How to Hear God's Voice
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2008 9 Oct
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Larry Kreider's new book, Speak, Lord, I’m Listening: How to Hear God’s Voice Above the Noise, (Regal Books, 2008).
God is always speaking, but you may not always be hearing Him. If you're not hearing from God regularly, it could be because you're limiting the ways you listen for His voice. God speaks in a wide variety of creative ways, so you need to be open to hearing from Him however He chooses to speak to you.
Here are some of the many different ways you may hear from God:
The Bible: God may cause a portion of Scripture to jump off the page for you while you’re reading it. He may make you aware of how it applies to your life right then and use it to lead you in a particular way. The Bible is your final authority – the standard by which you should check everything else you think God may be saying to you. Remember that nothing God says in any other way will ever contradict what He says in the Bible. Get to know the Bible well by reading and studying it often. Be sure to keep the context and original intent of Scripture passages in mind.
A journal: Writing down your thoughts in a journal, then reading the record, can help you understand more clearly how God may be speaking to you. Whenever you sense something that may be a message from God, write it down to preserve it. Then pray about what you’ve written. You can also write out your prayers to God in your journal.
Meditation and contemplation: Choose a Scripture verse or passage and reflect on it over and over in your mind. In the process, God may reveal its deep meaning to you. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind as you think about God’s Word in a focused way.
Praise and thanksgiving: You open yourself up to hearing from God when you praise Him for who He is and what He has done, and thank Him for it. Praise and thanksgiving invite God’s presence into your life. Choose to praise and thank God no matter what your current circumstances. Acknowledging that He is in control in all situations will draw you closer to Him and help you recognize Him at work.
Surrender: Giving up your own efforts to run your life and trusting God fully with it puts you in a position to hear from God well. Ask God to help you learn to wait, rest, and be content, so you’ll be able to surrender.
Confession: Confessing your sins to God with the intention of repenting of them and asking God to change you for the better will help you hear God’s voice. Confession removes sin that keeps you from hearing God’s voice clearly. When you confess sinful attitudes and behaviors – even small ones, since they can grow into bigger problems – you unclog your pipeline to heaven.
Worship: Worship is a lifelong conversation between you and God. When you live to please God – giving Him your focused attention and love in all parts of your life – you put yourself in a good position to hear from Him.
Asking in prayer: Don’t hesitate to ask God to speak to you. He cares about every detail of your life, so pray about everything, and expect Him to respond. Approach God through prayer with confidence, knowing that He wants to hear from you and will be sure to answer at the right time. Remember that God provides on a day to day basis, so pray each day to keep your relationship with Him fresh and growing.
Peace: Peace is a confirmation that you’re hearing from God. God will give you peace if He wants you to move forward in a particular direction. If you lack His peace, don’t go ahead anyway. Wait until the right decision becomes clear – and it will be clear when you experience God’s peace.
God’s still, small voice: God often speaks directly to your spirit in quiet yet powerful ways that nudge you to pay attention. For example, He may urge you to pray for a particular person at a certain time. Rather than just expecting God to speak in dramatic ways, tune into the quiet voice of His Spirit amidst the noise of everyday life.
Conviction: When God convicts you of a sinful attitude or behavior in your life, be willing to repent of it and move in the right direction. Recognize the difference between conviction and condemnation – God convicts you to help you find His forgiveness, grace, and mercy, while Satan condemns you to bring you into bondage to shame and false guilt.
Partial revelation: Sometimes when God speaks to you, He only reveals part of the full message He intends for you to hear, because you’re not yet ready to hear everything. Just obey what you do know, and trust Him to reveal more at the right time. God will build your faith as you respond to Him day by day.
Visions: Visions from God are experiences of intense imagery, sound, and feeling that happen when you’re awake and communicate important information. If you experience a vision, be sure to pray for discernment about it, and evaluate it by the Bible. Don’t assume its meaning; instead, wait for God to reveal the correct interpretation.
