How Can I Hear God?
Does God really speak to us?
Do we have to be special to hear him?
How can we be sure that this is God?
1. A God Who Speaks
- A relationship is essentially two way. Each person must interact wit the other. As Christians, we are privileged to have a relationship with God. One- way communication is dead, lifeless (Junk Mail)
- Not only do we have that privileged relationship with God, but we are His sons and daughter
- Some Christians are not simply “Touchy-Feely” types, and find really difficult the whole concept of this “personal relationship”. However, we all have a relationship with God, but while for some it is close, warm and like a “best friend” relationship, for others it’s a cerebral, perhaps more like the respect and love we have for an older friend who has helped, taught and guided us
- We are all different, our temperaments are uniquely ours, therefore no one can dictate to us how we relate to God. Only God can see the depth & quality of our faith and our relationship with Him.
- So don’t try to change people who are not dealing with God your same way. You should know that by doing so, you’re placing a heavy burden on them by expecting them to be just like you
- “In my new self-importance, I was asking God what he wanted me to do for him. I suddenly heard a loud voice say to me “Read the Bible”. I was rather disappointed. I wanted a ministry, not a lot of homework!! But of course it was excellent advice. I think God had to shout at me because my ears were blocked by my own arrogance and pride. May be the more open to God we are, the more softly he speaks to us”
- While God can and does speak through the Bible into our individual circumstances, the Bible itself is more like a general guide to the principles of Godly living.
- We all struggle with prayer and find it difficult to see or hear answers to prayer. We don’t always recognize the answer when it comes, because of our expectations of either the answer or the way God will speak.
- God may not even speak in answer to prayer – He may just shut firmly doors that we would wish to open, and open those we think should be closed
- God will speak to us in a way that we can hear and to which we can respond because he speaks a universal language. He speaks to us through our ears, our eyes, and our other senses. He speaks to us through signs and symbols, through dreams and visions, through the Bible and through words, music, and art which move us deeply. We don’t have to be super-spiritual. We just have to Love Jesus, be committed to him and yearn for a close relationship with Him.
- Do we expect God to make it easy for us? Do we ask “Should I take this job/marry that person?” and expect a straight Yes or No? Do we expect God to do our common-sense thinking for us?
- God, being who he is, sovereign, almighty, powerful, all-knowing, loving, compassionate and concerned for us to grow to become Christ-like, may indeed answer us with a direct Yes or No, or he may want us to move into spiritual maturity, leaving behind the primary school worksheet and going on to the adult reading.
- God wants us to hear his voice. He encourages us to seek him in the world around us; to still our questions and noisy chatter for a while; to be silent; to hear that still, small voice he uses as he whispers to us. He wants us to open our eyes and ears to see and hear his voice in creation. He may speak through preachers, teachers or the person sitting next to us. His conversation might be like that of a lover who speaks in sight and look, who needs no words – a sign or a light touch on the body conveys all the awareness we need, or he might just say something out loud directly.
2. Is this really you Lord?
- God is our Father and children quickly learn their parents’ voices because they have plenty of practice at listening to them. God wants us to be familiar with his voice, but if only we would practice listening to Him! The more we listen for his voice, the more we can hear it, not just with our ears, but with our whole being. And the more we hear it, the more familiar it will become
- How can we check out if it’s really God’s voice?
Is it Biblical? – If you receive a word or instruction which does not confirm to Biblical principles, then it’s not God speaking
What does the Bible say? – To check out what we think God is saying to us, we need to know first what the Bible says
I can’t do that – Sometimes it seems that what God is really telling us to do is against all our natural inclinations. Although in our hearts we may acknowledge the Biblical rightness of what he’s asking us to do, it seems impossible, and we think it can’t really be God saying this
Have you prayed about it? – Has God spoken to you in response to your prayers? Is what you have heard relevant as well as being scriptural? God does answer prayer, but not always in the way we expect
Are you obedient? – When God answers our prayers, even though it is not always what we expect or want, it is vital that we still thank him and that we are obedient. Obedience is a necessary component, a vital part in our walk with God. Ingratitude and disobedience can block our ears and hearts to God’s word
Did I hear this right? – It’s quite in order for us to ask God is we have heard him, or heard correctly. We can ask God, “Please confirm your words to me”. If this is God speaking to you, then you will find confirmation, but you have to be listening. It may be a verse in the bible, a sermon directed to you, or a great sense of peace towards it
Have you checked it out? – We need friends whose wisdom and discretion we can rely on, with whom we can talk and pray about what we feel God is saying to us. Very often in talking it over, we feel a sense of rightness or otherwise of what we think God might be asking us to do. It is easy to be carried away with a scheme which is intrinsically Godly and for which we feel great enthusiasm, but which is not god’s plan for us. We may need the humility to accept it when someone says, “Do you think this is quite right for you? Wouldn’t it be better if so and so took it on?”
