What Does God’s Word Say About Hearing God’s Voice?
Have you ever wondered if you’re hearing God’s voice or your own voice? I read a Bible verse that really struck me a few weeks ago:
It struck me because I hear people say this all. the. time. “God told me this.”
And it’s usually done with the best of intentions! We’re sharing what God is doing in our hearts, and we should talk about those things!
But we’re walking a fine line. Because God usually speaks to our hearts and minds…where our own thoughts also reside. And that makes it very easy to tangle up and confuse our thoughts with God’s.
Suddenly, “God” is telling us to do the very thing we wanted to do! Woo hoo!
Or maybe he’s dishing on our spouse and everything they need to work on. All of a sudden, God sounds a lot like…us!
So how can we tell if we’re hearing God’s voice or our own human thoughts? Because we want to be sure we don’t become like the people God referred to as “twisting” His message.
I’ve discovered a few distinguishing criteria that have helped me to differentiate the voice of the Lord from my own thoughts. But before we dive into those, let’s consider a few biblical examples of hearing God’s voice.
Scriptural Examples of Hearing God’s Voice
Old Testament Instances
In the Old Testament, there are several instances where individuals heard God’s voice directly. One such example is the prophet Elijah.
In 1 Kings 19:11-12, Elijah experienced the presence of God in a gentle whisper after a powerful wind, earthquake, and fire. It is through this soft, subtle voice that God communicated His message to the prophet.
Visions were another way God spoke to His people in the Old Testament.
For instance, the patriarch Jacob experienced a vision of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12-13). This demonstrated a direct connection between God and His people, providing a means for divine guidance and communication.
In addition to visions, dreams also served as channels for hearing the voice of the Lord.
One instance was when the Pharaoh of Egypt received messages from God through his dreams. Joseph’s God-given interpretation of those dreams would go on to play a crucial role in the salvation of his family during a time of famine (Genesis 37:5-11).
New Testament Instances
In the New Testament, Jesus frequently emphasized the importance of hearing His voice.
In John 10:27, He stated, “My own sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This passage highlights the intimate relationship between the Good Shepherd and His followers, as well as the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding believers.
Another example in the New Testament is the story of God speaking to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.
As he was traveling, a bright light from heaven surrounded him, and he heard Jesus’ voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:3-6). This encounter transformed Paul from a persecutor of Christians to one of the most important messengers of the gospel.
The book of Revelation provides additional instances of hearing God’s voice.
It starts with the apostle John receiving a vision and hearing the voice of Jesus giving him messages to seven churches (Revelation 1:10-11). Throughout the book, further angelic messages and divine proclamations emphasize the importance of listening to God’s voice.
As you can see from these scriptural examples, hearing God’s voice has been a significant aspect of the relationship between God and His people throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The different ways in which God communicates—such as through whispers, visions, dreams, and angelic messages—serve as reminders that He is always present and eager to guide those who are willing to listen.
How to Know If We’re Hearing God’s Voice or Our Own Thoughts
In today’s modern world, thousands of voices vie for our attention, from media to social media, from music to movies and tv shows, and even from our family, friends, and coworkers. So…how can we distinguish God’s voice from among so many other voices?
The good news is that there are several criteria that can help to guide us!
God’s voice doesn’t obsess over our problems.
Can you find any place in God’s word where He is fixated on the same problem for the 127th time? But we tend to do that, don’t we?
When we’re in pain or discomfort, when we’re struggling under the weight of depression or anxiety, when we feel we’ve been wronged…we tend to talk about it every chance we get, telling anyone who will listen.
God certainly hears our concerns, but he doesn’t stay there for long. When God speaks, he doesn’t talk about the problem, he talks to it…about Himself.
He inspires prophets to proclaim things like, “The stick gods who made nothing, neither sky nor earth, will come to nothing on the earth and under the sky. But it is God whose power made the earth, whose wisdom gave shape to the world, who crafted the cosmos. He thunders, and rain pours down. He sends the clouds soaring” (Jeremiah 10:11-12).
If you have a thought that says, “I still can’t believe so-and-so did that to me years ago,” it’s likely not God’s voice stirring up your emotions.
God’s voice doesn’t gossip.
In verse after verse, Christians are instructed to refrain from gossip. In fact, we’re called to an even higher standard than simply refraining!
Ephesians 4:29 challenges us, “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”
God may grant you some insight behind someone’s words or actions, but he won’t do it in a way that sets you up as that person’s judge or jury.
I love how Jesus words it in Matthew 7:1-4, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging…It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part.”
If you hear thoughts criticizing someone’s faults or jumping on their failures, it’s likely not God letting you in on his judgment.
God’s voice will usually speak with you about your own heart, not others’ hearts.
This plays off the last verse, where Jesus instructed us to leave judgment to God and focus on living our own part.
I’ve entered into prayer straight up infuriated with people. I’ve vented to God and told him how someone else needed to act differently.
