There was a series of popular videos of old Tv commercials trending on social media last year. The setup for all the commercials was very similar. They were shot in the 1970-80s. First, two individuals were engaged in a discussion about money in a public place. Then one shared the advice of some broker. And the other person responded, "Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F Hutton says.."
Immediately after that statement, the whole surrounding crowd became silent. Then, everyone leaned in to hear what E.F. Hutton had to say. After a few seconds of silence, the voiceover explained, "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen."
This illustration is significant because God's voice is undoubtedly more powerful than E.F. Hutton, the financial broker. Within the first few sentences of the Bible, we are told of the power of God's voice. He speaks a thing, and it comes to pass. He created the whole world with His voice.
Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Genesis 1:3 NKJV
Uncountable voices are speaking into our lives. Some are wise and worth heeding, while others are trivial, annoying, and nasty. However, amid this cacophony of many voices, God has granted us the grace to hear His voice - the same voice in Genesis 1.
And when God speaks, we must be like those people in E.F. Hutton's commercials. Immediately quiet everything down to listen to what He has to say.
When you read through the life of people in the Bible, one theme is undoubtedly present. The people knew God through hearing, speaking, and walking with Him. God was more like a friend to them. Every day, Adam and Eve heard and lived by God's voice. God spoke to them in a loud voice in their everyday lives. What a fantastic way of living!
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
John 10:27 NKJV
The text above might sound like many of the books you have read. Everyone talks about doing what "the Lord says," "the Holy Spirit says," while very little knowledge is provided on how to "hear" and differentiate God's voice from the rest. And now we answer the question, "how do we do that?"
The following paragraphs will handle these useful bits in depth. But before we get there, we must ask about the importance of hearing the voice of God.
Why Is It Important To Hear God's Voice?
So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
Luke 5:16 NKJV
Even the tiniest things of our life are important to God. He wants to participate in every aspect of your life, not just a major decision. His word tells us to acknowledge Him in all that we do, and He will provide the right direction to follow.[Proverbs 3:5]
To acknowledge God in more straightforward terms means that we are interested in what He thinks about our lives, and we seek His advice.
Hearing God's voice has the following advantages:
- Offers guidance for today's or future situations (Luke 1:26-38)
- It helps us to avoid temptations and confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)
- It brings us closer to God [John 10:27]
- Provides confidence for making our decisions. (Luke 1:13,63)
- Alerts us of incoming trouble or war [Judges 3:27-28]
- It helps to understand His will for our lives (Ephesians 5:17)
- God has something important to say to humankind (Hebrews 3:7,15)
Prayer is undoubtedly the most important activity in the life of any believer. It is more than a dutiful recitation of the items in our prayer lists. Prayer is a dynamic two-way dialogue with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this journey, learning to break free from the rationalist prison of western civilization to relearn how to have spiritual experiences is of crucial significance.
What Does The Voice of God Sound Like?
God speaks, not merely on Sunday mornings where crowds gather. But through audible and inaudible promptings, always in perfect agreement with the scriptures. God has something unique to say, perfectly designed for you every season. It might be a picture, song, conversation, words, or text that rings with an affirmation for days.
He speaks to everyone through many different methods. However, all these instances have a similarity.
- God's voice sounds like the Bible
- God's voice is peaceful
- God's voice is personal
- God's voice is still and quiet
- God's voice is the voice of the Spirit and not your five senses.
- God's voice pulls you closer to Him.
- God's Voice is not Insistent.
Do you remember the story of the young boy who was called by God in 1 Samuel 3:1-10? It is not so much in how the voice sounds as it is what it says that tells you who's speaking.
It might take practice to recognize it, but the litmus test is easy. So next time you are unsure who's the voice you hear, remember to ask, "Is this keeping me away from God or pulling me towards obedience to God?"
Steps To Hearing God's Voice
Come To God With Your Request For Guidance
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
John 16:12-13 NKJV
Coming to God involves no specific format - we can all pray as we feel led. So for this section, let's look at a well-known form of structured prayer.