Is God not saying anything or is it me? – Absorption in our own activities is blocking out God’s words. He is talking to us but we are so self-absorbed that we don’t hear a thing. Are you talking so much so you can’t hear him? Sometimes it has to do with the sort of person you are. Some people are sociable and some are the type that enjoys solitude. Obviously, it is easier for those who enjoy solitude to quieten themselves and wait in silence for God’s presence to become apparent.
Are our minds too full of trivia? – Our minds these days can be filled to overflowing with other matters. Genuine worries and concerns can be placed before God. Trivial matters must be seen for what they are – unimportant. As we learn more about God, his enormous, unending love and compassion for us, we will be able to form the right perspective on life.
Does all this sound too difficult? – It might seem that we have to be special or perfect, or do certain things in certain ways to hear God. But this is just not true. God wants us to hear him. We may be wayward, have busy lives, mind full of problems. God still loves us and wants us to hear him. But sadly, we are all sinners, we all want to do our own thing and our own affairs can easily take precedence in our lives.
- W need always to be listening, available for what God wants, and we need humility to take on board what he is saying and how he is saying it
- God Cannot use proud arrogant people. God has an intimate relationship with the lowly and the humble. But the proud and arrogant he keeps at a distance
- Listening to God is a little bit like learning another language
3. A word for me?
The Bible is God Speaking to Us
Sometimes we feel that the Bible is an impersonal message (not directed to me). However, the Bible is God speaking to us
I should have a relationship with the sender first then I can understand his words to me. If you are really seeking to hear God, you will hear his voice
The Bible is Truth, it tells us about God, His character, His plans, and His purposes for His people and His church but before we receive a personal letter, we need to have established a relationship with its sender
Will God Speak to me Personally?
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all you heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)
But we must never read the Bible as though it was only a personal word for us. When we do, we tend to ignore the bits we don’t think apply to us.
Everything is the Bible is there to guide, comfort and tech us. As well as speaking to us personally, the measure against which everything must be judged. Some parts of the Bible may seem obscure or confusing but the basics are usually very clear.
Cast Your Cares in Him
Probably all of us at some time have felt distant from both God and his word. We may understand what all the verses mean but it doesn’t seem to get through to that part of us which if feeling desperately dry, worried, sick, depressed, or stressed. And of course, all of these problems are in the forefront of our mind.
Knowing your way around the Bible will also help, so that when you feel low, dry, or stressed, you can readily turn to a verse which will speak to your particular circumstances
If you have found that a particular verse “jumps out” at you from the passage you are reading, or if it seems to have neon lights around it, the perhaps God is speaking to you.
God may also choose to bring a passage to your attention time and time again within a short space of time
It doesn’t Seem to Mean Anything to me
“I read the Bible and nothing happens”
There are a couple of things you can do to help you hear God through the Bible
Listening to the word – Read over the passage slowly several times and see if any word or phrase
Imagining God speaking to you personally, then respond to him as one personally present with you whatever you do, do it with the expectancy that God will speak to you through his word. You will find that he will do just that.
4. The Mind’s Eye
We all have imaginations. God has given us our imaginations; they are part of our God-Given temperament and emotional make-up
God may well stir up the imagination so that we see in our minds something that will illuminate his words, or the words of others, and gain a deeper understanding of what he is saying
We need to hear God’s word and relate it to our own lives by picturing it in our minds. And that’s not “Just our imagination”; rather, our minds are working as God intended, bringing alive his word in our lives using your God-given imagination in this way can really help you to grasp the truth of Jesus’ teaching and apply it in your own life.
Pictures which come while you are praying should be examined for a while. Pictures that come from God may be prophetic, they may be a warning, or they may be something God wants an individual personally to hear and learn
When we are open to God – praying, meditating, or worshiping – that we are more likely to receive pictures that are from him. Not all pictures are comforting and affirming. God can rebuke us as well
Don’t despise your own pictures. Let your imagination flow as you read God’s word. Learn from them. If the images seem particularly vivid or special, write them down or draw or paint, if that is your gift. Ask God to make the meaning clear. If you feel they are for others to share, then speak up.