Dreams: God may speak to you through a dream, with a clear message and a specific purpose. Dreams that confuse you may just be the result of your brain processing thoughts while you’re asleep. If a particular dream is from God, He will give you a confirmation in your spirit that He was communicating something to you through it – and the message will line up with biblical truth.
A message of wisdom: God may sometimes send you supernatural wisdom to deal well with a specific situation. This gift of wisdom will allow you to speak appropriate truth at the right time. While you can’t earn the gift of wisdom, you can always ask for it in prayer.
A message of knowledge: Sometimes God may give you information that you have not had prior access to or been aware of by any natural means. This gift of knowledge often works in concert with a gift of wisdom, empowering you to know how to respond to the information God has given you.
Spiritual languages: When you pray in a spiritual language under the Holy Spirit’s direction, you can go beyond the limits of your human intellect and own language to communicate deep messages that glorify God and bless other people. Be open to praying in a spiritual language whenever God leads you to do so.
Prophecy: A prophecy occurs when God speaks a message through one person for the benefit of another. If God has someone speak a prophecy to you, He is calling out your potential. If God directs you to deliver a prophecy to someone else, be faithful to do so. But be careful! Be sure to thoroughly test any prophecy against biblical truth, and check to make sure the timing is also correct. Never add anything of your own to a prophecy. Remember that if a prophecy is indeed from God, He will confirm it in other ways and bring it to pass.
Circumstances: You can hear God’s voice through circumstances as He opens and closes doors of opportunity. The key, though, is to be led by the Holy Spirit rather than by the circumstances themselves. God will give you peace about His message and its timing if you check it out with Him.
Natural things: God reveals Himself through nature – what He has created. You can learn a lot from God by observing nature and listening to the messages God may speak to you through it. Go outside often and pay attention to what you experience there.
Signs: God may choose to get your attention through a supernatural and direct sign, but He will usually do so in conjunction with other ways of speaking to you. But don’t depend on signs to hear from God. Instead of focusing on signs, focus on God Himself and strengthening your relationship with Him. If you become close enough to God to recognize His voice, you won’t need to test Him by asking for signs. Sometimes it’s fine to ask God to send you a sign – when you want to obey and need one to strengthen your faith.
Surprises: Sometimes God may get your attention by speaking in ways you don’t expect. Be open to hearing from God in unpredictable ways, and alert to whenever He may take you by surprise.
The unique way God has made each of us: God will speak to you according to how He has uniquely wired you. His messages will tie into His unique purpose for your life. Don’t compare yourself to other people’s ways of hearing from God; simply seek Him yourself and trust the unique ways He speaks to you.
History: God wants you to learn from what He has said and done throughout history – and how well or poorly people have responded to Him. Be willing to embrace change whenever God leads you to it, so you can grow and mature.
Different cultures: Every culture has a redemptive purpose from God that needs to be honored. God speaks to every culture in its own language, and He will speak to you in ways that you can best understand in light of your own culture. If you’re trying to communicate God’s truths to someone from a different culture, get to know their culture well so you can communicate in ways the person can best understand.
People’s lives: You can learn valuable lessons from the way other people live their lives. If they make mistakes, you can see the results. If they live faithfully, you can be inspired. Regularly ask God to teach you what He wants you to learn from the people you know. Seek to live as faithfully as you can, so others will be drawn to God through your life.
Stories and parables: Be alert to what messages God may be sending you through the meanings of stories and parables. Reflect on them and pray about them.
Commonsense wisdom: Your common sense is a gift from God that you can use to help you make wise decisions. If you don’t sense God leading you about a particular decision in a specific way, you may be able just to trust the common sense He has already given you.
The local church: God may often speak to you through your spiritual leaders and fellow believers at your local church. Pay close attention to what they say and seriously consider it. Do your part to support and encourage them, as well.
The whole body of Christ: You can learn to hear God more clearly and grow spiritually when you talk with other Christians beyond your own church and read Christian writing. Be open to hearing God speak through any part of His body on earth.
