How does God speak?
People everywhere yearn to hear God’s voice. Is God speaking to us? Is it possible to hear His voice? Does God want us to hear His voice? How does God speak? 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. It is vital that we learn to hear God’s voice, so that we may deepen our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Jesus said to His Father, “This is life eternal, that they [believers] might know thee [God] the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). It is God’s plan 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, to families, and to nations. In the past He spoke in many different ways, and that is true today as well.
God speaks to all men through creation (see Romans 1:18–20 and Psalm 19:1–2), and in the past, God has communicated in various ways, including angels, His chosen spokesmen (prophets), dreams, visions, miracles, and even through a donkey that He enabled to speak as a man speaks! (See Luke 1:5–38, II Samuel 24:10–25, Genesis 40:1–23, Daniel 2:1–45, Acts 9:10–18, Exodus 7:8–11:10, and Numbers 22:21–35.)
On numerous occasions, the Bible records that God’s voice was heard, but the exact way in which His voice was heard is not described. Following are a few examples of such descriptions:
- “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 …” (Isaiah 38:4).
God Spoke to Us Through His Son
When Jesus was on the earth, God spoke to us through Him, and 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, 16:7–8, 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, but it is still necessary to nurture your relationship with your heavenly Father in order to learn how to be attentive to 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.) God’s Word is alive; it is active in our lives. The Bible is an absolutely essential part of your walk with God. You must not neglect His Word. It is one way that He speaks to you personally, powerfully—today. (See I Thessalonians 1:5, 2:13.)
Read the Word, memorize the Word, 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.) They 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 obey them, God will guide you in “paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
Not only are we to have a growing relationship with the Lord through His Word, but we also should be ready to give an answer to others whenever necessary. (See I Peter 3:15–16.) When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus responded to the devil’s temptations by quoting truth from God’s Word. (See Matthew 4:1–11.)We must learn the truth, which is found in the Word of God and also is identified as the “sword of the Spirit.” With the sword of the Spirit, we can defeat the enemy of our souls, and as we “put on the whole armor of God,” we can “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
Honoring and obeying God’s Word is a key to hearing God’s voice. Through obedience, we demonstrate our love for God, and failure to obey is a reflection of a rebellious heart. If we resist His Word, our 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. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (John 14:21, 23–24).
We Must Believe What the Bible Says
The Bible says that God guides us. (See Isaiah 30:21; Psalm 32:8, 48:14, 73:24; John 16:13, and Deuteronomy 4:9–11.) Are you willing to believe God’s Word? If so, then your heart is prepared to hear God speak. If you reject what the Bible says, then it is likely that you will be unable to hear God speak, because of your unbelief. (See Matthew 13:57–58; Mark 6:5–7, 16:9–20; Hebrews 3:7–19; and I Timothy 1:12–16.)
If you are not hearing God’s voice, examine your heart. The Bible says, “Examine [scrutinize, discipline] yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove [test, approve] your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates [unapproved, rejected, worthless]?” (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. (See Matthew 13:43, Mark 4:9, Matthew 5:8, II Timothy 2:22, and Psalm 24:3–5.)
God’s Children Can Hear His Voice
Are you born again? Have you asked God to forgive you for your rebellion against Him and His Word? Have you in repentance made a change of mind, heart, and direction in your life? If so, then you can hear God’s voice, because you are His child. If you are not a child of God, then cry out to Him for salvation, and He will hear your cry. He will forgive you of your rebellion, and He will accept you into His kingdom, as His child. (See John 3:1–21 and Romans 10:9–17.)
God Speaks to Us Through Our Prayers
God also speaks to us when we pray. Unfortunately, many of us have the mistaken idea that the purpose of prayer is to change God’s mind. We think, “If I can just plead with God long enough and hard enough, He’ll give me what I’m asking for.” Prayer is not a way to twist God’s arm.
Prayer is God’s means of getting through to us, so that we can do things for Him! As we pray, God takes our focus off of our needs and puts our focus on His love and His power. Through prayer, God changes our perspective to conform to His purposes; He establishes His priorities for our lives; He leads us into all truth.
God Often Speaks in a “Still, Small Voice”
At a time when the prophet Elijah was discouraged and depressed, God spoke to him: “And he [God] said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he … went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? ” (I Kings 19:11–13). Sometimes God will speak through “the wind or an earthquake or a fire,” but most often He speaks in a still, small voice. Be attentive!
When we pray, God will hear, and He will answer us with “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” Hearing God’s clear answers to our petitions is essential. 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; you will learn to view the circumstances of your life with discernment and perceive God’s answers to your prayers. God always answers our prayers, but unfortunately we do not always recognize His answers. That takes practice.
God Speaks Through Circumstances
You must be diligent to seek God and to be attentive to His work in every facet of your life, because another way that God speaks to us is through our circumstances. As you focus on the Lord, especially during difficult or painful circumstances, God can show you His perspective about your circumstances. Rather than trying to figure out everything, equipped only with our limited knowledge and understanding, we can acknowledge the Lord in all of our ways and rely on His love for us, His sovereignty, and His plan for our good. (See Proverbs 3:3–13 and Romans 8:26–32.) He is totally trustworthy.
God Speaks 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 another individual—a friend, a parent, a pastor, 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 your local church. Even if your fellow church members do not directly give you counsel, God can use their words to reveal or confirm His will, as the Holy Spirit works in your lives. Also, as a member of a local church, you can observe what God is saying to the entire church. God often will direct you personally through the input of others who are regularly in Christian fellowship with you.
With God, Nothing Is Impossible!
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 else pray, as you read a testimony included in your church newsletter, or as you suddenly understand the full meaning of a song you hear. With God, nothing is impossible! (See Luke 1:37.)
You Can Avoid Deception From Satan
Many believers fear that they will be deceived by Satan’s voice. However, God’s children can confidently identify His voice when He speaks. The way to avoid deception is to learn to recognize God’s voice well. Then, if Satan tries to counterfeit God’s voice, you will immediately recognize it as a deception.
In John 10:14, 27–28, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. ” Stay as close as possible to the Shepherd, and you will always know if He is the One whose voice you hear.
Hear God’s Voice
Read your Bible; study it to learn God’s ways. Meditate on Scripture. Make yourself available to God through prayer. Worship the Lord. Be still in His presence. Invest in your relationship with your heavenly Father. (See Psalm 119:105, 77:12; I Thessalonians 5:17; II Timothy 1:3; Psalm 29:2; John 4:23–24; and Psalm 46:10.) Be attentive to the ways God is leading you as a member of a local church. Heed the Godly counsel of trustworthy fellow believers. As you do, you will learn to recognize God’s voice.
There is no shortcut to learning to recognize God’s voice, just as there is no shortcut to mature from infancy to adulthood—it takes time. Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then spend time with Him. The more you are with Him, the better you will know His voice. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16).
Maturity Requires Discipline and Obedience
“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, Hearing God’s Voice, page 246)
God Keeps His Promises!
God made this promise to His people: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God keeps His promises. Seek Him with all of your heart, and you will hear His voice.
For an in-depth discussion of this topic (including many personal testimonies about hearing God’s voice), we recommend Henry and Richard Blackaby’s book titled Hearing God’s Voice (Broadman and Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 2002), as well as Henry Blackaby’s book titled Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God(Broadman and Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1998).