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Hearing God

Prayer is two-way communication. God wants to speak to us when we meet with him in prayer. His desire to speak to us is far greater than our desire to hear from him. He is not going to make it difficult. Often God makes it too simple, and we can miss what he is saying to us because we are seeking the wrong thing - an obviously supernatural voice - audible, and preferably from a six foot angel dressed in white, so that there is not the slightest doubt that it is God speaking to us! We should take comfort from Samuel, who took three attempts before he was able to recognise God's voice speaking to him. (See the Bible text from the NIV.)

Remember that God wants us to listen to him. In Proverbs we read "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the Lord." (Proverbs 8:34) and Jesus said "My sheep listen to my voice." (John 10:27)

God speaks to us in many ways. Here are some of them :

  • Through the Bible. The Bible is God's living word. We should not be surprised that when we read a passage there is something in it which jumps out at us, that is particularly relevant to our situation. Particular verses come into our minds as we pray, and God will use some of them to speak to us. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that "the word of God is living and active" and "sharper than any double edged sword." Clearly we need to be reading the bible regularly if God is to use it to speak to us.
  • Through Others God can use others in unremarkable ways such that they themselves are often unaware that they are being used. We can recognise significance in their words or actions, or in their timing. A series of coincidences becomes God-incidences!
  • To us in our hearts. When God speaks to us as we pray it can be similar to the "voice" of our conscience. Over time we come to recognise God speaking in our thoughts and placing things onto our minds. This will take practice, and there will be times when you are unsure whether it is God or your own thoughts.
  • Through words and pictures. Through the Holy Spirit, God can give us certain pictures, visions or words. We may understand the meaning of these immediately, or they may require sharing with others, so that someone else can explain them to us, or God may reveal it to us over time.

Sometimes when we pray God can be silent - we can listen yet hear nothing. At these times it may be up to us to respond to what he has already spoken to us by putting it into practice in our lives.  However, we should test things that we believe have come from God. I Thessalonians 5:19 says "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything."   Whilst we should believe that the word of God is active today, and that God wants to communicate with us, it is only wise to check out what we believe God may be saying to us.  These words don't carry the same weight of scripture, and do need to be weighed carefully. Otherwise we run the risk of believing something is from God, waiting for him to fulfil it, and being disappointed when that doesn't happen, and feeling let down by God. Whilst the principal test is whether something is in line with scripture, God will not give us any words which are not in line with the Bible, His Word; it is also useful to share the message with other mature Christians for their reflection and discernment.

Pointers for Prayer : Hearing God takes practice. Do make sure that you leave some time for God to speak to you in your prayer time, and do ask him to speak to you - tell him that you want to hear his views and that you seek his will.