We could say that the most important thing in life is to hear God’s voice. The need to discern God’s guidance comes up continually in my life and the lives of pastors I help.
But how does that really work? Many Christians think we can’t hear God’s voice because now that we have the Bible he doesn’t speak anymore. But those who believe hearing God is still possible say it’s usually a still, small voice.
If you heard that whisper how would you know it was the true word of the Lord? Maybe it was just your own thought or feelings? Maybe it was a deception from the devil who masquerades as an angel of light! (2 Cor 11:14)
Learning to Follow Jesus With Help From Dallas Willard
Dallas Willard wrote a very helpful and practical book on Hearing God. (Originally titled, In Search of Guidance) I’ve learned a great deal about discerning the Lord’s voice from him, not only from this and his other books and seminars, but also from meeting privately with him for many years. I studied his book — and, more importantly, studied the Bible — on hearing God’s voice.
But the real test of learning is the school of life. In 2008 when Kristi and I were wrestling over whether or not to start a nonprofit ministry to pastors Dallas said to us, “You know how to hear God’s voice.” To have our mentor strongly affirm our connection to the Spirit of Jesus gave us great confidence. And yet sometimes when we’ve thought we heard God speak we later realized that we didn’t.
In this article I share the key insights (from my study notes) that we’ve learned on Hearing God — from the Bible, Dallas Willard, and especially from walking with Jesus through daily life. I’ve shared this material in seminary classes and on a weeklong retreat that Kristi and I led for a group pastors and their wives. Currently we share this teaching in week four of our two-year TLC certificate program in “Spiritual Formation and Soul Care Ministry.”
Three main sections follow:
- Bible Verses on Hearing God
- Bible Verses on Noticing God’s Presence
- Quotes From Hearing God by Dallas Willard
Bible Verses on Hearing God’s Voice
We may think hearing God is something mystical or super spiritual, but that is not what the Bible teaches. The Old and New Testaments show people hearing God speak as a normal part of their daily lives. Men and women, priests and workers in the public sector, great world leaders and desperate people on the margins, they all hear God’s voice. We find that even little children and animals are hearing God!
Here are some Biblical examples of what it looks like to hear God speak:
“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)
“The LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam…” (Numb 22:28)
“Eli told [the little boy] Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if [the Lord] calls you [again], say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’” (1 Samuel 3:9)
“David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, ‘Do not go straight up [as you did last time]… As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you…’” (2 Samuel 5:23-24)
“After the fire came a gentle whisper… Then a voice said to [Elijah]…” (1 Kings 19:12-13)
“The LORD speaks… and I skip like a calf!” (Psalm 29:3, 6, par).
“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6)
“The LORD speaks… from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets” (Psalm 50:1)
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” (Psalm 107:19-20)
“[The LORD] sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.” (Psalm 147:15-16)
“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I… The Lord will guide you always.” (Isaiah 58:9, 11).
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3).
“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop.” (Mark 4:20)
“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you… Consider carefully what you hear… Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Mark 4:11, 24, 25)
“Mary… sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10:39, NIV).
“Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24).
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice. I call each one by name. I lead them out and they follow me because they know my voice… I give them safe pasture and they go out with me in the path of righteousness. I give them life – my life, real life from God that is abundant and eternal… I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10:3, 9-10, 14-15, par).
“Faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).
Paul said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take [the thorn in my flesh] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor. 12:8-9)
“You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth… The anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:20, 27, NIV)
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7 and following, NIV)
* All verses are from the New International Version (1984). Others are my paraphrase (par), The Message (MSG), or (NIV; 2013 edition).
Bible Verses on Noticing God
It’s easy to make the mistake of turning the possibility of hearing God’s voice into a device to make our lives more successful. That’s using God!
The subtitle of Dallas Willard’s book on Hearing God is corrective we need: Growing in a Conversational Relationship with God. In other words, hearing God’s voice fits into the larger context of walking in a close friendship with him. If we’re not seeking an intimacy with the Lord and partnering with him in his work then it doesn’t make sense for him to speak to us! Seeking and sensing God’s presence and obeying his teachings are the foundation of what it means to “hear God.”
Here are some examples and insights from the Bible on growing in a conversational relationship with God:
“Enoch walked with God.” (Genesis 5:24)
“The LORD replied [to Moses], ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” (Exodus 33:14).
“Elijah prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17)
“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” (Psalm 16:7)
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God… These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng… My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:1-2, 4, 6-7)
“Awake, my soul!” (Psalm 57:8)
“As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.” (Psalm 123:2)
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV)
“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?” (Isaiah 40:28)
“But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)
Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
“Listen to the birds singing because God feeds them. You are worth more than many birds! Look at how beautiful the lilies are — God will certainly clothe you too. Don’t worry. Relax! Your Father has been pleased to give you his kingdom and surely he’ll provide all that you need.” (Luke 12:24 – 32; par)
“Watch and pray…” (Mark 14:38)
“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” (John 4:10)
Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you… As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:7, 9, ESV)
Jesus said, “You are my friends. We share in the Father’s business.” (John 15:14, par)
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phyrgia and Galatia… The Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to [enter Bithynia]… During the night Paul had a vision…” (Acts 16:6-9)
“[God’s] purpose was… perhaps [we could] feel [our] way toward him and find him — though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:27-28, NLT).
“What’s next Papa?” (Romans 8:15, MSG)
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
“All Scripture is God-breathed…” (2 Timothy 3:16)
* Bible verses are from the New International Version (1984). Others are my paraphrase (par), The Message (MSG), English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), or NIV (2013 edition).
Quotes From “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard
These quotes and insights from Dallas Willard’s book on Hearing God are exceptional! I hope you can take time to study and pray through these ideas. I’ve arranged them by topics related to discerning God’s guidance within the context of growing in a friendship and conversational relationship with Christ. The page numbers are from IVP’s 1999 edition of Hearing God (originally published in 1984 as In Search of Guidance).
Feasting on God’s Word
“The human system simply will not function properly without [hearing God].” (p. 9)
“God has created us for intimate friendship with himself — both now and forever.” (p. 10)
“Hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship, and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God.” (p. 10)
“On the one hand we have massive testimony to and widespread faith in God’s personal, guiding communication with us… On the other hand we also find a pervasive and often painful uncertainty about how hearing God’s voice actually works today.” (p. 25)
“The [written] Word is the wire along which the voice of God will certainly come to you if the heart is hushed and the attention fixed.” Frederick B. Meyer (p. 183)
The Word of God and the Rule of God
“A kingdom does not work merely by pushes and pulls. Essentially it works by the communication of thoughts and intentions through words or other symbols, for a kingdom is a network of personal relationships… Some of our greatest problems in understanding and entering into life in the kingdom of God come from an inadequate appreciation of [this].” (p. 122)
“[In] Genesis 1 we see God continuing to create by the direct action of his word… In the same way that your hand moves in response to your thought and intention — that is the creative power of the word of God.” (p. 125)
“God says that with a force comparable to the forces of nature — the rain and seed bringing forth plants, seed and bread to nourish the hungry — ‘so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.’ (Isaiah 55:10-11).”
“In Psalm 29… the behavior of the waters and the forests are attributed to the voice of the Lord… This same unity is exhibited in the life of Jesus. He could turn water into wine, calm the billowing waves with his word and walk on them as on a pavement. But he could also place the word of God’s kingdom rule into people’s hearts, where it would bring forth fruit a hundredfold, or sixtyfold, or thirtyfold (Matthew 13:23).” (p. 127-128)
“Rarely does Jesus ever pray for a need brought before him. Rather he normally addresses it or performs some action in relation to it.” (p. 133)
“The Bible is the Word of God in its unique written form. But the Bible is not Jesus Christ, who is the living Word. The Bible was not born of a virgin, crucified, resurrected and elevated to the right hand of the Father. Neither is the Bible the word of God that is settled eternally in the heavens as the psalmist says (Psalm 119:89), expressing itself in the order of nature (Psalm 19:1-4)… It is not the word that Jesus spoke of as being sown by the active speaking of the ministry (Matthew 13). But all of these are God’s words, as is also his speaking that we hear when we individually hear God.” (p. 142)
Be Careful With the Bible!
