How does God speak?

Learning to hear God’s voice

7 min

People everywhere yearn to hear God’s voice. How does God speak? Is it possible to hear His voice? Is God speaking to us? If so, how do we hear Him? How are we to listen?

God is speaking, and we can hear His voice. Christianity is a relationship; every relationship is established and maintained through communication. Learning to hear God’s voice is vital if we want to deepen our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Jesus said to His Father, “This is life eternal, that they [believers] might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). God’s plan is for us to know Him intimately; therefore, we must learn to hear His voice.

God’s plan is for us to know Him intimately; therefore, we must learn to hear His voice.

God Speaks to Us in Many Ways

Our creative God is not limited to one form of communication. He is all-powerful. He is omnipresent. He is sovereign. The Bible is filled with accounts of God speaking to individuals, families, and nations. In the past, God spoke in many different ways, and the same is still true today.

God speaks to everyone through His creation (see Romans 1:18–20 and Psalm 19:1–2). God has communicated through various means, including angels, His chosen spokesmen or prophets, dreams, visions, and even a donkey! (See Luke 1:5–38, II Samuel 24:10–25, Genesis 40:1–23, Acts 9:10–18, and Numbers 22:21–35.)

In the Bible, God’s voice is said to be powerful and full of majesty (see Psalm 29:4). It is likened to thunder, rushing waters, harps, and trumpets (see Job 40:9, Revelation 14:2, and Exodus 19:16). On the other hand, according to I Kings, God spoke to Elijah, not in loud ways, such as the wind, an earthquake, or a fire, but in a still, small voice (see I Kings 19:11–13). On other occasions, the Bible records that God spoke directly to His servants, but the sound of His voice is not described: 

  • “God spake unto Noah, saying” (Genesis 8:15).
  • “The LORD had said unto Abram . . .” (Genesis 12:1).
  • “The LORD said unto Moses . . .” (Exodus 24:12).
  • “Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying . . .” (Isaiah 38:4).

God Spoke—and Still Speaks—to Us through His Son

When Jesus was on earth, God spoke to us through His Son. He “spoke” not only through His words and teaching which are recorded for us today, but also through His example of a holy, loving, and sacrificial life. In this way, God still speaks to us through His Son as we allow the life and words of Jesus Christ to impact our own words, thoughts, and actions.

When Jesus returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit was sent to lead us into all truth—to be our “Communicator” from God. (See Matthew 10:18–20, John 14:26, 16:13; Romans 8:26, I Corinthians 2:9–16, and Acts 8:29, 13:2.) If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. However, you must attentively nurture your relationship with your Heavenly Father in order to learn how to hear His voice. As you grow in faith and mature as a believer, you will learn to hear God speak. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

God Speaks to Us through His Word

The Bible is one of God’s provisions to equip us to do His will. (See II Timothy 3:16–17.) Inspired by God and written by His human instruments, every word of the Bible is true, alive, and active in our lives. The Bible is an absolutely essential part of your walk with God. You must not neglect His Word. Through the reading of God’s Word, He speaks to you personally and powerfully—today! (See I Thessalonians 1:5, 2:13.)

Read, memorize, and meditate on the Word of God. By His Holy Spirit, Who dwells in each believer, God will focus your attention on particular verses or passages. (See John 14:26.) The passages God “highlights” for you will have special application to your life because of decisions you are facing, character goals you are working on, questions you have, or pressures you are experiencing. As you meditate on those verses to which the Spirit of God leads you, and you obey them, God will guide you in “paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

We have many examples in Scripture of the significance of God guiding through His Word. (See Deuteronomy 6:6–9, Joshua 1:8–9, Psalm 19:7–14, I Thessalonians 2:13, II Timothy 3:16–17, and Hebrews 4:12.) Are you willing to believe what God says to you through His Word? If so, then your heart is prepared to hear God speak. If you reject what is recorded in the Bible, then your unbelief is likely to prevent you from hearing God speak. (See James 1:19-27.) To “hear” what God says is not to simply agree that He spoke. Instead, hearing Him is taking His words and instructions to heart with the intention of obeying them. In fact, a key Hebrew word for to hear is also translated as to obey! When God calls us to hear His voice, He is calling us not only to listen intelligently and attentively, but He is also saying, “Hear to obey.” Being determined to honor and obey God’s Word is essential to hearing God’s voice. Through obedience, you demonstrate your love for God. Light received brings more light; light rejected brings darkness. If you resist His Word, your fellowship with God will be limited. Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:21, 23).

