We live in an electronic age of constant information and entertainment. With so many voices vying for our attention, we can easily tune into the world without realizing we’re not listening to God. For instance, in the morning, do you immediately turn on the radio or television? Do you check your email, the news, or Facebook? There’s nothing wrong with these activities, but are they keeping us from hearing the Lord? Does He have a place in our morning routines, or have other voices drowned Him out?
God desires to communicate with each of His children individually. In fact, He’s been speaking ever since the dawn of creation. In the Old Testament, He spoke through the prophets, and in the New Testament, through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). And today, He continues to communicate with us through His written Word and His indwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The issue is: Are we listening?
Our ears are naturally tuned to whatever holds our hearts and minds. If this world and all its concerns are our main focus, those are the messages we’ll hear. However, if our hearts are set on Christ, we’ll want to know what’s going on in His mind and what He wants to do in our lives. When Jesus lived on earth, His first priority of the day was His Father. That’s why He would often rise before daylight and find a secluded place to pray before His day began (Mark 1:35).
If the Son of God needed to hear from His Father, how much more do we? Since we have no idea what awaits us each day, seeking His guidance and strength in the morning is critical (Ps. 5:3). I have discovered that He is always faithful to direct me into His will if I take the time to really listen for His voice. Now, this means I can’t just read my Bible, voice my prayer concerns, and head out the door. Prayer is more than just speaking to God; it also includes listening for Him.
Have you ever ended your prayer time by being still and letting the Lord know you are ready to hear whatever He may want to say to you? This doesn’t mean we can demand a response from Him, but we should remain quiet long enough to hear Him, just in case He wants to give us some specific guidance, encouragement, or correction.
When I was young, my grandfather described to me how God spoke to him. This sparked a burning desire in my heart to hear Him speak personally to me as well. That’s when I realized that I needed to learn how to listen to the Lord. And over the years, He has been faithful to teach me. Those quiet moments alone with Him have been the source of my confidence, courage, strength, and joy. I can’t think of a more important lesson to teach others than how to listen to God.
Now the big question is this: How do we know if we’re hearing from the Lord? Since He doesn’t speak to us in an audible voice, we must determine whether our perceptions are from Him or our own minds (1 John 4:1). The following guidelines can help you distinguish the difference.
First of all, God’s voice is always consistent with His Word. Whatever He speaks in our hearts will match what He’s said in the Bible (Acts 17:11). He never leads us into activities or relationships that take us in the wrong direction or contradict the Scriptures.
Second, His messages often challenge our faith. Have you ever felt God nudge you to do something that was beyond your ability, experience, or education but talked yourself out of it saying, “The Lord would never ask me to do that.” Very often, that’s exactly what He requires of us because He knows that challenges increase our faith (Heb. 11:6). When, despite our fears and inadequacies, we respond in obedience, God not only equips us for the task but also lifts us up to a new level of faith.
Third, the Lord’s voice is often quiet. We usually want our prayers answered in obvious ways, like a fireworks display pointing us to His will. But He often speaks quietly to our hearts at unexpected times (1 Kings 19:11-13). Sometimes I’ve come to God requesting guidance for a big decision and heard nothing from Him during my prayer time, yet hours or even days later, I receive the answer while driving down the expressway. The key to hearing God’s voice is always to have a listening spirit so you will be ready whenever He speaks.
Although people sometimes tell me that God never speaks to them, our loving heavenly Father wants His children to know His voice. It is my prayer that today, as you spend time with the Lord in His Word and prayer, you will hear His voice speaking personally to you. Remember, the more you tune your heart to His, the better your hearing will become.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. Here at In Touch Ministries, we are so thankful for your faithful prayers and gifts. We couldn’t do what God has called us to do apart from friends like you. Together, we can encourage fellow believers in their walk with Christ, strengthen local churches, and take the message of the gospel around the world.