I used to think that “hearing from God” was something that only happened rarely, and usually in a burning-bush, dramatic way. Do I need to say that when I thought like that I didn’t hear from God very often?
Years later, I can honestly say that hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear from God. That’s because He’s taught me some important things about what that conversation is like—and how I can create an atmosphere that nurtures it.
If two-way conversation with God is new to you, here are some hints that might help you experience His voice more often.
Expect God to Speak to You
God speaks to all of His children, not just to certain “special” or extra-spiritual ones. “My sheep know my voice,” Jesus said in John 10:27. And 1 Corinthians 2 says the Holy Spirit reveals to our spirits the very thoughts of God. So the starting place is to believe that God wants to talk with you and will talk to you.
Know What His Voice Is Like
God speaks in many different ways, but the most common way is by His Holy Spirit speaking to your spirit through an inner, “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, kjv). When I was just starting to actively listen for God, I expected His voice to be somehow louder or different or more distinct from the way my thoughts sounded. But I gradually learned that He most typically speaks to me by interjecting His thoughts into my own, sometimes with pictures, but most often in ways very similar to how my normal thinking goes. Expect God’s “voice” to sound very similar to your own thoughts—except that what He has to say will be wiser, more creative, and all-around better.
Ask God to Speak
Samuel, when he was first learning God’s voice, gave Him an invitation: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Invite the Lord to speak to you, too. Let Him know how much you desire two-way communication from Him.
Ask God to Help You Hear Only Him
The enemy tries to get our ear. Frequently, our own thoughts and reasoning also compete with God’s voice. But Jesus assures us that His sheep “won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice” (John 10:5). Ask God to protect your time of listening from distractions, including any voice that is not His.
Give Him Time to Speak
Sometimes, when I was starting out, I didn’t hear God simply because I did not give Him time. I’d ask a question or tell Him something and then move on to the next thing on my list, barely even pausing. When you speak to God, especially when you ask Him something, pause and wait quietly for His answer. Be still and notice what comes to you—thoughts, images, feelings, pictures, ideas, words or phrases, scriptures, memories. These could very well be ways the Lord is responding to you.
Write Down What You Think He is Saying
Recording what you hear is helpful for a variety of reasons. Writing helps you focus. It gives you a record of your conversation with God so you can better remember what He has said. It also provides a means of sharing what you are hearing with others so they can help discern if you are truly hearing from Him.
Trust God with the process. He wants to communicate with you even more than you want to hear from Him. As you seek to hear from Him with an open, submissive heart, you can count on Him to guide you and to protect you from getting off base.
If you doubt what you are hearing (it should line up with God’s written Word and with His character) ask Him for confirmation, and perhaps share it with a friend who hears from God well. But don’t assume that when you hear words of loving kindness and affirmation to you that it’s not God. He’s your loving Father and truest Friend. If He says “I love you!” or “I’m pleased with you” or “You’re doing well” or “I want to bless you” or some other heartening words, don’t discount Him just because what He is saying encourages you! He’s the God of all hope, comfort, and encouragement.
Like any other skill, listening to God takes practice. The best way to learn is by jumping in and doing it. He will help you. He will protect you. He will meet you where you are and move you forward into deeper communication with Him.