The ACTS treadmill style involves four stages - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. In addition, we will add a bonus stage.
- Adoration - Begin by praising God for Who He is. Highlight how He is just, everlasting, loving, all-powerful, etc.
- Confession- Allow the Lord to search your heart and admit any wrongdoings. Is there any person you haven't forgiven for something they did? Now is the time to let it go and to confess your sins.
- Thanksgiving- An attitude of gratitude for something you haven't received is the most excellent demonstration of faith. Thank Him for every big and little thing you can think of.
- Supplication- Share with Him your specific requests. God knows the longings of your heart, but he still wants you to talk to Him about it. Don't hold back. Ask away.
- Submission - Submit other voices and your voice to God's authority. Pray that you will only hear God's voice.
Wait In Silence For God to Speak For Minutes.
This morning as I sat down ready to write this article, I took my Ipad and sensed the Lord saying in an audible voice, "Take a few minutes and just wait on Me." So I paused and then took up my phone and scrolled through the Bible App.
Then Lord quickly corrected me, "I did not instruct you to be on your phone; I asked you to wait on Me."
As I waited on Him for a long time, I received several scriptures and lessons on something I wasn't expecting and more.
Our flesh is so much like that, full of energy and resistant to stillness. We easily forget that listening is an essential key to hearing.
When we go before the Lord and don't wait in silence, we are like the people who ask questions but refuse to listen to the answer. Prophet Elijah struggled with the same problem.
11 Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a STILL SMALL VOICE.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
I Kings 19:11-13 NKJV [Emphasis mine]
Have you noticed how God's voice came to Elijah? A still small voice, almost like a whisper. So a listening attitude is very integral when we want to hear a whisper.
Set aside long periods of waiting on God to speak. Don't fidget or get sidetracked. Just, Wait!
Jot Down Any Scripture Songs, Impressions, Or Pictures God Gives You
We must write down what we hear God say. Then, after waiting on Him, it is crucial to journal what you receive.
Writing helps the information sink in, gives you a reference for later, and shows you how much you have learned and how far you have come in your journey of obedience.
We pray and read the Bible and commune with the living God. Write down everything that you hear from His voice.
Do not short circuit the spontaneous flow of ideas by subjecting them to rationality. May it be pictures, scriptures, words, or songs, write them down knowing that you can test them later according to the litmus of the Word of God.
Quick Tips for Prayer Journaling.
- Choose the time of the day when you are at your best, away from distractions.
- A simple spiral-bound notebook is enough to start with. Some may prefer to type on a computer or use a recording device.
- Keep the journal private.
- Date all the Entries
- Proper grammar and spelling are not very essential.
- Consider Sharing anything that benefits others.
- Examine your notes regularly to see how far you've progressed.
Don't Listen to Fear and Guilt.
Step two was about quieting the onslaught of external noise. However, one of the enemy's most prevalent tactics is to keep us engulfed by internal noise. He makes us cling to fear and guilt by mentally reliving unpleasant memories. These lies penetrate our minds and spread.
These are honest thoughts that I believe we have all had. And until we are prepared to intentionally reject them and replace them with the truth of God's Word, our minds are clouded with doubt. God's voice drowns all the fears and doubts, silencing all the chatter.
At this point, many get the invitation that Eve got from the serpent.
"Did God really say?"
Fortunately, the Bible repeatedly asserts that God is more significant than our fears, worries, and guilt. God is more powerful than your flaws, sins, failures, and mistakes in the past.
Regardless of our transgressions, we will never reach a point with God where He no longer wants to talk to us. In fact, He is eager to speak with us. Therefore, allowing your doubts, fear, or guilt to keep you from talking to God is a mistake.
Share How God Spoke To You With Your Prayer Partners And Follow God's Will.
"Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:20 NLT
When God speaks to us, we obey His Voice. We can ask God to confirm as He did for Gideon in case of doubt. We can also seek prayer partners for help to discern God's will.