And you know what? I can’t think of a single time that God has agreed, “Yes! They need to butt out and mind their own business!”
No, God’s voice never fuels the fire of my bitterness. Instead, he’s whispering for me to focus my eyes on Him, to attend to my own actions and my own heart, and to trust Him to resolve everything else.
If you walk away from your quiet time with a laundry list of things that others need to work on, you might have mixed up God’s voice with your own thoughts.
God’s voice focuses more on the heart of the issue than on direct answers.
Have you ever noticed how religious leaders in the Bible were always pressing Jesus for direct answers, but He didn’t usually provide them? Instead, Jesus responded with questions or stories that got to the heart of the matter (like Matthew 12:9-14).
He was trying to help them see and understand their own hearts behind the question, and He’s still doing it today. For example, when I asked God for specific answers in my job search, my heart was redirected to question whether I trusted God as my provider, or an employer.
That’s not to say that God will never deliver a specific directive, but that Jesus more often answered questions with more questions, to get to the root of things. And the answers that come from Jesus’ questions accomplish much more than a straightforward “yes” or “no” might.
God’s voice will never contradict Scripture.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that God never changes. And in Psalm 89:34, God asks us, “Do you think I’d withdraw my holy promise or take back words I’d already spoken?”
That means God won’t tell you anything that is contrary to what He has said in Scripture. He won’t tell you to cheat on your spouse, disrespect leadership (1 Peter 2:13), or cheat your employer.
Practical Ways to Hear God’s Voice
How can we hear and amplify God’s voice in our lives? There are several paths that can help us connect with God’s voice on a regular basis!
Prayer offers a powerful way to connect with God and hear His voice. So be sure to dedicate time every day to prayer, allowing yourself to be open to the guidance and wisdom of God.
As you practice this daily habit, you may begin to hear His voice more clearly and receive direction for your life. Remember, prayer is not just about asking for things but also listening and being open to God’s response. (Here’s a how-to guide to get started with prayer!)
Reading the Bible
I personally feel the best way to learn to better recognize God’s voice is to regularly study God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible contains countless messages and insights for those who seek them.
By establishing a daily Bible devotional habit, you can gain a deeper understanding of God’s will and hear His voice speaking to you through the scriptures. Plus, the more you listen to God’s voice in Scripture, and read about how He approaches every situation from Old to New Testament, the more easily you’ll be able to pick out His voice in even the most crowded mind.
(Need a little guidance in this area? Be sure to check out The 40 Best Devotionals for Women!)
Journaling offers another effective method to help you hear God’s voice.
By writing down your thoughts, prayers, and reflections, you can gain insight into your spiritual journey and connect with God on a deeper level. Plus, journaling also allows you to record the moments when you feel God has spoken to you, enabling you to revisit and be encouraged by these experiences in the future.
Spending time in nature can also foster a closer connection with God and help you hear His voice.
As you immerse yourself in the beauty of creation, you may find that God speaks to you through the whispered sounds of the wind, the gentle rustle of leaves, or the songs of birds taking flight. By embracing the solace of nature, you can create an environment conducive to hearing God’s voice and gaining a deeper understanding of His presence in your life.
Obstacles to Hearing God’s Voice
Your journey in hearing God’s voice can be like tuning into a radio station where sometimes the signal might be strong, and other times, you might experience interference. Here, we’ll discuss some obstacles that might prevent you from hearing God’s gentle whisper.
One obstacle is obedience.
Often, your ability to hear God depends on your willingness to listen and act on what you’ve already been instructed to do. Make sure you’re aligning your actions with guidance from Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Another barrier to hearing God’s voice is the noise around you.
In a world filled with distractions and competing voices, it’s essential to find moments of quiet and solitude to tune in and listen to God. Try setting aside regular time for prayer, reflection, and meditation on Scripture.
Next, consider the interference from doubt or unbelief. The belief that God speaks to you is vital for hearing His voice. Inviting faith into your life can open your heart and mind to receive the messages He has for you.
Your emotional and spiritual health may also impact your ability to hear God’s voice.
Sometimes, hurts or unforgiveness from the past can close off your heart. Dealing with these issues will enable you to respond to His direction more clearly.
Lastly, ensure that your desire for God’s guidance is genuine and not driven by personal ambition or a desire for control. Keep your intentions pure, and remain open to the direction that God has in store for you.
By addressing these obstacles, you’ll make it easier to listen to and understand God’s gentle voice guiding you on your journey.
Remember that establishing a stronger connection with Him often requires patience, persistence, and faith. So, keep engaging in spiritual practices, and stay receptive to God’s loving guidance.
External Influences on Hearing God’s Voice
While it’s important to recognize potential obstacles to hearing God’s voice, it’s just as important to acknowledge the external influences that can influence your experience.
Your family can play a significant role in how you perceive and hear God’s voice.