“The open secret of many ‘Bible-believing’ churches is that only a very small percentage of their members study the Bible with even the degree of interest, intelligence or joy that they bring to bear upon their favorite newspaper or magazine… Because they do not know and are not taught how to understand the experience of biblical characters in terms of their own experience.” (p. 36)
“A Biblical Christian is not just someone who holds certain beliefs about the Bible. He or she is also someone who leads the kind of life demonstrated in the Bible: a life of personal, intelligent interaction with God.” (p. 104)
“The Bible is one of the results of God’s speaking. It is the unique written Word of God. It is inerrant in its original form and infallible in all of its forms for the purpose of guiding us into a life-saving relationship with God in his kingdom. It is infallible in this way precisely because God never leaves it alone.” (p. 141)
“The Bible is a finite, written record of the saving truth spoken by the infinite, living God, and it reliably fixes the boundaries of everything he will ever say to humankind. It fixes those boundaries in principle, though it does not provide the detailed communications that God may have with individual believers today.” (p. 143)
“The Bible may prove a deadly snare, as it did for those in Christ’s earthly days who actually used the Scripture to dismiss him and his claims on them (John 5:36-47). Because of this we are warned in the Bible that we can even destroy ourselves by Bible study: specifically be the study of Paul’s epistles, for ‘some things in them [are] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures’ (2 Peter 3:16).” (p. 143)
Trusting God’s Word to Redeem Us
“It is through the action of the word of God upon us, throughout us and with us that we come to have the mind of Christ and thus to live fully in the kingdom of God.” (p. 148)
“After the ‘additional’ life has been planted in us, our natural powers are not left to run their own way under or alongside the new life; they are to be channeled through and subordinated to that life from above.” (p. 151)
“When you wash a dirty shirt the water and laundry soap move through the fibers of the shirt material and carry out the dirt lodged within those fibers. When we come to God our minds and hearts are like that dirty shirt, cluttered with false beliefs and attitudes, deadly feelings, past deeds and misguided plans, hopes, and fears. The word of God — primarily the gospel of his kingdom and of the life and death of Jesus on our behalf — enters our mind and brings new life through faith… The word moves into every part of our personality.” (p. 152)
“We are transformed by the renewing of our minds and thus are able to ‘discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Romans 12:2). Hearing God becomes a reliably clear and practical matter for the mind that is transformed by this washing of the word.” (p. 152-153)
“The disciples obviously had great faith in Jesus. They called upon him, counting on him to save them [in the storm on the Sea of Galilee]. They had great faith in him, but they did not have his great faith in God. It was because they did not have his faith that he spoke of how little faith they had. Some Christians too commonly demonstrate that the notions of ‘faith in Christ’ and ‘love for Christ’ leave Christ outside the personality of the believer.” (p. 157)
“The ‘not I, but sin’ of Romans 7 must be taken in conjunction with the ‘not I, but Christ’ of Galatians 2:20… This requires that we take a stand as to who we are in this new life, that we identify with the Christ-life in us and against the sin still present in our selves and that we settle in our will the question of who we intend to be. This is what it means to ‘consider’ ourselves ‘dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11).” (p. 159)
“We will be spiritually safe in our use of the Bible if we follow a simple rule: Read with a submissive attitude. Read with a readiness to surrender all you are — all your plans, opinions, possessions, positions. Study as intelligently as possible, with all available means, but never study merely to find the truth and especially not just to prove something.” (p. 161)
“[God’s] speaking most commonly occurs in conjunction with study of and reflection on the Bible, the written Word of God, wherever the Bible is available. Less commonly, though still often, it comes in conjunction with a human being who is speaking to us. But it may come in any of the other ways God chooses.” (p. 195)
How You Can Develop a Conversational Relationship with God
Correct Mistaken Prevailing General Assumptions
“We live at the mercy of our ideas. This is never more true than with our ideas about God. Meaning well is not enough. Those who operate on the wrong information are likely never to know the reality of God’s presence in the decisions which shape their lives and will miss the constant divine companionship for which their souls were made.” (p. 10)
“Our preexisting ideas and assumptions are precisely what determine what we can see, hear, or otherwise observe. These general ideas — which so often we hold because they express how we want things to be — determine what stories can mean to us. They cannot, therefore be changed by stories and miraculous events alone, since they prevent a correct perception of those very stories and events.” (p. 64-65)
“The role of the Scriptures and of scriptural interpretation is to provide us with a general understanding of God and to inspire and cultivate a corresponding faith.” (p. 66)