Not everyone has a vivid imagination which can fly into different realms. Some people are more down-to-earth and focus on the practicalities of life and faith. Both perspectives are essential
Unrealistic flights of fancy need to be earthed in order to bring us closer to what the bible is actually saying. Yet our imaginations need to be unlocked that we can explore symbolism and imagery
Don’t assume that everything in your mind is from God. We can easily allow ourselves to let our worries and concerns take over and set our imaginations to work on them
Remember too that God wants us to understand what he’s saying. Of course he may use symbols and metaphors, and if we didn’t find his meaning clear we should ask him
Also, many people try to spiritualize everything their imaginations chun up. And much time can be wasted trying to find deep meanings in what was just a mental blip. We need to apply both discernment and plain common sense to what we picture in our minds
5. Dreams, Visions and Visitations
What we might think of as a dream can be called a vision and vice versa
Dreams are what we see when we are asleep, while visions are supernatural, highly intensified pictures or scenes which occur while we are awake
It’s unwise to assume that all dreams come from God. They don’t. More often they arise from the subconscious workings of our minds, from our own worries and insecurities, from events of the day, or from heavy food. However, some dreams do come from God.
How can I tell which dreams come from God?
If all or most of the details of the dream remain clear in your mind
Does the dream refer to something you have been worrying about? Could it hold an answer to prayer? Does it contain a warning about something you contemplate doing? Is there a definite Yes or No in it? If you can’t see anything that makes sense, the dream may not be from God
We should not neglect our dreams, as God can and does speak to us. If we are resistant to his voice in our waking life, it may be the only way he can reach us.
These are “waking dreams” that have a base in reality. Visions usually arise out of what we see, but are transformed by God to give us a prophecy, a warning, an instruction, or encouragement
Visions, especially on a grand scale, may be just for you, but perhaps more often they are for a church or fellowship, whether large or small. If this is the case, it’s wise to take your vision first to the leadership before standing up in a meeting and declaring, “I have a vision!” If the vision is for a wider group and truly from God, it’s up to the leaders to decide whether to act or to ignore it, as the case may be.
Visions are not just bigger and better pictures, they are reality transformed. They are often God saying something important on a ground scale. We need to give them the attention they demand
Angels are quite prominent in the Bible, bringing messages and commands to ordinary people on behalf of God
Sometimes helpful people do appear just when we need them; sometimes the only explanation is that they are angels.
Angels can also appear as unearthly bodies
Angels also bring messages from God. “God will put his angel in charge of you, to protect you wherever you go.” (Psalm 91:11)
6. The World around Us
When God speaks to me through his creation, He very often seems to be in teaching mode. It doesn’t matter whether they are big things or small, everything in his world has the potential to be God’s voice speaking to us
There are two questions we should be asking ourselves as we observe and ponder what we see
What is God saying about himself or about his laws or commands?
What is God saying to me personally
If we fail to put God first and think only of our own agenda and our own glory, then however successful our ministries are, they will not be anointed by the Holy Spirit. Those who put themselves, their status, and their reputation first are those of whom Jesus said “Then I will tell them plainly: I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers”
God can use anything as a visual aid. It is not just through the world of nature that we hear God. Everything, if we open our minds, can be used by God
It’s not all teaching. Besides teaching us, God can also offer us reassurance, comfort and encouragement
God’s creation is good, but we live in a fallen world. Not everything is godly. It would be all too easy, when we think we hear God speak to us, to misunderstand what he’s saying.
7. Hearing God Through Pain
Suffering comes to us in various forms, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Each form is so different we cannot say which is worse. Pain, for whatever reason, has the effect of distorting our balance, disrupting the way we feel, behave and think. Severe pain can dominate our whole existence and, in our natural desire to avoid or control it, we may let it block our ears to God’s voice.
God is good, his purposes are for good not for evil. His ways are not our ways. We don’t know why he allows hard and painful things but neither do we know why we deserve his blessings. Neither earned and both are God’s gifts
“The first step to healing is not a step away from the pain, but a step toward it” – Henri Nouwen –
If through a broken heart God can use you, then let your heart break, and thank him
When you are hurting, you need to give God that hurt. Never say, “I shouldn’t be feeling like this; other people’s pain is far greater than mine.” This may well be true (though who can grade pain?), but if we are truly hurting and not just feeling self-pity, then that hurt to us is as important as it feels
God allows pain and suffering for reasons beyond our comprehension. When we give God our tears, our prayers, our distress and our suffering, we will find him
“This isn’t the way I would have chosen, but if that’s the way you want it, Lord, then that’s OK by me”
8. A word Aptly Spoken
God does not often thunder from the skies, Make Bible verses seemingly jump out of the page at us or overwhelm us with messages from the created world. He doesn’t need to. As Christ’s body on earth, we should be His messengers, His voice, His hands, His feet. For God speaks to us not just for our salvation, but also for teaching, correcting and rebuking us as we grow as Christians.
