one else would ever see it!).

So it became like a secret between me and God, and out of those rudimentary sketches, the Holy Spirit highlighted truth I would not have otherwise noticed.

Picturing the Face of the Father

Psalm 34:5 in The Passion Translation says, “Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.” A spiritual mentor once invited me to sit quietly, close my eyes, and picture the face of God the Father. Then she asked me what I noticed. Now when I need a reminder of God’s presence or goodness, I often repeat this simple exercise.

Sometimes after reading a story about Jesus from the Gospels, I will close my eyes and picture the face of Jesus. God created our imaginations, and He can reveal more of Himself to us through them!

Breath Prayers

A breath prayer is a word or phrase to repeat in a single breath with one part on the inhale and the other part on the exhale. We can pray breath prayers in our quietest and busiest moments.

They help remind us of God’s presence and focus on Him. I first learned about breath prayers from a speaker at Bible camp while I was in high school. He taught us one of his favorites, which he had learned from another Christian teacher.

It is this: Inhale: Abba (or “Father” ) … Exhale: I belong to you. You can make anything a breath prayer—words from Scripture, a truth about God—but there’s something about these words I learned decades ago that the Holy Spirit has used countless times in my life.


If you are a children’s ministry leader and want to equip your leadership team, families, and kids to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance, spiritual practices are a great place to start. Begin team meetings and Sunday-morning pep rallies with a simple spiritual practice, like a breath prayer or a short time of Lectio Divina. Repeat the same practice for a series, or even for six months or a year. And encourage your leaders to teach kids the same practice.

Finally, as you seek to raise your sail—to learn to follow the Holy Spirit—don’t be hard on yourself. The Holy Spirit is kind. Likewise, be kind to yourself. No one becomes like Jesus overnight—not even those “super spiritual” people we knew growing up.

But day after day, and year after year, as we learn to tune our hearts and ears to the Holy Spirit, God does a mysterious work in us. And we are transformed.

Wonder Ink’s 3-year, 52-week children’s ministry curriculum offers kids space to fully find their place in God’s Big Story. Children discover they are Known by God, Loved by Jesus, and Led by the Holy Spirit.

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