“What we do or do not understand, in any area of our lives, determines what we can or cannot believe and therefore governs our practice and action with an iron hand… Careful instruction and hard thinking… will not be done on our behalf.” (p. 193)
Prepare to Listen through Training
“The fact that we do not hear does not mean that God is not speaking to us… We know that messages from radio and television programs are passing through our bodies and brains at all hours of the day: messages that an appropriately tuned receiver could pluck from the very air we breathe… We are not attuned to God’s voice. We have not been taught how to heart it sounding out in nature — for as we read in Psalm 19, ‘The heavens announce the glory of God” — or in special communication directed by God to the individual.” (p. 68-69)
“Some use their ears to sift out only what they want to hear… [Jesus] urged his hearers to make great effort to hear, assuring them that what they received would be proportional to their desire and effort (Mark 4:23-24).” (p. 69)
“Are we ready vessels? …Here a bit of honest soul-searching may be required… It may be that [we] could make no good use of a word from God because of how [we] are living.” (p. 69)
“Recognizing God’s voice is something that [we] must learn to do through [our] own personal experience and experimentation.” (p. 109)
“How wonderful that Eli recognized what was happening to young Samuel and could tell him what to do to begin his lifelong conversational walk with God! It might well have been years, in the prevailing circumstances, before Samuel would have found his way by himself. We must not mistakenly assume that if God speaks to someone, he or she automatically knows what is happening and who is talking. If Samuel did not know, surely many others also would not.” (p. 109)
Fully Submit to God’s Kingdom
“Hearing God — as a reliable, day-to-day reality for people with good sense — is for those who are devoted to the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom. It is for the disciple of Jesus Christ who has no higher preference than to be like him.” (p. 70)
“Why should God speak to me? What am I doing in life that would make speaking to me a reasonable thing for him to do? Are we in business together in life? Or am I in business just for myself, trying to ‘use a little God’ to advance my projects?” (p. 70)
Open to Spiritual Reality
“Today it is simply assumed that scientific knowledge excludes the presence of God from the material universe… This is called ‘naturalism.’” (p. 72)
“To the degree that you come to understand that the whole of reality is something penetrated by God, you can begin to open yourself up to the possibility of receiving a direct communication from him.” (p. 78)
“In our ‘existence as usual’ we are like Jacob, wearily asleep on a rock in a desert ravine. He went to sleep in his sorrow, alienation and loneliness, seeing only the physical landscape. In his dream — or was he only then truly awake? — he beheld God’s interaction with the place he was in. Awakening, he cried out, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place — and I did not know it!… How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’ (Gen 28:16-17).” (p. 79)
Meditate on Scripture
“Come to your chosen passage as to a place where you will have a holy meeting with God. Read a small part of the passage and dwell on it, praying for the assistance of God’s Spirit in bringing fully before your mind and into your life the realities expressed. Always ask, ‘What is my life like since this is true, and how shall I speak and act because of this?’ You may wish to turn the passage into a prayer of praise or request.” (p. 163)
Help Other People Listen to Jesus
“When we lead as shepherds, our confidence is in only one thing: the word of the Great Shepherd, coming through us or, otherwise, to his sheep. We know that they know his voice and will not follow another (John 10:1-16). We do not want them to follow another, even if we ourselves are that ‘other.’ Only this supreme confidence frees us to be true ministers of Christ… undershepherds (ministers under God).” (p. 81)
“I must ask myself, as a Christian minister, to what extent I, in order to secure enough conformity and support to maintain and enlarge my plans, might be prepared to have people put away their minds and their own individual experiences of guidance and communication with their Lord.” (p. 83)
Mostly, Hearing God is Attending to the Still, Small Voice (the Inner Teacher)
“God addresses us in various ways: in dreams, visions and voices; through the Bible and extraordinary events… Each way God communicates with us has its own special uses, but all the ways are not equally significant for our life with him. In terms of overall importance, the written Word and Jesus, the living Word, are not even to be compared to a voice or vision used by God speak to an individual. And from among the individual’s experiences of hearing God, the ‘still small voice’ has a vastly greater role than anything else.” (p. 87)
“What is this still small voice?… The translation might just as well read ‘a gentle whisper of a voice.’” (1 Kings 19:11-12) (p. 87)
“The still small voice — or the interior or inner voice, as it is also called — is the preferred and most valuable form of individualized communication for God’s purposes. God usually address individually those who walk with him in a mature, personal relationship using this inner voice, proclaiming and showing forth the reality of the kingdom of God as they go.” (p. 89)
