On Hearing God’s Voice
As I began to write this blog post, I prayed a short prayer — a prayer that I had instinctively done in the past, “Okay Holy Spirit, speak to me as I write.”
In that moment of prayer and mental preparation, I had defaulted to an instinctive presumption without thinking twice about what I had just prayed. This presumption, of course, is the false notion that I can hear God’s voice.
We hear it all the time at church, “God spoke to me about my future”, “God told me to tell you…”, and “I hear God’s voice telling me…”
Yet, if I asked you what God’s audible voice sounded like, I would presume that you would have no idea. Truth be told, I wouldn’t blame you. If you have heard His voice, then I envy your relationship with God, and would gladly sit under you to learn to hear God’s audible voice.
In fact, the past couple of months has been a journey of trying to hear God’s voice. If I were to be completely honest, the journey hasn’t been a fruitful one, as I still have no clue what His voice sounds like.
My desire to hear God had become so unfruitful, that it became a burden rather than an earnest cry of my heart. I began to doubt if my relationship with God was strong enough for Him to speak to me.
If He could speak to the prophets, and to the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, why can’t he speak to me? I began to doubt if I was as close to God as I thought I was, after all, our proximity to someone often determines whether we can hear them.
The truth is that during this journey, I do recall moments where God was “speaking” to me. For example, I had recently moved out of home to a place closer to church and to college, with a budget that is ridiculously beyond my monthly income.
I moved out in blind obedience, simply based on the fact that the thought of moving out was a “good thought”. In hindsight, this “good idea”, was God revealing His desired will for me. The amazing thing is that I have been able to meet the rent and expenses — despite the occasional turbulence.
During this time, I had earnestly prayed to know God’s will. If I could only hear Him say, “Yes, go into the land and possess it,” then I could confidently move towards that promise. Unfortunately, no voice was heard during that time, but in faith, I stepped out to move into this new place.
How often are we like this when it comes to following God? We earnestly seek an answer, or a word, and get nothing. Yet, we either eventually step out in blind obedience, settling on the idea that the decision that requires more faith must be God’s will, or worse, we end up making the wrong decision based on our fleshly desires.
The truth is: God’s will can be understood, God’s voice can be heard — just not in the way we want to hear it.
If you are reading this, you are most likely to have had an understanding of the experiences outlined above. If that is the case then I can confidently suggest that you have definitely heard God’s voice.
I propose that you have heard God’s voice, because if it were not so, then you would not know the God that I am talking about, nor will you be following Him. After all, the Bible says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The mere fact that you follow Jesus should give you confidence that you have the ability to hear His voice.
This truth comes down to the Doctrine of Revelation. Humanity, because of our totally depraved nature, is unable and unwilling to seek, know and find God. Thus, we must depend on God’s own will to reveal Himself in order to come into a relationship with Him.
If we rest on the idea that our relationship with God begins when He desires to seek us, not when we desire to seek Him, then we come to the realisation that it is God who initiates communication with us.
We see this in the Garden of Eden after the fall. Adam and Eve hide from God, while God looks for them in the Garden:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
We must understand two points from this passage: 1. We don’t want to seek God and 2. God initiates the relationship by searching for us.
The Doctrine of Revelation also tells us that God communicates in a way that we can understand Him (John 16:25).
We see this exemplified through the Word of God. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and some passages in Aramaic, simply because the people to whom it was written to spoke Hebrew and Aramaic. Furthermore, the New Testament was written in Greek, because the people spoke Greek.
We see this illustrated in the Bible itself, where God speaks to Samuel in Hebrew and calls him by name (1 Samuel 3:4). God speaks to Moses through a burning bush, knowing that Moses, a shepherd, was accustomed to the flash fires that was common in the wilderness. Jesus Himself spoke in Aramaic, the language spoken in Jerusalem.
If we settle on these two truths, that God initiates communication, and always communicates in a way that we can understand, then we can trust that God wants to speak to us, and wants us to understand what He is saying.
God speaks to us daily
God has spoken to us through the Scriptures. Through preserving the words written in the Bible, God has divinely revealed His decretive will to us.
The Bible is the Word of God, thus, every word written in the Bible comes from the mouth of God (2 Timothy 3:16–17). He spoke through Jesus Christ — every word that Christ spoke was God’s voice (John 12:49). If we simply read and listen to the Bible, we are able to hear what God has to say.
Moreover, God wants to guide us in our daily walk with specific words of assurance, blessing, counsel, and direction.
The question is, “How can we receive God’s special revelation for us? How can we hear God today?”
God’s inner voice
The answer that God “gave” me was that we can’t hear His voice, but we can understand what He is saying.
In the instances where we witness the ancient Hebrews speaking to God in the Old Testament, we see that God speaks directly to them. He speaks to them verbally, in a way that they can audibly hear Him. Yet, we come to a place now in history where we don’t have the same privilege of communication.
On this side of the cross, in the New Covenant, it seems that God has taken away a valuable part of our relationship with Him. He has abolished all means of verbal communication.
To the flesh, it appears as if God has taken away a good thing from us. This is not true. In fact, God has removed the old and has given us a better way to communicate. He has provided a better way for us to know His will.
To understand this “better way”, we need to read 1 Corinthians 2. This whole chapter addresses the false teachers who have come to visit Corinth. These teachers were “learned men”, who came with “excellence of speech and of wisdom,” who challenged the authority of Paul.
Paul, in an attempt to solidify his apostleship, explains that God’s hidden wisdom, which was previously unknown to humanity, was now revealed to the church through the Holy Spirit, and not through the wisdom of man. Paul writes,
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
Herein lies the answer to the age-old question, “How can I hear the voice of God?” To that, I respond with another question, “Why would you want to hear God’s voice, when you can think God’s thoughts?”
The external conversation enjoyed by the ancient Hebrews was a foreshadow of the internal dialogue between God and His chosen people.
The practice of prayer is not just the culmination of random thoughts with oneself, it is the inner dialogue between our mind and the mind of Christ.
Thus, knowing God’s voice rests on knowing God’s thoughts. Distinguishing our own thoughts with the thoughts of Christ is the true test to “hearing God’s voice”.
God’s voice continuously runs through our heads. We hear His voice constantly when we read the pages of Scripture. We hear it when we desire to pray, to give, or to read the Word, especially when our flesh tells us to do otherwise. We hear God’s voice when we pray. Simply by tuning into the way that God thinks will enable us to understand His will for our lives.
We don’t have to wait for God’s audible voice before we can understand His will. We have been given direct access to God’s mind through His Spirit.
With His mind, comes His thoughts – His internal voice. We simply must learn to discern His thoughts from our own, to truly hear His voice.