Give Him Time—and He’ll Show Up

Lots of folks tell me they wish they could hear from God better. They want more from prayer than a one-way dialogue, but they don’t always know how to tune in to His part of the conversation.  Because learning to hear from God is key to engaging God in prayer and enjoying Him in relationship, I always encourage however I can.

There’s obviously much to be said about listening to God. Developing discernment, dealing with common obstacles, and understanding the manner in which God speaks (and doesn’t speak), are all important if we are to hear from God with clarity and confidence. However, many of us make it far more complicated than it needs to be.

I led a prayer retreat this past weekend for a group of people, several of whom had not had regular experience of hearing from God. The retreat format was very simple. I would teach a bit about hearing from God, share some of my experiences in listening prayer, then send them off an hour or so to be alone with Him and listen for His voice.

Over the 24 hours of the retreat, nearly everyone reported hearing from God. To some He spoke encouragement, to others, deliverance. He gave guidance to a few, and gentle nudges to others. Several heard Him speak to deep places in their hearts.

What always amazes me is how responsive God is if we will just slow down and give Him time to speak. I used to think learning to hear from God was an involved process (and sometimes it can be)—but for many people, the main requirements are little more than time and attention. At nearly every retreat I lead, people report to me how surprised they are: If they will just sit still and actually expect God to talk to them, He does!

Clearly, God can speak to us whenever and in whatever manner He chooses. But, I’ve noticed that most often I hear Him when I stop my other activity, get quiet, and focus my attention completely on Him. In other words, when I accept the invitation of Psalm 46:10 to “be still and know that [He] is God.”

How long has it been since you’ve had a heart-to-heart with God? You don’t need to go on a retreat to hear His voice—but you may need to slow down and give him 45 minutes or an hour. Why not look at your calendar and see when you might schedule an appointment with God? Guaranteed, there are things He’d like to talk with you about. And it could very well be that He just needs a bit of your time to do that.

If you do, please let me know how it goes!

Note: I am still building this new blog platform. I’ve added features this week, including a “share” button, tabs about my speaking and books, and a Facebook badge. Please poke around a bit and see what’s here. And if you know others who would enjoy my blog on prayer—especially prayer in the context of listening and relationship—please help them connect with me.

Cultivating a Two-Way Conversation with God

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.
Don’t Worry!
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.
Get Started
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.