How do we know when God is speaking to us?
Everyone’s experience will be different, based on needs and personality, and it may feel daunting in the beginning. When I first started trying to hear Him, I found that learning to recognize His voice wasn’t as hard as I expected.
I began to pray that He would teach me to hear Him, and soon discovered that He spoke more often than I realized – I labeled it as my own conscience. Over time, I have learned to pick out the subtle differences between a prompting of the Holy Spirit, and a prompting from my own conscience.
The first time I remember distinctly hearing an exact phrase from the Lord was several years back when my daughter had head lice. She caught it 3 times in less than a year and a half, and I was quite upset. I may have even yelled at God a little bit. Yet His answer was perfectly clear. His exact words to me were “I have been trying to get your attention, and you are not listening.” Yes, I reluctantly admit, my first real encounter with the voice of God was a reprimand!
The single most important step in hearing Him speak is to get alone with Him – often. In the beginning, we can even ask Him to help us listen each time we settle in, but eventually, we’ll no longer need to ask. We simply expect Him to speak; we know we’ll hear something.
How to hear the Holy Spirit speak:
- Clear the clutter. We have to cut out physical distractions in the room, such as phones or pets. We also have to control our thoughts. We don’t intentionally clear our mind to be empty – that can be dangerous in the spirit realm – we just get rid of thoughts about the fun we had last night, our plans for today, issues that are bothering us, etc. We intentionally focus only on Jesus. I like to do a verbal exhale, which tells my body it’s ‘Jesus time’, and all other thoughts need to wait. I also like to turn on praise music to signal to my mind that all else needs to quiet.
- Study the Bible. By far, the best way to hear the spoken (rhema) word of God is to delve into His written (logos) word. He makes verses and phrases feel personal, fitting perfectly into the areas where we currently struggle or have questions. I have also found that as I read Christian books and studies, God uses those resources to lead me to just the right place in the Bible, whether it’s an answer to an issue, encouragement when I’m down, or simply something He wants to teach me.
- Praise the Lord. The more time we spend in worship, the more our focus turns away from the world, or ourselves, and onto Him. This helps us to tune into His voice better. I try to make sure I’m listening to some kind of praise music at least for a few minutes every day. When He gets our attention and adoration, He responds to that.
- Carry on a conversation. Prayer wasn’t meant to be all about us bringing Him our problems. It was meant to be a discussion. When our prayer becomes less about asking for help, and more about His character and attributes, expressing gratitude, or telling Him about how we feel in certain situations, we begin to open channels of communication where we can hear Him more clearly.
- Be still and listen. Our tendency during quiet time is to do all the talking or to have an agenda of what we’re going to do, because He is not physically sitting next to us. But if we can just relax and picture Him nearby, or perhaps sitting on His throne, it makes Him feel more real or tangible, and can make listening easier.
- Be open to pictures. Sometimes we process things better when we see rather than hear, so certain people may receive God’s message in their minds similar to the way we watch TV. Or in dreams, which is another topic entirely. These types of communications happen to me a lot, and I’ll share some of my experiences later.
- Journaling is huge. As we write out thoughts and feelings, God tends to piggy-back on that and prompt us with explanations or encouragement or teachings. Plus, it’s a good way to remember what God says, because over time we do forget!
Recognizing God’s voice takes practice and it’s important in the beginning to discuss what we heard with a godly person to verify if we’re hearing Him correctly. Even after several years, there will be times when we’re uncertain that we understood Him right.
Coming up next, I’ll talk about discerning if what we heard was really from God, and what things to avoid that could hinder His voice from reaching us.