Alright, so last time we established the fact that God needs to have a say in our prayers once in a while, right? Right. But I can almost hear you whine, “Yeah, this all sounds like a mighty fine idea. But how will I even hear God speak to me?” Well, I understand your plight which is why being the thoughtful genius that I am (I permit you to roll your eyes), I decided to write on it.
The question of listening to God’s voice is an issue which most of us feel is for just “men of God” and “prophets” but the first step in listening to God is believing that God can and will speak to you. He is not a snob who gives "ordinary" people the silent treatment but is ever ready to chatter with more "spiritual" people. He deals everyone an equal hand. God is more willing to speak to us than we are to listen. He is not one to be biased. The same God who spoke to Moses, Apostle Paul and others still speaks to great men of God and even “everyday” people like you and me. Like Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. But listening to God is an art that needs to be consciously and purposefully cultivated.
Make an appointment
One of the sure-fire places to listen for the voice of God is during quiet time. What some of us may refer to as devotional time. But, whichever side of the coin you choose, it still speaks of a time set aside to pray and study the Bible. Well, you see the predominant word here is ‘quiet’. But due to a general understanding that this time is only when we are away from people and the environment is quiet, we have at best misconceived the whole idea placing more emphasis on the environment than the person. True, the environment should be considered but God is more interested in you. Choose a convenient time, most people prefer mornings but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule although it does seem more plausible. You may also want to decide on how long you stay…thirty minutes? An hour?
Just be quiet
You may be thinking, “Now what? I should just sit down and keep quiet?” Well, actually yes. And not just that but be still; in mind and in body. There are times when I pray and my hyperactive, super imaginative mind could be going over what I needed to do for the day, what someone had said to hurt me the previous day…or just plain spinning imaginations that I can categorically tell you had nothing to do with the matter at hand. Most of us are like that. Our minds are too busy, we’re always on the move, we have little patience for “idleness”. Why can’t we just still our hearts?
The lures of free imaginations, ghostly whispers of our subconscious, calls of personal ambition and vanity, grumblings of unfinished projects, murmurs of misguided relationships, echoes of leftover pasts and enticing voices of the world fill our mind. Our thoughts are chaotic, we’re easily distracted…the noise in our minds far exceed the blaring horn across the street or the annoying hums of a neighbour’s generator. How do we expect to hear God above all that racket in our hearts? And each time God wants to speak to us, he has to yell over all that noise but we can’t listen because we cannot disentangle his voice from the web of commotion. In hearing God we have to still our hearts and not just our mouths or environment because God will NOT speak to us physically but through our spirits. This takes practice and discipline. It takes time.
Wait and listen
After we’ve successfully stilled our hearts, the next thing is recognizing God’s voice. Most people wonder, “What does God’s voice sound like? A thunder roll? A deep, echoing voice? A small whisper?” Actually, there is no particular ‘voice’. God speaks to different people in different ways; to some it could be a small whisper, to others a strong impression, to some a feeling of God thinking through them. The trick is discovering how God speaks to YOU personally. And that also takes practice and perseverance, lots of it. “I will climb my watchtower and wait to see what the Lord will tell me to say and what answer he will give to my complaint” (Habakkuk 32:1, GNB).
Like little Samuel in the Bible (1 Samuel 3:1-10), we may have to make several trips back to God’s presence after fruitless efforts but in the end we will be able to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” because we have successfully filtered God’s voice from all else.
I cannot overstate how important the Bible is in hearing God. It is in fact the main instrument. God will not speak to us outside His word. But we are not to only read the word but to also meditate on it. It is in meditation that the words become life in us through the Holy Spirit. When this has happened, it becomes easier to recognize when God is speaking and what He is saying.
Write it down
It is also very important to have a pen and paper when you’re listening to God…that way God knows you mean business! And when he speaks, you can write it down for later reference. “Then the Lord replied: “Write the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that whoever reads it may run with it…” (Habakkuk 2:2, NIV).
So, you’ve heard God’s side of the story? Alright, now talk!
Prayer: Lord, I thank you because You are more willing to speak to me than I am to listen. Lord, I ask for the grace and discipline to still my heart and hear you when you speak. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.