God’s messages to us do not have to come from the mouths of great speakers or preachers; they can come from anyone – family, friends, strangers, even those who are relatively young in faith. It is comforting and inspirational when someone brings us a word of encouragement “from the Lord”.
It takes a good deal of humility to accept corrections and rebuke from people who are frail human beings as ourselves
May be you have heard a good sermon or received some good advice from a friend but are still unsure that what you have heard is God’s word for you personally. How can you be sure?
God’s words will have power and life – power to cut straight to the heart and mind, and life to bring vitality, to answer questions, instruct or educate
Have you ever had something on your conscience, then listened to the minister’s sermon and thought it was directed straight at you? God used his words to speak to you personally. (you find that others have not heard it exactly as you have)
A great speaker will inspire us and teach us more about God’s word and about God himself. But often a specific message from God seems to come almost as an aside, in a throw-away comment. The words themselves may not seem particularly meaningful and the speaker may not realize their significance on you. They home in you, they stick in your mind, bother and nag at you until you take them on board and deal with the situation
Sometimes God will use circumstances, events, meetings with other people to speak to us. It might seem that it was “just luck” that we met that person, went to that meeting, took that wrong turning or whatever and so heard or did something which changed our lives.
Of course, it may not be for your benefit that events have been arranged “Just so!” God may be using you to be part of his plan for others. We all have a tendency to see things as though we were the center of the world – the question “what in it for me?” is far to often the first thought of many people today, even Christians. So if you feel “led” to do something which seems a bit odd, and nothing comes of it as far as you can see, just remember you might be part of God’s plan for another person
In the presence of His people
There’s a special dynamic is being part of a group pf worshiping Christians, where all hands are as one, turned towards God in thanks giving and praise. When we are with others, sometimes it seems the Holy Spirit is present in an awesome and powerful way which rarely happens when we pray by ourselves
The content of our worship can also speak to us. We can easily sing a familiar hymn without really appreciating what we are saying. Don’t just sing the words, mean them.
Some of us have experienced God speaking to us through the words of others, and some of us have not. Perhaps the most useful advice is “listen”. Too often we let our minds flit around like butterflies, thinking of anything, but what the speaker is saying, or we are so eager to give our opinions we can hardly wait for the person to stop before we jump in with our own views. If you feel that something said by a friend or in a sermon has really touched your heart, write it down. Id someone says something to you which touches a raw spot or which might be meaningful, don’t be defensive or evasive. Just tell them you need to pray about it and think it over. And you will need to check it out. Does it conform to what God has revealed of himself in the Bible? Does it lead us to Christ & give him the glory? Is it an answer to a prayer or a problem? Is it relevant? And why not talk about the message with the person who brought it to you? How did it come to him or her? Is it just a wise observation? (which still might be very helpful) Did it arrive out of the blue?
However, God’s message to us may come and we must not ignore it. It may require action or a change of attitude on our part. We may need to pray, or to confess and ask forgiveness; either of God or of someone we have hurt. And through it all, we will see the power of life in God’s words overflow in our lives, changing us in ways we could never have imagined and leading us on to new blessings and new experiences as his kingdom comes
9. Words, Words, Words
God speaks to us in the Bible Giving instruction, encouragement, comfort, guidance. He speaks to us through dreams, visions, & pictures. He speaks to us in pain and suffering as well as in joyful celebrations. He speaks to us softly, with words that are personal, intimate and absolutely right for a particular situation. He speaks to us in a voice that thunders in our ears, when there’s no need for interpretation or prayer for understanding. We may have absolutely no trouble in hearing or understanding him. Our difficulty may be that we don’t always want to hear what he says.
God doesn’t always shout though he may speak clearly and firmly
God can also speak to us in a “silent voice”, deep within our minds, though we will be aware of what he has said as if he had spoken aloud. This is probably the most usual way God speaks to us, apart from his words in our minds but something else which speaks to us as strongly as his words would do
However God speaks to us, we need to take on board what he is saying. Even when God offers us words of comfort and peace, we can be too self-centered to take them to heart, and perhaps even if we could be honest enough to admit it, rather liking be the center of attention as a victim. And of course, there are words which call for obedience
10. Conversations and Reading
The Bible and Christian biographies are full of stories about people who had a close relationship with God and knew that he would converse with them. Sometimes we can feel we are not “Holy” enough to be like these great men, but this is just not true. The bible is full of assurances that we can hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and know the father personally
Which all brings me to the importance of the written word as a way of hearing God, and the value of knowing the scriptures well so that we can encourage ourselves and others without thumbing through a Bible to find the right word
While the Bible is the main and most important source of Godly words and advice, there are other sources whose words can speak to us like spiritual books and sermons
11. Yet More Words – And a Warning
Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit described by Paul are those of wisdom and of knowledge and prophecy. These “word” gifts are when God speaks not to us but through us, giving us messages for or about other people
It does not primarily mean telling the future, although it might include that. Prophecy is the speaking out of God’s word. Anyone who has genuinely, a message from God for a church, a group, or the wider world, is a prophet.
