Do you hear God’s voice? How do you know that you’ve heard his voice and not that of another or yourself? I think we’ve all been here, and many Christians are still perplexed on the matter. Hear Corrie Ten Boom from her book Not I, But Christ:
“If you want to hear God’s voice clearly and you are uncertain, then remain in his presence until he changes this uncertainty. Often much can happen during this waiting for the Lord. Sometimes, he changes pride into humility; doubt into faith and peace; sometimes lust into purity. The Lord can and will do it.”
“…In Divers Manners Spake”
God speaks. The comforting thing is all of us hear him. Knowing that we do and liking what we hear is something different. Also, God speaks in many ways. Let’s talk about these.
- Scripture. This is the foremost way any of us hear God’s voice. We call it the ‘Word’ because it is the expression and full estimation of God’s mind, will, and heart for us humans. From it we draw conclusions about life. We should not only read scripture, but also study it, for by it we grow close to God.
- People. We hear God speak to us through our fellowship with the body of believers and through sermons and studies. Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline discusses guidance and explains a rich but lost spiritual act of bringing our concerns and afflictions before small groups of believers and therein finding the will of God. Further, God can speak through anyone, not just believers. Have you ever prayed and the answer came from one you could never have suspected? God may be answering you.
- Events and Circumstances. The doctrine of providence helps us see that nothing is outside of God’s control; so why can’t events and events in our lives be used to answer our prayers? Sometimes God takes us on a journey, one of applied faith, the outcome of which is a deeper trust in him. We discover that he only desires our best and is sometimes trying to build more in us than our meager need for a problem solved.
- Inner Voice. Sometimes this is expressed in different ways—a godly conscience or impressions or a strong weighing on the mind and heart. This accords with a life of devoted study of the scriptures and a heart continually seated before God’s throne. Personally, should I hear something I’m not sure about, I have a habit of shelving these impressions until I get further clarity. Also, it’s never a bad idea to share these things with godly believers through whom Christ can direct you.
- Visions and Dreams. Some people limit God’s voice to the Bible and perhaps personal impressions. Occurrences like prophetic gifts and personal revelations, like dreams, are out of the question. But I believe that these methods are still in operation, having experienced them myself. Nevertheless, we should be cautious. Most dreams don’t have a spiritual meaning, or any. I discourage most books that attempt to interpret things beheld in dreams. Visions can range from fleeting mental ones to open visions and heavenly rapture. A person should consider such experiences graces afforded to them by God.
The Goal of Hearing
After sincerely sharing our concerns with the Lord, we should listen and watch for his answer, like Corrie Ten Boom explains. We should discipline ourselves to listen because prayer is never just us speaking to him, for he desires to talk to us. So the fact that God answers is not special.
Moreover, prayer changes us in its process. I wonder if God purposely waits at times to get us focused on him before he responds, however he does. Ultimately, hearing God’s voice is about posture. The corollary of prayer is relationship. Prayer builds dynamic relationship and relationship enhances dynamic prayer. Brother Lawrence’s suggestion in The Practice of the Presence of God is right, indeed all the Christian devotional masters are, and we dare not miss it: spiritual disciplines and graces are but a means to an end, and that is God himself.