Much confusion exists today about what it looks — or rather “sounds” like — to hear God’s voice. Especially if you’re waiting for the bright lights or a booming voice.
Many of us talk to the Lord often and just want to hear Him talk back now and then. But sometimes we aren’t sure how He’s going to do it. We’re not certain what to listen for.
In the more than 40 years since I’ve given my life to Jesus Christ, I have never experienced an encounter with Him in which there was an audible voice, a thundering from heaven, a burning bush, or a rushing wind. It was usually a still small voice that gave me an inner peace, a loving rebuke that changed my ways, the written Word of God that pierced my heart, or a sense of calling and direction that wouldn’t let me be until I followed.
God speaks in various ways by the Holy Spirit to those in relationship with His Son — through His Word (the Bible), through prayer (and what He lays on our hearts to pray for), through circumstances in our life, and through the church (godly advice from believers). And in my experience, I would have to say that He has spoken most clearly when I’ve been the most obedient, the most in need of comfort, and for the most part, taking the time to really listen.
Do you long to hear God speaking to you on a regular basis? Here are some ways you can fine-tune your hearing so you don’t miss Him and what He wants to say:
- Look to His Word — God communicates through the Scriptures. Sometimes it’s a verse that pierces our hearts as we’re searching for His truth or wisdom. Other times it might be a passage or verse that He brings to your mind in a particular situation. The more you know the Word of God, the more you’ll recognize God’s words of comfort, conviction, peace, or guidance. So become familiar with His Word and you’ll become familiar with His voice.
- Look Around You — Sometimes it may seem like God isn’t there. But He often makes His presence known to us by what we experience on a daily basis. Look for His presence in the circumstances around you — the tender words from a friend that you needed to hear at just the right time, the “coincidence” that confirms what you’d been praying for, the situation at work that suddenly turned in your favor. But God doesn’t only speak to us through the blessings in our lives. He speaks to us in our pain, frustration, disappointment and anger, too. It is during those times we can sense His presence, peace, and the affirmation that He knows what He’s doing in our lives, even if we don’t.
- Listen for His Whispers — Sometimes we feel the urge to do something and we can’t explain why. Through prayer and discernment we can figure out if that is God’s whisper on our heart. Sometimes God speaks to us this way through prayer by nudging us to pray for something we wouldn’t otherwise have prayed for. When God directs our prayers He is speaking to us, whispering to us words of guidance, instruction, discernment, and encouragement. Sometimes we call this our conscience or our “little voice inside.” But the One who dwells within us has a voice as well. I call it my “loving voice inside.” He whispers encouragement. He whispers to me suggestions for acts of love toward someone in need. He whispers words to say at the proper time to heal another person’s heart. Sometimes it’s whispers of warning like “Stay away from that. You know better.” And other times it is whispers of “Trust Me, even though you don’t understand.” When you hear your loving voice inside, thank Him for what He has spoken to you.
There is no sure-fire formula for hearing God speak. He speaks in His own way and in His own time to the hearts that are prepared to hear Him. But if we cultivate a heart to hear, we can be sure that His silence is not on account of our not listening.
Fore more on cultivating a heart to hear God’s voice, see the chapter “Listening to His Loving Voice” in Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs.