Listening to God is vital for our writing and our faith, but HOW do you listen to Him? Many of us wish we could do it better! We’ve asked some of the writers we know to share their thoughts and tips on ways to listen to God—REALLY listen. Come join in and learn!
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One of the struggles writers often express is knowing God’s will for their writing, hearing his voice, and knowing his direction. We’ve done some podcasts about that: 58 Did God Really Ask You to Write, 110 Hearing God Part 1, 111 Hearing God Part 2.
But today we want to focus on one aspect that we all need to work on. It’s something every relationship can benefit from, perhaps even the most important thing, and it seems to be a skill the hostile social media environment proves is lacking in many (or all) of us: Listening.
What does it mean to listen?
Merriam-Webster has this to say about what it means to listen:
1: to pay attention to sound
2: to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration
3: to be alert to catch an expected sound
My (Erin’s) church recently posted a thoughtful article about listening to God. Here’s a quote:
“In part, listening is an act of submission. When we listen we release control over a conversation, submitting to the terms and direction set by our conversation partner. When we listen to God we submit to our limitations by acknowledging it is only God who can cross the divide between Divinity and humanity. Therefore we wait for God to start the conversation.” Joseph Luigs
We can see two principles in that:
- Stop talking in order to listen. That is an act of submission. Give God a turn and understand how amazing it is that he took the initiative to create fellowship with us.
- Focus your attention. This is how we can show God the reverence and respect he deserves.
Luigs’s article goes on to say:
“Sometimes he speaks. Sometimes he listens back. But however he moves, it is always in love. Like all forms of submission, listening is vulnerable. We open ourselves up to God having to trust that he will move toward us in a way of love.”
We need to trust that God will and does speak, in his time, in his way.
Since there are many ways for God to speak and many ways we can listen, we decided to enlist the help of you, our listeners, to gain new insights and ideas. We sent out an email to various writers’ groups to get feedback to share with you. Thanks for your thoughtful replies!
WAITING on God
“I refuse to go on to the next thought when I ask Him a question. I just wait. Sometimes He answers. Sometimes He doesn’t. When that happens I don’t forge mightily ahead until He directs. Sometimes He wants to talk about something else. I’m the kind of person they put crash bars on doors for. It’s important and difficult for me to listen before I move, whether I’m writing or pursuing something else. However, I’ve learned that the result of roaring down the road, looking back over my shoulder, asking, ‘What do you think God?’ produces less than optimum results.” Jane Baker
“[Mark Batterson] has really taught me about prayer, how to pray and how to listen to God. I listen. Sometimes I think I have heard the Lord’s voice – not loud and clear, but a whisper…I’ve learned immense patience and trust. I believe God gives us answers to the promises He gives by constantly reassuring our faith in those promises. God does not tease! He does not treat our desires lightly. But He gives us the strength and trust and patience to prevail. Many times I’ve ‘felt’ Him say, ‘In my time. Please be patient.'” Bonnie Engstrom
“I use a finger labyrinth to talk with God. I lay my cares or prayers before God on the way in and then in the middle I wait until I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, then I walk my finger back out and listen and let the Spirit transform me. I do the same for my characters as well, especially when they get stuck in situations only God can get them out of.” Jessica White
“I listen to God by practicing silence in His creation. Our world is loud and heavy with distractions, and I struggle to quiet my mind. But when I can surround myself with the creative works of God and center my thoughts on Him, I’ve found my heart is in the best place to listen for His voice. It’s not easy, but God is good and patient and He is always there, waiting for me to listen.” Becca Wierwille
I (Erin) agree. Sometimes listening in my heart works best because in my head, my own words can get in the way. Sometimes I just take time to focus wordlessly on listening with my heart. It’s one of the best ways I sense God’s love for me. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:18-19 for us as Christians to be able to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love for us. But this love, he says, surpasses knowledge, so to me, one of the ways I can hear it and feel it is wordlessly in my heart.
