Too many of us want to hear from God, but don’t seem to do so. We’ve explored, in the previous podcast, Hearing God, Part 1, what some obstacles to hearing God are and how to overcome them. Now we’ll dig in to how you can recognize God when He speaks. What does He sound like? And how can you know if you’re truly hearing God? Or if it’s someone—or something—else?
But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
Reasons We May Struggle with Hearing God – a brief review
- We don’t know how to listen or how to focus. Or, we do know how, but we don’t take the time to do it.
- We want to see big picture all at once. Or, we want a guaranteed outcome, or just an answer right now for what’s bothering us.
- We don’t expect God to communicate with us. We believe we’re not important enough or spiritual enough. Or we’re expecting big flashing signs, rather than God’s still small voice.
- We’re in sin, and that’s separating us from God and his voice.
We talked about how the foundation of hearing God is about relationship. He doesn’t want to give you a set of directions and leave you be. He wants you to walk with him.
Loneliness and the human condition
Dallas Willard, in his book Hearing God, talks about loneliness. Even when we’re in good relationships with people, we still struggle with loneliness. But with God, it’s a totally different story. He’s the only being who knows us perfectly, and who is with us always.
He’s in our thoughts, our spirit, our heart. It’s a closeness we can’t get with any other human. Through birth, death, and beyond, God is the only one who can be, and IS, with us through it all. Our human relationships will come and go, but not our relationship with God. He will never leave us nor forsake us. It makes sense that we should put as much effort as we can into cultivating that relationship.
Recognizing God’s Voice
How do we know when we’re hearing God and not our wishful thinking, or thoughts from Satan, or words from someone who’s misguided?
Characteristics of God’s Voice
—There’s a weight of authority, a sense of power to God’s voice as it impacts us.
—God’s voice doesn’t argue with us or try to talk us into doing something. It merely speaks with authority. His voice is not condemning or accusing. That’s a tactic of Satan or our flesh.
—We may notice a powerful effect God’s voice has on us. Even if, at the time, it didn’t seem like some huge revelation, it alters who we are and how we act.
—There is a deep love; a peace, a sureness, and a joy that is the spirit of the voice of God. Think of who Christ was as he walked the earth, the compassion and tenderness. He is still that person. Even if God is telling you of some wrong you’re doing, you should never feel belittled.
—The content of God’s voice must conform to the principles in Scripture and never contradict it.
“…what we discern when we learn to recognize God‘s voice in our heart is a certain weight or force, a certain spirit, and a certain content in the thoughts that come in God’s communication to us. These three things in combination mark the voice of God.” Dallas Willard, Hearing God
There’s no quick and easy field test for recognizing God’s voice, unless what you hear clearly contradicts Scripture. Hearing God, learning to recognize his voice, especially within your own mind, takes time, practice, and experience.
After first meeting someone and talking to them for a few minutes, you wouldn’t presume you could recognize their voice if they called you on the phone.
But eventually, over time, you’d become familiar with the tone of their voice, the pitch, the spirit of who they are, the way they phrase things, and you’d learn to recognize them. For you fiction writers, this is what it means to establish character voice in your story, or your own voice as an author. Recognizing God’s voice isn’t an immediate thing. You grow to learn it.
Hearing God is an individual experience
How you experience hearing God is individual. Don’t expect your experience to be the same as someone else’s. You’re neither more nor less spiritual than someone else whom God works differently with. Your goal is to figure out how it works between you and God, and even then don’t expect it to always be the same!
In his book, Dallas Willard describes his own hearing of God as “a characteristic type of thought and impulse, which was to me the moving of God upon my mind and heart.”
Your experience may be more sensory, or more oriented to words and thoughts, or anywhere in between. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s still about opening yourself to God’s presence in relationship.
Keep in mind that even after years of practice, after years of feeling like we can recognize God’s voice, we still aren’t infallible. God is the only one who is infallible. We can’t fixate on perfection, or stress, or give up if we make a mistake. God still desires the same thing no matter what: a continuing relationship.
FINAL TIPS for hearing God
There’s been so much in this topic, we could never cover it all, but here’s some final tips:
1. Walk in openness to God’s Spirit.
Be constantly open to God’s voice, with a listening posture that’s attentive and expectant all the time.
One of Webster’s definitions of listening is: to be alert to catch an expected sound. So if we want to hear God, we have to expect Him to speak.
2. Don’t be the one who’s always talking.
Remember, hearing God isn’t about “doing prayer.” It’s about being in relationship.
Don’t hear us saying you shouldn’t be praying. Look at how often the apostle Paul talks about praying. Philippians 1:9, for example, says, “I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment.”
So it’s okay to “do prayer.” I (Erin) need to plan time in my day and week to meditate on God’s Word, to remember His works, to consider who He is, and to intercede for myself and others. It’s important to me to help ground me and feed my mind and spirit. But that’s only PART of my relationship with God.
Even when we have planned prayer times, we still need to try to walk in as constant of a connection with God as we can. In relationship and communication throughout our day, because relationship is a quality of being together in daily life.
3. God isn’t interested in making robots.
His goal isn’t to have us blindly carry out a detailed set of instructions all day long. Rather, he wants us to grow and learn who he is so that our lives are about our character continuing to conform to Christ, partnering with Him for the work of the Kingdom.
Hearing from God isn’t about doing things right, but it’s about being. Being in relationship with God. Spending time with him, trusting that he’s always there. Building familiarity and trust just as you do with your family and friends. There’s no better place to be than in God’s presence, and there’s no voice so sweet and loving and TRUE as God’s.
“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior, He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17
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Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
Special thanks to our February sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! Tammy is a southern author and a speaker at women’s retreats. Her novel Blood Beneath the Pines is set mostly in the deep South and is a tale of prevailing justice. Find out more about Tammy at her website: Tammypartlow.com
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