We should note that Samuel did the same thing with Eli. Eli could authenticate God's message to Samuel because he grasped God's nature and character. Eli recognized that the word Samuel heard was congruent with God's will and methods. And Eli knew it was true because God had previously told him the same thing. (1 Samuel 3: 1-21)
However, when we are sure that we have heard and got clear guidance from God, our response must be to obey, trusting that God is guiding us through His Spirit. Obedience to God's voice brings a beautiful sense of peace and security.
How To Discern God's Voice From The Devil's
To differentiate the two voices, we must understand the following two things.
First, we should know that God and the devil will also speak to us similarly. It is not unusual to hear two voices speaking simultaneously in a normal conversation. We cannot shut them both, but we can learn to discern the right one.
If you hear the enemy's voice in your prayer life, it is NOT a sign that you are less of a Christian. In reality, he most likely sees you as a threat hence his efforts to entangle you or mislead you.
Secondly, you must understand the characteristics of each voice to differentiate them from one another. Spending a little time with God's Word exposes you to His character traits.
Satan's traits are always opposite to those of God. Satan brings ambiguity and confusion if God gives clarity and direction. If God provides hope and peace, Satan brings despair and anxiety.
The devil's singular goal is: to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10 NLT
The table below highlights the differences between the two voices from Scripture. ( Colossians 3:15, John 3:17, Philippians 4:6, 2 Timothy 1;7, 1 Corinthians 14:33)
How to Discern God's Voice From Your Own Voice
Discernment means to examine, scrutinize, prove or test. But there's a catch; most people do not know how to differentiate the voice of God from their own thoughts. What if I get it wrong? What if it was my imagination?
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?"
Deuteronomy 18:21 NIV
Even if you're a Christian, not everything in your brain is God speaking. Between our sinful nature and the evil thoughts of the devil continuously striving to penetrate our brains, it's easy to mix up or mistake our thoughts with God's.
There are three ways we can distinguish God's Voice from our own from the scriptures.
God's Voice Does Not Gossip
Scripture instructs us to refrain from the habit of gossiping multiple times. If you hear thoughts criticizing and celebrating another person's failure, likely, that's not from God. (Ephesians 4:29, Matthew 7:1-4)
God's voice Doesn't Obsess Over Problems
Most people fall into the ditch of depression and anxiety when a problem stays long. God doesn't obsess over problems. He reminds the problems of Himself. (Jeremiah 10:11-12)
God's voice Doesn't Contradict Scripture.
He won't tell you to cheat on your spouse or rob your company because "they deserve it ." The voice of God mirrors Scripture. (Hebrews 13:8, Psalms 89:34)
What To Do When You Don't Hear God's Voice?
Learning to hear God's voice is vital for every believer's relationship with the Lord. What do you do when you seek God, but all you get in return is silence? The silence can be frustrating, agonizing, and disheartening.
The table below shows the right and the wrong way to respond to God's silence. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Psalms 22, Matthew 11:, Psalms 62:1,8, Genesis 21:1)
WRONG WAYS TO RESPOND
RIGHT WAYS TO RESPOND
Keep Praying. Prayer is not a magic wand. Do not let the fire at the altar go off.
Anger and Confusion
Be honest. It is okay to be frustrated. Scripture contains many brutally honest prayers. Bare your heart open before God and respond in humility.
Guilt and Self-Condemnation
Think instead of the divine grace of God. It is not our self effort that makes God answer prayers.
Faith only comes by hearing the word of God. Take time to quote scripture to yourself and to meditate on it.
Battling depression is not a life sentence. Ask for help from a counselor or a spiritual leader. Do not walk alone
Hopelessness and Despair
Count your blessings during the seasons of silence. They will remind you of God’s faithfulness.
You Can Do It
Anyone who can hear the voice of God and differentiate it from others in their daily lives has an invaluable gift. You can have it too. But, just like a child takes time before they can walk, patience and diligence are required to grow.
Build the habit of carefully and expectantly listening for whatever God has to say at all times. Practice an active spiritual life. It is much more important to be a person who routinely listens to God than to beg God for direction once in a while.