“How do I listen to God? I’ve learned to be still. Just be still and calm, even when my life seems to be unraveling. I walk on the beach a lot. This is where I truly feel God. The ocean is an amazing creation that brings both joy and danger, excitement and tragedy. I respect the ocean as a gift God created. My creativity is also a gift from God. Sometimes, I can see the signs, such as when I came up with an idea for a new book while walking on the beach, fearing I’d run out of good ideas. I knew the lead character would be named Jeremiah. When I got home, anxious to write down my idea, my inbox prayer for that day was from the book of Jeremiah. ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV). I have always found God in times of isolation. And God has always given me exactly what I need in times of isolation. When I walk alone on the shore and marvel at God’s amazing creations, He in turn reminds me I am one of his creations. He gives me exactly what I need if I only stay still and wait for him, if I only seek Him. Because when I do this, HE seeks me and shows me the way with each step I make on that glistening white sand.” Lenora Worth
“Something about taking a walk increases my receptivity, or a message comes to me early in the morning when I’ve been puzzling over a knotty question.” Gail Kittleson
“Lately I’ve learned how important it is to pay attention immediately after I pray and throughout the day. Ask, and you shall receive, the Bible says, yet I so often ask and run off. Rushing into the day, mind heavy with plans and focus and determination, I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the Holy Spirit speaking to me through an impression, scripture, circumstance, or another believer unless I’m paying attention. The Lord is not limited in the ways He communicates with me, but I often act as if I don’t expect Him to. Yes, sometimes He is silent, but since I know He is faithful and His timing is perfect, I’m learning to wait. Oh, that four-letter word! Paying attention has become the account I want to keep most current in my life. It pays the biggest dividends.” Davalynn Spencer
“In mulling over the answer, I found I don’t so much listen to God as I listen for Him. I continue a running dialogue with him throughout my day and sometimes well into that place between waking and sleep. While sometimes this dialogue is in-the-moment prayers, other times my mind just gravitates toward Him. It’s in those moments more than any other that I will hear Him. To be clear, I have never heard God speak to me in an audible voice and yet I can tell you without hesitation that He has indeed spoken to me. Sometimes this comes in the form of a nudge to say or do something—or to NOT say or do something. Other times it might be a little whisper in my heart about something I have been praying about. Rarely do I get an immediate answer from Him. Most times the answer comes when I least expect it.” Kathleen Y’Barbo
“I come from a health science background so I’ve always viewed God as working in and through my body’s tension and energy. When I pause long enough to engage in more than small-talk with Him, I find my body is one of the first ways He clues me into his intentions and plans for my future (both near and far-reaching). There is this release in physical tension and a renewed energy and purpose when my plans align with his intended purposes. If I’m pushing my own agenda, the tension (and back pain and break-outs) continue, whereas if I consider His Word and act accordingly, I feel rejuvenated and inspired to dig into those areas of my life.” Tara K. Ross
“I listen to God by watching carefully for a sense of God’s wonder in my writing, in my work and in everyday life. I find that God speaks most clearly to me when I see something in way I’ve never seen before and catch my breath with a quiet wow! That’s God. Or when he shows me something beautiful in the midst of ugliness or pain … in a place where I’d least expect to find God and his beauty. That’s when I hear God the most clearly. So, watching for him in everyday things, and in difficult, ugly things … that’s how I listen to God.” Marlo Schalesky
“…My days were busy and passed by so quickly, that when evening arrived I was too tired to consider sitting down to write. Gradually, I found myself awakening around 5:30 a.m. and feeling pushed to get up and write. Most days I did just that, because I believed the “push” was from the Holy Spirit and I didn’t really want to get up. Time continued on and I was trying regularly to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. One morning when I was into my second book of the series and moving along quickly with the story progressing, I abruptly stopped. I couldn’t go any further. I had no idea where the story was going—how was this going to be resolved? I just couldn’t think of anything. Then like a jolt to my mind, the whole rest of the book was in my brain. I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving! I knew without a doubt that this was from God.” Janet L Walker
