By: Tania Harris
It’s been said that when we talk to God, we’re ‘praying’, but when he talks to us, we’re crazy. Personally, I think it’s far crazier for us to pray without expecting God to speak back.
Since the beginning of time, God has been a communicating being. When we choose to follow him, God gives us the Holy Spirit who speaks to us wherever we are. The challenge is learning to discern God’s voice above the others we hear.
Although he longs to reveal himself in a personal way, human frailty means we can get it wrong. The good news is that Jesus himself said his people would be able to recognise his voice, and having recognised it we could follow (John 10:27).
Having a personal conversation with the Creator is one of the incredible privileges of being a Christian and one of the best ways to experience the tangible presence of God in the midst of our everyday lives. Here’s four easy-to-follow steps to hearing God’s voice for yourself:
1. Start a Conversation
Hearing God’s voice starts with an expectation that he can and will speak to us. The Scriptures reveal that God has always been a talker. From Genesis to Revelation, we see him speaking to people about all manner of topics from their personal fears and concerns to the rise and fall of nations. This desire for conversation shouldn’t be surprising given God’s heart for genuine relationship. We can never truly know someone without two-way communication.
Want to hear God’s voice? It starts with the understanding that there is a God who loves you and wants to reveal himself to you. All you need to do is introduce yourself. Ask him a question. Start the conversation.
2. Hear the Sound
We would all love to sit down and have a coffee with Jesus. But Jesus himself said hearing his Spirit would be better than a personal audience with him. God’s voice is the Spirit of Jesus. It’s a spiritual voice that we learn to recognise as we get to know the kinds of things God says and the kind of person God is. Hearing it is not a skill for those who’ve been a Christian the longest or a formula for those who have studied the Bible the most. It is not something reserved only for pastors, theologians and spiritual leaders. Jesus said that all those who seek him would find him. Those who have ‘ears’ would hear. It’s all about the posture of our hearts.
Like any good communicator, God speaks in multiple ways. Often people hear from God in ways that are related to their personality – he tailors his message to how we best receive it. God can use anything to speak – his messages are creative and can be delivered using any of our senses: words we hear, pictures we see, emotions we feel.
3. Recognise the Voice
By far the trickiest part of having a God-conversation is learning to recognise his voice among the others that we hear. What makes it difficult is that while God’s revelation is pure, we are not. Like water flowing through a rusty pipe, our experiences, mindsets and desires, all act to contaminate what we hear. We end up seeing what we want to see and hearing what we’ve heard before. Indeed the first thing we need to know before we can get it right is to admit that we can get it wrong.
The good news is that Jesus said his people would know his voice and having recognised it, they would be able to follow. God wants to be heard, even more than we want to hear. His intention is that we heed his voice and therefore we need to be know it’s him. Every word we hear, vision we see or feeling we have needs to be tested. There are three ways we can do this: Would Jesus Say this?, Has the Holy Spirit confirmed it through the witness of others in my community? Has the Holy Spirit provided supernatural signs or indicators that it is from him?
4. Respond in Faith
Having a God-conversation is not just about getting the answer to our questions. While God wants to help us in the everyday stuff of life, his heart is to build relationship. Everything he says has the goal of drawing us closer to him. He speaks to make us more like him, to help us fulfil our purpose on the earth and to bring his kingdom of love, joy and peace to everyone around us.
That means there’s little point in hearing God’s voice if we are unwilling to respond to it. A relationship can only go so far if one party is committed. Jesus said we show our love to him by doing what he says and in that context, he is able to reveal more of himself. It’s the way relationships work. So in faith we need to respond to what he says.
About the Author: Tania Harris is a pastor, speaker, author and the founder of God Conversations.