Can I hear God speak?



Question: “Can I hear God speaking to me and how does God speak to us?”



Bible Answers

God wants to fellowship and communicate with us.  How do we get to know a person?  We get to know a person by communicating with him, by talking and listening.  It's the same with our relationship with God. He talks, we listen. We talk, He listens.


His Word is alive and continuously speaking knowledge and application into our lives.  Sometimes He is speaking directly to us but mostly He speaks to us in our thoughts.


In the book of Hebrews we see that we can have access to God's very presence, …since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19).


We see in Genesis 3:8a, ...they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day... In the same way, God wants to communicate with you today. Jesus tells us in John 10:27, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.


The most difficult part of hearing God is that it takes time to learn to discern God's voice. Jeremiah 29:12-13 says, Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  But if we keep saying “I cannot hear Him,” then what you say will come true.


A secret to hearing God

One of the secrets to hearing God is to take time to be quiet, to focus on Him, and to listen.  Hearing from God isn't so much a matter of if He's talking, but rather, whether we're listening.


To hear God, “you must want to hear, you must withdraw to hear, and then you must wait to hear.


The New International Version says, …I will station myself… (Habakkuk 2:1). What does it mean to station yourself before God? It means stay put. It means, ‘I'm not moving.’ It means, ‘I’m going to be still.’ ‘I’m going to sit here and I am not going to move until I hear from you, God.’


Hurry is the death of prayer. The reason you never hear God speak to you may be because you don't wait long enough, and God won’t speak to you as you run out the door. He wants you to care enough to listen.

Most of the time we’re running so revved up, we can't get slowed down enough to tune into God.  So, how do you slow down? You calm your mind by relaxing your body. You take deep breaths and you relax your muscles and let the tension drain out.


David says there are three things to do as you wait –


An important aspect of hearing God is to expect to hear from God as you wait upon Him.


Psalm 46:10 tells us, Be still, and know that I am God.


Making Demands

We cannot make demands on Almighty God, but we can ask, seek, and knock, and the scriptures promise that God will open the door.  God will always reveal Himself to those who humbly seek Him; however, the timing of when God opens the door is strictly in His sovereign hands. On the other hand, we cannot be passive, sit back and just expect that we will hear God without preparing ourselves.  

The Lord manifests Himself to us as we humbly seek Him. The familiar passage in Proverbs 3 makes it even clearer. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Hearing God often comes by His guiding our path.  In this situation, we do not hear Him; but afterwards, we see how he guided our situation.


Conditions for hearing God

  1. If you have been hearing false voices, take authority over Satan and his demons and silence them in the name of Jesus, so they cannot speak to you.
  2. Jesus said, the Son can do nothing (big or small) by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing (John 5:19).  We approach God in humility.
  3. We need to believe that God will speak to us.  Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6).  In your unfailing love you will lead the people You have redeemed (Exodus 15:13). Faith believes, it expects to receive, it expects to hear the Lord.  Faith does not give up, but continues to expect.  An answer may come immediately, in a few days, or even in a few months.
  4. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18).  Approaching God free of unforgiveness and unconfessed sin is required.  
  5. It is important to realize that guidance from God will be equivalent to our commitment to God’s will.
  6. Waiting Before the Lord – This is the most difficult of all conditions, giving Him time to speak, regarding both our questions, and what He may want to tell us. Clear your mind of all of your desires and daily distractions.  Be completely quiet before the Lord.


If you are not sure that you have heard correctly, ask the Lord to confirm what you believe you have heard.


Ways To Hearing God

So how can we know whether we are hearing the voice of God? The Bible gives us eight basic keys or filters through which every possible leading should be judged.  They are:


  1. Scripture:  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). Scripture is always the first and primary way God will speak to us.  God may highlight specific scripture, or we may ask God for Chapter and verse of a scripture that will answer our question. If you are not in the Word, you will miss much of what the Lord may be saying to you.
  2. Holy Spirit Prompting:  God imparts His will through the Holy Spirit in different ways.  The most common way God may speak to us is through the still small inner voice (1 Kings 19:11-12), through thoughts, with a pulling to go left or right, a closed or open door (Rev. 3:7-8), a tug in a our spirit, a peace in our spirit for one choice over another choice, and a restlessness in our spirit that this is not His will.  For many, God’s normal way of communicating with us is to impress thoughts or perceptions into our minds.
  3. Visions:  During the night Paul had a vision… (Acts 16:9).  For some, visions are quite common.
  4. Inspired writing: All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing (1 Chr. 28:19).  Ask God your question, still your mind, and wait with expectation for God to give you a thought, and then start writing.
  5. The Prophetic (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, personal prophecy):  Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:19-21).
  6. Godly counsel and confirmation:  Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).   Many times God will use other people to try to get through to you. It's possible for God to use anyone at any time.  They may make a casual comment that you will suddenly know is from God.
  7. The peace of God:  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15).  God's inner assurance of peace will act as an umpire in your heart.  This deep-seated, God-given peace comes in spite of the problems of the situation. If you are assured of God’s peace and confirmation, you can go ahead and move forward, but if you do not have God’s peace, whatever you are considering is wrong.  However, sometimes a person may be so anxious and emotional that they are not able to recognize God’s peace.  In this case, you need to first address your anxiety, I cast all my anxiety on him because he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), then listen to hear God.
  8. Circumstances - Timing: Many circumstances do not directly fall into the God talking to us category, and yet, He is speaking to us by arranging circumstances in our life.


One other way that God can speak to us is an actual voice. This approach appears to be reserved for when God needs to get our immediate attention, such as in an emergency. Many people may never hear the actual voice of God. Occasionally God communicates to us through dreams or an angel.


While many do not realize it, conviction can be from God as He leads us away from sin and guide us to repentance and correct actions.


We should always be careful in discerning prophecy and counseling. They should only be used as confirmation of what you believe the Lord is telling you and not as your primary sources of direction.  Those who prophecy are only human and may not always be correct.  This is why it is important that your primary direction is always from the Lord.


Many times the Lord will confirm His direction to us through three or more of these keys -- especially when we are in the process of making an important, life-changing decision. (2)


Make your questions simple and ask only one question at a time. Not that God cannot handle a complicated question, but because we may not be able to understand a complicated answer.


If you are still having a hard time hearing, picture yourself crawling into your heavenly Father’s lap, resting there, and thank Him for the answer. Thank your heavenly Lord for the privilege of waiting in His majestic presence.


If you do not feel God’s peace, wait and seek God again. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Col. 3:15). Even if you think God has given you a verse and it sounds good, but you do not have a peace about it, wait and seek God for a confirmation.


Reasons Why God Delays Answers

  1. The timing or the question may be wrong.  I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now (John 16:12).
  2. You may need to ask God if there is something more important that you need to ask first.
  3. You could be asking questions about other people that are none of your business.
  4. You may need to ask God if there is disobedience that needs to first be corrected.
  5. It may be a question for a group and the group needs to be asking together.
  6. You may have been dictating to God the method you want Him to use in answering you.
  7. God may not answer you because He wants to affect other circumstances first.
  8. God may be waiting for you to get to a specific point in your Bible reading.
  9. God may use a time of waiting as a time of testing and refining.
  10. He may be testing you to see if you are a diligent seeker or casual seeker.  You will find me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).  
  11. He may be testing to see if we have the faith to wait.  I will wait for the Lord, … I will put my trust in him (Isaiah 8:17).  
  12. The last reason is to accept that God’s ways are perfect and that we may not understand God’s ways, but we need to trust God even when we do not understand why He has not answered. Do not get discourage, but believe that it is on the way in God’s perfect timing. One time Moses was called to Mount Sinai to talk with God, but God did not speak to Moses for 6 days. Moses waited, then God spoke.


Timing

If you have been asking for a long time and have fulfilled all God’s requirements, the next step may be to stop asking God, give God your question and tell Him that when it is His time to answer you, then you need Him to stir you to seek Him about the issue.


Wandering mind

It is often hard to keep our mind on God while waiting to hear God, but remember, you are listening for the Creator of heaven and earth.  He is your supplier of all good things in this world.  You need to be listening with the expectation that He is about to answer you and you do not want to miss it by thinking of other things.  If you are not expecting to hear from God, then you do not believe. God only rewards diligent seekers, he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6).


As you pray, you can keep repeating, “Lord, I want your will, not my will”.


Discerning God’s Voice from Other Voices

Now that we know we can hear God's voice, we need to be alert, there are other voices whispering into our ears as well.  There are three voices that we can hear -- the voice of God, the voice of our own fleshly desires, and the voice of the devil.  Jesus tells us in John 10:4, ...and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.