Other people: God may speak to you through the counsel of other people. Before taking people’s advice, however, make sure they’re mature believers whom you trust, and that you’ve thought and prayed about the advice yourself.
Testimonies: Your testimony – the story of how you personally came to believe in and trust Jesus – can powerfully impact other people. Tell it whenever God gives you a good opportunity. Let other people’s testimonies inspire you and help you learn more about God.
Authorities: If you have an attitude of love and submission toward those God has placed in authority in your life, you’ll place yourself in a position to hear God speak. Do your best to honor and respect healthy authority figures in your life.
Taking a step of faith: Sometimes you have to take a step of faith toward something you think God is calling you to do before He will speak to reveal more about His will. Be willing to take that step.
Mentors and spiritual parents: God can speak to you through spiritual mentors – people who have more life experience and greater spiritual maturity than you. Their advice is often filled with God’s wisdom.
Coaching and spiritual direction: People who care about you and work to help point you in the right direction in life will help you discover God’s will for you and take the next steps in His plan.
Fasting: Fasting helps you remove distractions from your life so you focus more completely on God. As a result, you can hear His voice more clearly.
A Sabbath rest: When you rest, you stop depending on your own efforts and rely more fully on God. You can become more aware of God’s presence while resting, which will help you hear Him speaking to you.
Going back to where the ax head fell: This means that, if you find that you’re on the wrong path, you can go back to where you last heard from God and try to reconnect with Him for fresh direction.
Discernment: Ask God to help you discern the difference between His voice, your own voice, other people’s voices, and Satan’s voice speaking to you. Practice recognizing the differences between them, and it will become easier over time.
Resisting the devil: Demonic spirits work to keep you from hearing God’s messages. Whenever you sense the presence of evil, renounce it through the authority you have in Christ.
Silencing voices from the past: Move on beyond unhealthy experiences you had before you became a Christian. Refuse to listen to voices that defeat you. Instead, claim the freedom from sin that is yours in Christ. Expect God to love you and speak to you, and He will.
Finding freedom: Pursue the healing you need to break free of anything that’s holding you in bondage – from an addiction, to a self-defeating attitude. Once you’ve found freedom, you’ll be in a better position to hear from God.
A daily encounter: Set aside a special time to meet with God through prayer each day. The more you listen to Him, the more you’ll hear what He has to say.
God’s character: God often speaks to you through what He reveals about His character, like unconditional love and righteousness. The more you learn about what God is like, the more you can recognize Him speaking.
Angels: God has directed angels – His holy messengers – to guard all Christians. Although you may or may not actually see an angel (since they appear only when necessary to accomplish a specific purpose), you can rest assured that they are around, because God cares for you. If you do encounter an angel, pay close attention, because the message he or she delivers will be important.
God’s silence: When you’re doing your best to listen for God but don’t hear from Him, let His silence remind you of your deep need for Him and draw you closer to Him. Remember that God is always with you – even when you can’t sense His presence – and even His silence has a redemptive purpose in your life.
Co-laboring with God: Often, the Holy Spirit will direct you from within and empower you to make wise decisions. As you acknowledge God moment by moment, He will direct your steps.
Practicing God’s presence: Nurture a loving relationship with God and intentionally spend time with Him for no other motive than to hear from Him because you love Him. He will respond.
Watching what the Father is doing: Notice how God is at work around you, and see what you can learn from it. Choose to trust God even when you don’t understand what He’s doing. Whenever He leads you to join Him in His work, decide to obey, and He will keep leading you.
Adapted from Speak, Lord, I’m Listening: How to Hear God’s Voice Above the Noise, copyright 2008 by Larry Kreider. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.
Larry Kreider serves as International Director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International (DCFI), a worldwide network of cell-based churches and micro (house) churches. During the past two decades, he has trained Christian leaders nationally and internationally to make disciples using the small-group concept. He has written 20 books, including Authentic Spiritual Mentoring, House to House and Starting a House Church.