This week, as I continue our series on the power of prayer, I’ll remind you that one of the key points we’ve previously discussed is the importance of allowing our prayers to be a two-way conversation, i.e., not only are we talking to God, we’re talking with Him and leaving room to hear what He has to say.
“That’s great,” I’ve heard people say. “But I have to tell you, I’ve never heard God speak to me.” Or, “I don’t know what God’s voice even sounds like.”
I get that but will continue to encourage that prayer, like any conversation, is most powerful and effective in dialogue; when all parties are being heard from and listened to.
So, how can we enhance our listening skills when it comes to hearing the voice of God?
As is said in many of our teachings, it’s more descriptive than prescriptive.
In this case, it’s not, do these 5 things and you’ll begin hearing the voice of God in your very next prayer.
But there are some ways; some practices we can begin to employ to “become better listeners.”
And to flesh them out, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learned from “America’s Pastor,” Dr. Rick Warren, DMin, Pastor and Founder of Saddleback Church. These thoughts and principles are taken directly from Pastor Rick’s teaching series on the subject of Hearing the Voice of God. I will share the overview of them with you here and then, maybe we’ll go deeper into this subject in future posts if it will be helpful.
“Where we are at any given moment makes a big difference in whether or not cell phone calls, text messages or e-mails are able to reach us. And that’s a lot like our relationship with God. Where we are in our spiritual walk determines whether or not God is able to get through to us.”
The truth is, we can’t have a relationship with God if we can’t hear God.
If all you ever do is talk to him in prayer and you never hear God speak to you, that’s a one-way relationship.
When we are able to truly hear what God is trying to tell us, it makes it so much easier to know and do His will in our lives.
Many times, we wonder if an idea that comes to us is instruction from God, deception from Satan, maybe something we ate or just something we want to do. Here are some of the principles Pastor Rick shares that will help us discern God’s voice.
Most of us have a running dialogue with ourselves in our inner minds throughout the day. So, it can be hard to discern; is this my idea or is God trying to speak to me here? Make no mistake; God wants to speak to you. But it is extremely important that you know how to discern when it’s God talking to you because if you don’t, it can be fatal.
The Bible says, in Proverbs 14:12 that “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.”
So, can we never trust our own judgment?
We can; but only if our judgment has been shaped by a relationship with God. “The way” in the verse from Proverbs suggests a road apart from the wisdom of God. Our own sense of what is right or wrong, apart from God, is not always reliable. This is why we’ve been given a guide that is perfectly reliable; God’s Word. From it, we can acquire the wisdom to walk down the right path.
John 4:1 says, Dear Friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
It’s important that we test each message because, as the Bible also teaches, one moment you can get a message from God, and the next, it can be counteracted or contradicted by Satan.
Consider the example of Peter: One day, the Lord is with his Disciples and he asks, “…who do you say that I am?” And Peter replies, “Lord, You are The Christ. You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus replies back, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16: 15-17 NIV)
Moments later in the very same story as Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem where he will suffer many things at the hands of men; ultimately to be killed there but then to be raised up on the third day, Peter takes him aside and rebukes Jesus. “Never Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you.” And Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16: 21-23 NIV)
That’s how quick we can miss it. One minute we can hear, that’s right; My word backs that up. And the next minute we can hear, “You didn’t get that one from God. That thought came straight from the devil.”
In John 7:17, Jesus says, 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
How do we find out? It comes from researching and reading the Word of God.
Scripture is to be our first source and defense for any thought that comes into our mind.
“What does the Bible say about this?” ought to be our first thought when an inspiration or idea pops into our heads.
Pastor Rick lays out a great list of additional ways we can know; questions we can ask to discern whether or not an impression we receive is from God.
I’ll cover those in greater detail in a future post.
For today, it’s important that we build a strong foundation of “basics” for how to prepare ourselves and our minds to be able to truly hear what God has to say to us.
Start with an attitude of submission. (The story of Moses)
“Then the LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ ‘A staff,’ he replied. “The LORD said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.’ So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.” Exodus 4:2-4 (NIV)
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE: Pray a prayer of surrender every day this week, offering the Lord your identity, income and influence, knowing that he will make them come alive.
How do you hear the voice of God?
“I will climb up in my watchtower and I will wait to see what the Lord will say. Then the Lord gave me this answer: ‘Write down what I reveal to you so that you can read it at a glance. ‘Habakkuk 2:1-2
Rick suggests the following 5 principles.
Find a quiet place that you can go to every day to be alone with God.
Try spending a minute in relaxed silence today and increase it incrementally throughout the week.
- Read the Word of God
“Stop waiting for a voice and start looking for a verse.” Spend 5 minutes each day reading the Bible.
Try writing down your prayers at least once this week.
Find a notecard and write down these questions. Put it in an easily accessible place for you to review when facing a tough decision.PUT IT INTO PRACTICE: Testing an impression:
- Is it consistent with the Bible?
- Will it make me more like Christ?
- Does my church family confirm it?
- Is it consistent with how God shaped me?
- Is it convicting rather than condemning?
- Do I sense God’s peace about it?
If perhaps you’ve struggled to hear God’s voice in your prayers, I can’t more strongly encourage you to begin practicing these principles.
Again, I’ll pick up these questions and begin to unpack, review and develop them in a future post.
Begin today, by placing yourself in the proper setting, opening up your heart, inviting God in, and practice allowing some quiet time after your study and prayer to listen for His voice within you.
It may not happen immediately. It will take some practice.
It’s worked for me and I believe it can work for you, too.
God loves to hear from and talk with His children.
Open the door…
Right here with you,