You can narrow the odds by casting the devil away from you, in case there are any around you.  Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).  In Jesus name, command all satanic voices to be quiet. This is important, as the devil can bring impressions to our minds. He can quote and misquote Scriptures, and can direct us to specific Scriptures.  


The devil’s voice is always urgent and insistent, trying to get us to act hastily. The Lord’s voice is quiet but persistent.  To eliminate our voice, we must first clear our mind and eliminate any self-desires.  Our desire should be what the Lord’s will is, not ours.  He who trusts in his own mind is a fool (Proverbs 28:26).


The author of Hebrews tells us that we can train our ear to recognize the voice of God.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).  It is by practicing that we are able to discern whether what we hear is of God, our flesh, or the devil.


The Bible teaches the importance of …discerning spirits (1 Cor. 12:10) and …testing the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1).  


Unlike the devil’s voice, God doesn’t push or pressure us. He encourages us in a gentle but strong, assured way. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).


When a thought comes to mind, we can ask ourselves, is this from self, from Satan, or from God.  A thought from self is often a continuation of a previous thought, while a thought from Satan will often not have peace about it. The Lord’s thoughts often have a peace to them. Ask the Lord if the thought was from Him.


God’s Timing

Wait for God's timing. Waiting is trusting that God knows more than you do.  God seldom lays out a 5-year plan for our lives. Rather, He leads us one step at a time. Waiting patiently in the middle of your troubles may be exactly God’s will for you for today. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps 37:7).  Not hearing from God may be God saying, “wait.”


Others approach to hearing God

Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, says that he gets down on his knees and says, “Lord, I need to know what you want me to do, and I am listening.”  


Dallas Willard, author of  “Hearing God” described his method of hearing God.  He sets aside time for concentrated listening to God: he talks to God about the situation, asks God’s counsel, meditates on Scripture, quiets himself to better listen, and waits. Sometimes he does this for hours.


He may take a break to do something as a diversion, without worrying about getting an answer.  He trusts in God.  “Often by the end of an hour or more there has stood forth within my consciousness an idea or thought with that peculiar quality, spirit and content that I have come to associate with God’s voice. If so, I may write it down for further study. I also may decide to discuss the matter with others, usually without informing them that “God has told me…” Or I may decide to reconsider the matter by repeating the same process after a short period of time.” Always thanking the Lord for what He is saying.


Tips on hearing God

Many people do not hear God speak a thought in their minds, but as an impression in which you know exactly what God wants you to know.


Many have heard God and do not recognize Him.  It is the same as when the Lord convicts us of a past or present sin.


God also speaks to us with a check in our spirit, a check that we should not go ahead with a specific plan or action. But many of us miss this check because we do not see a logical reason.


We need to recognize that our thoughts may be God inspired.  It may be ideas for business, life, ministry, and may include greater understanding, wisdom, or discernment.


It is beneficial to always write down and journal any input from the Lord for future clarity and understanding.


Do not tell God how you want Him to speak to you.


If you keep confessing that God is not talking to you, then you may receive what you confess.


Ask God questions.  Often we do not hear because we do not ask. And when you approach God with humility, you can ask Him why He did or did not do something.


Be quiet long enough for God to speak. This does not mean striving for an empty mind or thinking about nothing, but settle your thoughts on Jesus or His Word. Ask a question, then pause for an answer.


To be prepared to hear God, we need to draw near to God with praise and worship.  We need to maintain receptivity to hearing.


Praying in tongues opens the pathway of our spirit with the spirit of God.


Do not become stressed to hear God.  Trying too hard can compound the problem.  Tell God you want to better hear Him and then give it to the Lord.  Now relax.


After hearing

Last, when God discloses some of His plans, do not immediately try to fulfill God’s plan without first seeking God’s timing and His way for implementing His plans. God may disclose to you what He has in mind for you weeks, months, or even years ahead of time. During this time, we need to prepare ourselves for when God does open the door.  How well we prepare ourselves can affect the time between each door opening.


Summary

God wants to communicate with us, but we often do not spend time to hear.  We need to start by being still and expecting to hear.  God communicates in many ways, but the most common is through scripture and through the Holy Spirit impressing thoughts or perceptions into our minds. As you believe and wait upon the Lord with a clear mind, you will start to hear the Lord.


1.  In part from Rick Warre, Pastor

2.  In part from CBN.com



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