God Speaks to Us through Prayer

God also speaks to us when we pray. Sadly, many consider prayer a monologue: they tell God what they need and ask Him for the things they want. But true prayer is a dialogue, a two-way conversation: you talk to God and God talks to you! As you pray, God takes your focus off your needs and moves your focus to His love and His power. Through prayer, God conforms your perspective to His purposes; He establishes His priorities for your life, and He leads you into all truth.

When you pray, God will hear, and He will answer you with “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” A non-affirmative answer is still direction! Hearing God’s clear answers to your petitions is vital. As you spend time with your Heavenly Father through prayer and as you learn to know Him through His Word, you will hear His voice and sense His promptings. You will learn to view the circumstances of your life with discernment and perceive God’s answers to your prayers. God always answers prayers, and hearing His still, small voice takes practice. Be as Elijah was: attentive, obedient, patient—and listen! (See I Kings 19:11–13.) God desires to make His will known to you.

God Speaks to Us through Others

The Bible records many instances in which God used one individual to deliver His message to another individual. (See I Samuel 13:13–14, 15:23; II Samuel 12:7–15, and Acts 9:10–18, 10:1–33.) God may speak to you through a friend, a parent, a pastor, or even a stranger. You would be wise to confirm what you hear God saying by seeking affirmation of that direction through wise, Godly people.

One of the best places to find individuals who can give you Godly counsel is through the believers you are in fellowship with. God wants to speak to you through His Body, the Church. Believers are exhorted in Scripture to be in consistent fellowship with other believers. (See Hebrews 10:25.)

God Speaks to Us through Circumstances

Be diligent to seek God and be attentive to His work around you, because another way that God speaks to us is through our circumstances. For example, God may close a seeming door of opportunity by not providing sufficient funds in order to guide you toward His will. As you focus on the Lord, especially during difficult or painful circumstances, God can show you His perspective and direction about your circumstances. Rather than trying to discern your situation with your limited knowledge and understanding, you can acknowledge the Lord in all your ways and rely on His love for you, His sovereignty, and His plan for your good. (See Proverbs 3:3–13 and Romans 8:26–32.) God is totally trustworthy. While God may direct you through your circumstances, they should usually be confirming aspects of God’s will and not the sole determining factors in a major decision. Always seek affirmation from God’s Word. 

With God, Nothing Is Impossible!

There is no shortcut to learning to recognize God’s voice, just as there is no shortcut from infancy to adulthood—maturity, whether physical or spiritual, takes time. In the book Hearing God’s Voice, the authors note: “The depth of your walk with God is directly proportional to the zeal with which you seek Him. If you seek after God in a halfhearted, inconsistent manner, you cannot expect to hear Him speaking at the deepest levels. But if you will discipline yourself to concentrate on the Lord and if you diligently obey everything He says, then you will be prepared to experience God at an increasingly profound and personal level. God has invited you to go deeper in your relationship with Him. The depth of that relationship ultimately rests with you” (Henry and Richard Blackaby, p. 246). 

If you are not hearing God’s voice, examine your heart. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove [test] your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates [unapproved]?” (II Corinthians 13:5). Ask the Lord to reveal to you anything that is hindering your relationship with Him, and then obey Him. Ask God to give you ears to hear and a pure heart to obey. (See Matthew 13:43, Mark 4:9, Matthew 5:8, II Timothy 2:22, and Psalm 24:3–5.)

God is not limited in any way. He is not restricted to certain methods of communication with His children. Just as He creatively and dramatically used a donkey to rebuke Balaam, God can just as creatively and dramatically communicate His message to your heart as you hear someone pray, hear another’s testimony, or suddenly grasp the full meaning of a song you hear. With God, nothing is impossible! (See Luke 1:37.)

We recommend Henry and Richard Blackaby’s book titled Hearing God’s Voice (B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2002), as well as Henry Blackaby’s book titled Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 1998).

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