The man was obviously frustrated. “If God would just tell me what to do!” he exclaimed, “I’m not hearing anything from Him.” Ever have that feeling? I’ve had it. Many of us desperately want to dialogue with God, to know His will, to hear Him actually speak to us, but experience this seldom, if ever. A few, on the other hand, seem to have a pipeline into the throne-room. “God told me this,” they confidently proclaim, or “God told me that.” Or, in the case of some leaders: “God is telling us that this is what we’re supposed to do.”
I strongly wish I had a phone line to heaven (or text connection, e-mail, whatever). I really do want Him to “walk with me” and “talk with me” more directly. I want His guidance. I want His affirmation. I want His friendship on a less invisible, less silent basis. Don’t you? I’d even settle for an angel once in a while. We know He can do it. Scripture is filled with examples of face to face conversations, visions, prophetic messages, and so on. And I do believe that they happen on occasion today. It’s unlikely that believers are always just imagining God’s voice or making it up. Yet I also suspect that a lot of “God told me’s” are really “I told myself’s.” That’s not hard to do. Dallas Willard has written a book called Hearing God where he claims that we can learn to recognize God’s distinctive voice in our hearts as we go through the day.
Why is it important that we hear God’s voice?
1. It’s important to hear God’s voice because we’re meant to have a living relationship with Him
Christianity isn’t just some religious system filled with rules and metaphysical ideas. At its very heart is God, a real person, seeking to build an actual positive relationship with His creation; and with humans in particular. Relationships require active communication between two living beings. One doesn’t build a friendship with a book. This leads to the next point
2. It’s important to hear God’s voice because our relationship with God is meant to be dialogical
In the Bible, God interacts with people, speaking to them and listening to their responses. Jesus, in particular, exemplifies this. He lived among us, hearing and responding to many folks in real time. It’s true that few have seen Him physically today, but the dialogue is still meant to continue, though usually in less direct ways.
3. It’s important to hear God’s voice because that’s how we know His will and purpose for our lives
Our lives are not our own. We were created by God to do His bidding and accomplish His goals. Sin causes us to resist this submissive aspect to God, but it’s the essence of Christianity; we’re made not just to love but to obey. The Bible, in fact, defines obedience as an element of love (John 14:15). And when we do, life is much better anyway.
4. It’s important to hear God’s voice because He’s wiser than we are
It just makes sense that a holy, eternal, all-knowing God would be a real asset in understanding life and making decisions. His is the voice of Wisdom described in the book of Proverbs. We could all use His counsel.
5. It’s important to hear God’s voice because our world is saturated with lies and illusions
What you see is not always what you get. Our planet is a spiritual swamp poisoned by Satan’s deceptions and distorted by the twisted lens of sin through which we peer. God’s voice helps us to sort through these deadly lies.
6. It’s important to hear God’s voice because He rewards us for listening and obeying
I’ve implied this already. While good works cannot save us (only Jesus can), we will all still face Judgment day when the fruit of our lives will be rewarded. If we hear God’s voice, we’re in a better position to obey Him and earn His approval and reward. All these reasons lead to the next question:
How can I hear God’s voice more clearly?
1. I hear God’s voice more clearly by wanting to hear it
Do we hunger to hear God, or is there a part of us that would rather He’d just let us live independently and not interfere? If we’re not walking with God, His voice can become an irritant or distraction rather than a source of wisdom and life; kind of like resistant children who try to avoid Dad’s “lectures”. On the other hand, those who eagerly desire to hear God, valuing His words, are more likely to do so.
2. I hear God’s voice more clearly if I listen for it
Sorry if this sounds too obvious, but hearing is not automatic. Learning to listen for God’s voice from hour to hour, minute to minute is a skill that must be developed. It’s all too easy to say a quick prayer and dash off into our day forgetting to listen for God. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the details of the moment’s task, but that we maintain at least a background awareness of God’s presence and promptings, sort of like a mother listens for her children while she cooks or does other chores out of their sight.
3. I hear God’s voice more clearly allowing silence in prayer
This is one I’m weak at. I tend to chatter at God. But sometimes it’s good to just be still and listen for a bit, to try to sense what God may be saying to us. Certain forms of meditation, like centering prayer, can help with this, when we deliberately limit our focus and slow down our minds.
4. I hear God’s voice more clearly by being open to the wisdom of others
I believe that often God speaks to us indirectly through fellow believers or even wise unbelievers. As others have said, “All truth is God’s truth.” I’ve received much spiritual wisdom through other people.
5. I hear God’s voice more clearly by paying attention to circumstances
This one can be tricky. David never would have defeated Goliath if he’d focused too much on circumstances, but God does use situations sometimes to send an indirect message. He opens and closes doors or slows things down. An open door isn’t an automatic “do it”, but it’s part of the total picture.
6. I hear God’s voice more clearly by being willing to wait for it
Sometimes, when we’re unsure, it’s good to pray and then sit back quietly until we gain a greater sense of confidence or certainty. God’s timing is different than ours and it’s easy to rush things. The other extreme, of course, is paralysis. Sometimes, after we’ve prayed with an open heart, we act out of faith that God is guiding us.
7. I hear God’s voice more clearly by saturating myself in His Word
Some of you have been waiting for this. The Bible is, by far, God’s clearest voice to us. The challenge is that it only tells us certain truths and leaves out a lot of day to day details. It doesn’t tell us which car to buy or what vocation to enter. What it does do, however, is to help transform our minds