Prophetic messages may be to build up and castigate certain behavior or plans. Just like God’s words to us
So what do you do if you feel God has given you a message for your church?
Make sure it’s from God (for it might not be)
Don’t imagine you have this gift when you haven’t
Go to your church leaders and explain clearly what happened and write down how you got the message
Words of Knowledge
Sometimes God gives us knowledge about another person which we could not have known otherwise. Whatever you suddenly “know” about someone, hold back! Do not go on wading in with cries of “I know …” Think and thing again before you speak, then, perhaps, privately persuade the other person to “open up”. You can then direct him towards the help he needs
Whatever else you do, do not share such knowledge with a third person “just for prayer”. This is just gossip and God looks very sternly on such a sin. The only person you can share it with, tactfully and gently, is the person it concerns
Word of Wisdom
I would love to have the gift of wisdom. Just think of all the difficult situations which could be solved through whether the protagonists would take my advice, godly or not, is another matter! Today’s men and women seem too self-centered with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude to take advice from others willingly
Words of wisdom usually concern a difficult situation, may be in a church or group or between two people. Sometimes it might be hard to distinguish between words which have come direct from God, and the ability to stand back and asses a situation with common sense and a bit of lateral thinking. But may be that is a God-given ability too.
But, like the knowledge God can give us, we need to be sensitive and slow to speak. “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth” (proverbs 16:23)
There’s a difference between Godly wisdom and wisdom from the world. God’s wisdom brings forth Humility but when our hearts are full of envy and selfish ambition, then our “wisdom” is not heavenly, but earthly, and only causes dissensions and quarrels.
We wonder why some people are apparently so intimate with God so that they can carry on conversations with Him or hear His words clearly. Why them? Why not us?
One common factor seems to be their complete confidence that it is God speaking, along with their trust that he has matters well under control. No one tried to add anything, to formulate “Plan B” in case God doesn’t come up with the goods
We don’t know! God’s plans are not for us to understand. But may be if we were in the habit of listening more closely for God, he would be able to communicate with us more clearly?
Many of us, when we do hear God’s voice, prefer to make our own plans according to how we see the problem. It is easy to convince ourselves that what we want is what God wants. It is easy to pray about a situation and expect God to act as we want him to. When we do not receive the expected response, we assume that our prayers have not been answered at all
Words of Warning
At this point a word o warning must be given. Many people hear voices especially in their heads which are not from God. There may be a number of reasons for this
They may be our own desires and wishes
They might come from Satan
They may be due to a psychic illness
Then again, we should check out what we think we are hearing
Is it Biblical?
Does it bring Glory to God?
Is it telling you to do something for the sole purpose of increasing your status, making you look good, or increasing your wealth by dubious mean?
Is it asking you to do something which is not in accordance with Jesus’ command that we love one another as he loved us?
Does it fit with God’s principles of justice and mercy?
Would you be happy to discuss what you have heard with a trusted Christian friend or your minister?
Is it something you can share openly with others?
Hearing from God is an awesome experience. When he speaks out loud, we can be shaken to our very foundations. When he speaks “silently” in our minds, it can be equally overwhelming
We may, like Jonah, prefer not to hear and to set off in the opposite direction. But when God has really spoken to us, His words will echo round our minds until we take them on board and so something about them. We may need to take some action, let go in trust, or simply be prepared to wait. He may give us words of comfort or healing but His words are always for our ultimate benefit
12. And Finally…
It would be a very strange father who said to his son or daughter, “Right! You just carry on with your life. I’ll stand back and see how you get on” A really loving father wants to be involved with his children, to talk to them, listen to them, guide and protect them, be part of their lives. Sadly, there are fathers who don’t act like this, but our heavenly father is the perfect father who wants a close relationship with us.
You have probably heard God more often than you realize. He will challenge you in different ways as you mature and develop your spiritual insight and understanding of Him.