How do we hear from God? This has been a question on my mind for as long as I can remember. In the bible, we see that God speaks. From Adam, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Eli, Samuel, David, Nathan, Job and to all the prophets in the Old testament. It is easily established that in the Old Testament God spoke.
As we continue into the New Testament we see that God continues to speak. After His resurrection and ascension we saw Jesus speak to Paul on the road to Damascus, we also saw God speak to Ananias the man who prayed for Paul’s eyesight to be restored (Acts 9:10), God sent a message to Cornelius through an angel in Acts 10 and spoke to Peter through in a trance in the very same chapter. Furthermore, the last book in the New Testament is aptly named Revelation because it is just that. It is a revelation given to Peter for the body of Christ as God spoke to him through a vision.
I say all this to highlight the fact that throughout the Bible we see God speak to various people using a variety methods. It is well and truly clear that God spoke to His followers. Furthermore, we know that God is also the same yesterday, today and forevermore (Hebrews 13:8), meaning that if He spoke in the past, He is still speaking now. Even beyond knowing that, based on John 10:27, where Jesus says "my sheep hear My voice", I am comfortable saying that God plans to keep speaking and has an expectation that we hear His voice.
That realisation planted a desire in me. Actually, for as long as I have known that people in the bible were normal human beings just like me and God spoke to them, I have also wanted God to speak to me. I had fantasies about hearing the voice of God, being led by Him and having complete clarity about what He is saying. And let’s be honest, I continue to have those fantasies, which leads me back to one question, how do I hear from God?
I’ve been asking myself this question since I was a teenager and I have continued to work out the answer as I learn to recognise God’s leading. At this stage, I think it's a good time to look back to a few months ago. At the time, I was reading through 1 & 2 Samuel in the Bible, specifically I was reading through David’s progression from his anointing as king to the fulfilment of that promise from God. It wasn’t my plan to learn about how to hear from God. I was simply interested in understanding the events of David’s life and his emotions. I was trying to build up a picture around the fact that the fulfilment of God’s promise in David’s life meant that he was going to embark on a difficult journey. Anyways that’s a different conversation for a different day. My point is that, as I read through David’s progression from the anointing to the throne, I started to also notice David’s character and his reactions. And as you read through the life of David, there is a phrase that comes up over and over again. The bible highlights that “David enquired of the Lord”.
Repeatedly, we see that before David reacted, when he faced a crisis, if he had a question, his first response was to “enquire of the Lord”. In some cases, he would be asking God what to do because he didn’t know what to do, such as when Saul besieged David at Keilah and David didn't know whether he should run or seek refuge at Keilah (1 Samuel 23). In other situations, he would have a plan of action, but before going ahead with the plan, he would present it to God and get His opinion. A perfect example of this is David's prayer at Ziklag when his own army and the followers loyal to him wanted to stone him because their wives and children had been kidnapped and taken as slaves (1 Samuel 30).
I’ve always liked David. At some point as a child, I must have heard that the bible said that David was “a man after God's own heart” and I thought to myself that’s what I want to be. I want to be after God’s heart. As I read through the many examples of David enquiring of the Lord, I find myself wondering if that's what the bible means by David was a man after God's heart. Is being after God's voice, the equivalent of being after His heart?
I also find myself wondering, was David always hearing from God was because he was always asking God a question? He was starting a conversation with God that required a response from God. This led to me look at my conversations with God and wonder how often I ask for God’s input? Yes with “big ticket items” such as should I start a relationship with a guy or should I spend a couple thousand pounds on a computer, then I definitely enquire and enquire again of the Lord.
However, I had to question how often I was seeking God’s opinion about the general details of my life. Yes in my times of prayer, I often explain and talk through what's on my mind, but to be honest I find myself making statements as opposed to asking questions. Naturally, I now have to consider, if I ask God more questions would I get more answers?
To answer my own question, I have faith that if I ask He will answer because He promises in Matthew 7:7 that all we have to do is "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (KJV). I also have faith because when I have asked in the past, He has been faithful to answer.
And on that note, as I came into this year, I was re-invigorated in my desire to hear from God about all things. I had taken Proverbs 3: 5 - 6 to heart and I was going to acknowledge God in all my ways. In some ways that desire became problematic because I started primarily seeking God for His guidance, instead of seeking Him for Him. I’ll be honest and say that it is still something that I am working out, but in many ways I feel more confident in being led by God and this is what I’ve learnt so far:
- Sitting before God is important. A lot of the times when Christians pray we have decided what we want to say and we spend all the time talking at God. However, prayer is a two-way conversation, which means You have to give Him a chance to get a word in. I have found that simply sitting with God and being present creates an opportunity to hear from Him. Sometimes it’s even better because it enables us to hear from Him on topics He wants to discuss with us as opposed to what we want to hear about.
- A pen and paper is your friend. Or any other writing instrument, though if you’re going to use your phone I would put it on airplane mode so you don’t get distracted by notifications. Either way, my point is that there is something about going to a place of prayer with a pen and paper. It shows an expectancy and desire to hear from God. Personally, it also puts me in a place where mentally I am focused on hearing from God. And most importantly, you want to be able to make a note of things, so you don’t forget them and can follow up on them.
- Ask a question that requires an answer. Like David did, let us enquire of the Lord. If we already have idea, then let’s get His opinion on it. If we have no idea what to do, then let’s get direction from Him. A lot of the time, our prayer requests are a list of what we need and want. And there is nothing wrong with that because God has commanded us to trust Him with our needs and wants. However, in addition to that let us also learn to ask questions such as “what do you think about…?”, “How do I deal with…?”, “what is Your will over…?” or one of my personal favourites, “how should I handle this in a way that will glorify Your name?”. Please know that I don’t intend those questions to be prescriptive, but it is simply my attempt to start you off in the habit of asking questions.
- God will not tell you to do something that His against His words in the bible. He honours His word more than His name (Psalm 138: 2) and to give this context, He really honours His name.
- You can’t focus on how God speaks to other people, you have to know how He speaks to you.
- To learn to hear from God, you have to practice hearing from God by seeking His voice in all things (as many a pastor has preached on the pulpit).
- The Holy Spirit is a teacher and will always guide you into how to discern the voice of God in a way that relates specifically to you.
Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].