Growing up in a religious household often means that your family members might share their experiences or beliefs about how they’ve heard God’s voice in their lives. This can shape your personal understanding of God’s voice as well.
It’s essential to be open to family members’ perspectives while also being mindful of your own spiritual journey.
Engaging in conversations about faith is a great way to learn from each other and grow together. Remember, everyone’s spiritual experiences are personal, so be respectful of differing opinions.
Another significant influence on hearing God’s voice can be teaching from religious leaders, mentors, or educational resources.
Different religious traditions may offer various perspectives on how to hear God’s voice. Attending religious services, participating in small group discussions, or reading referenced books can help you deepen your understanding of God’s voice and how to connect with it.
When seeking guidance on hearing God’s voice, it’s crucial to choose sources that resonate with you and align with your beliefs to maintain a constructive learning experience.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions and explore different perspectives to expand your spiritual understanding. And remember, it’s important to filter teachings through your own experiences and convictions.
The Leading of the Holy Spirit
All of this may make you feel like you’re on your own to differentiate God’s voice from all of the others in your life. But don’t worry, you’re not! The Holy Spirit plays a vital role in helping you hear God’s voice.
As a believer, the Holy Spirit dwells within you and acts as a guide, counselor, and teacher. Developing a close relationship with the Holy Spirit will enable you to recognize and understand God’s voice more clearly.
First and foremost, begin by praying and asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your life.
Remember, God wants to speak to you, and the Holy Spirit is there to facilitate that connection. Be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart and mind.
To enhance your spiritual ears, spend time in God’s Word, the Bible.
Scripture provides a solid foundation for understanding God’s character and will for your life. As you read and study the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps you discern the truth and apply it to your daily life.
Throughout your day, practice listening for the Holy Spirit’s voice. God often speaks to us through gentle nudges, impressions, or promptings.
Pay attention to these subtle cues and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Sometimes, you might sense a conviction in your heart or a strong impression that goes beyond your own thoughts and understanding.
Another way to develop your spiritual ears is through fellowship with other believers. Sharing your experiences, praying together, and discussing what you sense God is saying to you can bring clarity and validation.
Test everything you hear against Scripture and the guidance of trusted spiritual mentors. Be open to correction and learn from these interactions.
Lastly, practice obedience. When you believe that you’ve heard God’s voice, act on it in faith.
Through obedience, you demonstrate your love for God and strengthen your relationship with the Holy Spirit. Over time, this deepened relationship will make it easier to discern God’s voice and follow His direction.
Remember, cultivating your spiritual ears and relying on the Holy Spirit are ongoing processes. Be patient, stay humble, and trust God as you grow in your ability to hear His voice.
Not every thought in your head is God speaking, even if you’re a believer. Between our own sinful nature and the thoughts of the enemy constantly trying to infiltrate our minds, it’s easy to tangle up or confuse our thoughts with God’s.
Have you learned any tricks for hearing God’s voice? Be sure to share in the comments!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I differentiate between God’s voice and my own thoughts?
It’s important to consider the content and character of the thoughts you are experiencing.
God’s voice will align with Scripture, offer wisdom, and promote love and humility. If you find a thought aligning with these, it may be God speaking to you.
On the other hand, your own thoughts or ideas might be more self-driven or express worry and confusion. Taking time to develop discernment and seeking confirmation from trusted spiritual mentors can help you differentiate between God’s voice and your own thoughts.
What are some methods to better hear the Holy Spirit?
To better hear the Holy Spirit, spend regular time reading and meditating on the Bible as it is the primary way God speaks to believers. Also, practice silence and solitude in prayer, allowing space for God to communicate with you.
Engage in regular worship and fellowship with other believers, as God can use them to speak into your life.
What happens when we recognize and follow God’s guidance?
When you recognize and follow God’s guidance, your faith and relationship with Him can be deepened.
Obedience to God’s voice often results in blessings, growth, and a sense of peace and direction in your life. It is important to remember that even if challenges arise, God uses these experiences to refine and strengthen your faith.
Can we experience God’s voice in a physical or audible way?
Although God has spoken audibly to people in the Bible, it is less common today. Nevertheless, some believers have reported experiencing God’s voice in a physical way or audible voice.
While it’s essential to carefully discern these experiences, the voice of the Lord can manifest itself in various forms.
What role does prayer play in helping us hear God?
Prayer is vital in building our relationship with God and thus helps us to recognize His voice more readily.
Through prayer, we express our hearts to God and open ourselves to hear His guidance. Honest dialogue, praise, and active listening foster sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
What are some recommended books to further explore this topic?
To further explore the topic of hearing the voice of the Lord, consider reading the following books: Hearing God by Dallas Willard, Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere, and Frequency: Tune In. Hear God. by Robert Morris. These books provide insight and practical guidance to better understand and discern God’s voice in your life.
P.S. Having trouble hearing God in the valley?
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