How can we learn to listen to God?

Prayer Matters

Paul Dumbrille

In a typical day, we are bombarded with sights and sounds that compete with what the Bible calls, the “still, small, voice of God. God wants to have a relationship with each one of us, and part of that relationship involves promptings and leadings from the Holy Spirit. But we need to learn to hear God’s voice and to filter out the noise of the world, so we can distinguish what really is from God.

Perhaps we can think of the cell phone as representing the main message of this article. Through the Holy Spirit, God has access to us twenty-four hours a day. He dials our number and waits for an answer. But the ring on God’s phone is not deafening. It is possible not to hear the ring. Or, if we do hear the ring, it is possible to look at the Caller ID and decide we don’t really want to hear from God. Or perhaps we do want to hear from him, but have trouble understanding what he might be saying. All these things are possible. This article is about how to hear the ring, pick up the phone and discern what God is saying.

How does God speak to us?

God is not human, he is Spirit, and communicates by guiding our thoughts and speaking directly to our hearts and minds. This can happen directly in times of silence, or when we filter out the noise around us, or when another person speaks. What this means is that it is really is possible for us to have thoughts that come from God.

Hearing God’s voice is learned behaviour.

Hearing God does not necessarily come naturally. We learn to hear God’s voice. People may think, “If God was speaking to me, I would know it”, but that may not be the case. At least it has not been for me. Why not?

  • We may not know it is God speaking.
  • We may presume it is God, and find out later it was not.
  • We may misunderstand what is being said.
  • We may not be able to filter out God’s voice from the noise around us.
  • Good can speak to anyone

God does not restrict his voice to Christian leaders, clergy, mystics, or religious superstars. Scripture shows us that normal, psychologically healthy people do hear from God. Scripture and experience teach us that it takes some time and training to learn to hear God’s voice.

God’s voice comes in different forms

God does not speak in audible words that hit our eardrums. God can speak to us not only directly in our hearts, with nobody else involved, but also through other people and the circumstances of our lives. I have found that God speaking through other people has deeply affected my life.

God’s voice is consistent with God’s character

God is good; peaceful; loving; and is never frantic or anxious. If we hear a voice that is not consistent with God’s character, then we can be assured it is not God.

God’s voice is consistent with Scripture

When people “feel led” to violate Scripture and the teachings of Jesus, then it is not God’s voice that is leading them.

God’s voice is consistent with who we were made to be

We have been made with certain gifts and talents, and personalities that will enable us to be who God wants us to be, and do what God wants us to do. God’s voice will call us to serve and work, using what we have been given to make the world a better place and further the God’s Kingdom. If the voices we hear are not consistent with who we were made to be, then they are not from God.

God’s voice is consistent Love

God’s leadings will always be consistent with love. His voice will lead us to be loving, and lead the kind of servant–oriented life that Jesus modelled. We need to ask ourselves whether the action we are going to do is loving. God’s leading does not lead to selfish actions.

Competing noise.

To hear God’s Voice we must filter out the noises and voices that surround us. Times of silence and intentional prayer are needed.

We all need to hear God’s voice to have a truly personal relationship with God. When we hear God, we must honestly and earnestly listen and head the message. Otherwise there is no point in learning to listen. Courage as well as silence is required.

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