STUDYING & READING GOD’S WORD
“For me, I believe that the most important way we listen to God is by reading and studying His word regularly. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I learn more about His love and His ways of caring for me. I see more clearly my own sins and my need for forgiveness in Christ and find compassion in my heart for others. When I start my day with prayer and Bible reading, I’m more aware of His presence throughout my day, and much more likely to recognize and act upon the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. I also more readily recognize when I’m speaking or acting in a way contrary to Scripture and hopefully make quicker efforts to repent. When I read God’s Word, I find strength for each day’s tasks, help with my fears, and hope for the future, even in difficult times!” Kathy O’Neill
“By reading and studying His Word.” Stephanie Whitson
“Mostly God speaks to me through his Word. I feel confident if I have Scripture to back up something I write. Also, I am moved often by praise songs.” Kathy McKinsey
HEARING GOD THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE
“I adamantly want follow God’s call in my life. Making sure I am doing what God wants me to do requires me to revisit the topic on a regular basis. God’s still, small voice can be hard to hear, and unfortunately, He’s never taken me by the hand and guided me while yelling, ‘KRISTIN, I WANT YOU OVER HERE, WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION ABOUT DOGS!’ Instead, I often feel the heavens are brass, and God’s voice is inaudible. But eventually, after much prayer, I hear him, usually in one of two places: scripture or the words of another Christian. Being immersed in scripture dials up the volume on God’s voice. It centers me, allowing me to focus on the core of our faith, not on the distractions of life. That helps me hear Him. I have also heard Him in the counsel of other believers. This is a powerful experience when it happens. We are His church—His people. If we’re doing it right, others can see God in us and even hear God through us. It’s a humbling event when you discover you have been that conduit for another, and it’s inspiring to see God speaking to you through a Christian friend.” Kristin Kaldahl
Bonnie Engstrom also mentions hearing God through prayers and words from prayer partners.
“God speaks to me through His written word (the Bible) primarily, but also through sermons, through times of worship, through books, and through other Christians. On a rare occasion, He’s spoken to me through a dream. There is something about being attuned to God that causes a person to hear and understand His voice even when nothing seems related. For example, the pastor is speaking about Topic A, but suddenly God whispers into my heart about Topic B that needs addressed in my life.” Robin Lee Hatcher
“For me it’s not very complicated. When I need the Lord’s leading or wisdom or help, I pray. Lord, what should I do? What should I say? How can I best honor You? Sometime in the next little bit–minutes, hours, days–a thought appears or a comment is made that answers my prayer. The big challenge is recognizing it as God’s answer, especially if it differs from my human inclination.” Gayle Roper
“I like to write out my prayers and journal my thoughts and record what the Lord is saying to me. I often copy out a verse that is meaningful to me and ask Him to show me what it says and what it means for me…” Carrie Turansky
Carrie also mentions reading God’s Word, doing Bible study, reading devotionals, being married to a spiritually mature pastor who helps her hear from God, taking walks and listening to God as she sees his work in nature. But then Carrie adds this:
“This has been encouraging to think of all the ways I can listen to God and hear from Him. How does this apply to my writing . . . what I write comes out of who I am. Who I am comes out of who I listen to and what I take into my heart and mind.”
There’s nothing better to take into our hearts and minds than God speaking to us. How do you listen to God? Think about that for a moment. How do you make sure you’re attuned to the voice of God? What is it for you that opens your heart and mind to hear his truth as he whispers to you? God is so good to us all. He speaks to us in the way that we need. Take the time. Sit in his presence. Open yourself up to him and let him respond, not just for your writing but for every aspect of your life. Give him your thoughtful focus. I guarantee you, you will be blessed.How do you listen to God? #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
How do YOU listen to God?
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