“We must be open to the possibility of God’s addressing us in whatever way he chooses, or else we may walk right past a burning bush instead of saying, as Moses did, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up’ (Ex 3:3). I say in all seriousness that we may mistake the voice of God for the sound of someone’s radio turned up too loudly, for some accidental noise or — more likely still — for just another one of our own thoughts.” (p. 91)
“Russ Johnston points out the importance of recurrent thoughts in God’s communication with his children: ‘We would see wonderful results if we would just deal with the thoughts that continue in our minds in a godly manner. But most people don’t… As thoughts come into your mind and continue, ask God, “Do you really want me (or us) to do this?” Most of us just let those thoughts collapse — and God looks for someone else to stand in the gap.’” (p. 101)
“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.” (Proverbs 20:27, KJV) “The thoughts and feelings in the mind and spirit of one who is surrendered to God should be treated as if God were walking through one’s personality with a candle, directing one’s attention to things one after the other.” (p. 102)
“I have found much help in the words of E. Stanley Jones, who so firmly believed in and practiced interaction with God’s voice throughout his life: ‘God cannot guide you in any way that is not Christ-like. Jesus was supreme sanity. There was nothing psychopathic about Him. He went off into no visions, no dreams. He got his guidance through prayer as you and I do. That is, He got his guidance when in control of His faculties, and not when out of control as in dreams. I do not say that God may not guide through a vision or dream; but if he does, it will be very seldom, and it will be because He cannot get hold of our normal processes to guide them. For God is found most clearly and beneficially in the normal rather than in the abnormal. And Jesus is the Normal, for He is the Norm.’” (p. 111)
“The predominance of the spectacular encounter generally goes along with the less mature levels of spiritual life — though the mere absence of such spectacular events must not be taken as indicating great spiritual development. After all, such an absence is also consistent with utter deadness.” (p. 111)
“The very phrase ‘still small voice’ might seem to suggest that what lies at the heart of a relationship with God is something weak and marginal. But that is far from the truth. One who hears God’s voice is operating from the very foundation and framework of all reality, not from the fringe.” (p. 117)
“While God’s communications, including those intended to guide our specific choices, come through experiences of many kinds, the content or meaning of his detailed and individualized communications to us always finally take the form of the inner voice, a characteristic type of thought or perception. Without this the accompanying events, appearances or biblical passages remain puzzling, mystifying and open to conjecture.” (p. 195)
“The inner teaching of which John speaks in his first epistle (1 John 2:20, 27) — the voice or word of God coming to individuals, as repeatedly displayed in biblical events — usually comes to us in conjunction with (1) responsible study and meditation upon the Bible, (2) experience of the various kinds of movements of the Spirit in our heart and (3) intelligent alertness to the circumstances that befall us.” (p. 173)
How to Recognize the Voice of God
“God is not a mumbling trickster… If he wants us to know something, he will be both able and willing to communicate it to us plainly, just as long as we are open and prepared by our experience to hear and obey. This is exactly what takes place in the lives of… biblical characters… We may be sure that ‘no prophecy every came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God’ (2 Peter 1:21). With very little exception the form such inspiration took was nothing more than thoughts and perceptions of the distinctive character that these people had come though experience to recognize as the voice of God in their own souls.” (p. 191)
“We mistakenly think that if God spoke to us we would automatically know who is speaking without having to learn.” (p. 169)
“At first we must be told that God is speaking to us and possibly even be helped to detect his voice. Only later do we come, without assistance, confidently to distinguish and recognize his voice as his voice. That ability comes only with experience.” (p. 169)
“The quality of God’s voice is more a matter of the weight or impact an impression makes on our consciousness. [Its] certain steady and calm force… inclines us toward assent… We sense inwardly the immediate power of God’s voice… the unquestionable authority” (p. 175)
“[God’s voice] is a spirit of exalted peacefulness and confidence, of joy, of sweet reasonableness and of goodwill. It is, in short, the spirit of Jesus, and by that phrase I refer to the overall tone and internal dynamics of his personal life as a whole… Those who [have] seen Jesus [have] truly seen the Father, who shared the same Spirit. It is this Spirit that marks the voice of God in our hearts. Any word that bears an opposite spirit most surely is not the voice of God. And because his voice bears authority within itself, it does not need to be loud or hysterical.” (p. 177).
“They shared Nicodemus’ problem of not being able to see the kingdom of God — though they were sure that in fact they did. Many stand in that same place today… We really have no recourse, no place to stand, if we do not have firsthand experience of hearing God’s voice, held safely within a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who also have such knowledge of God’s personal dealings with their own souls.” (p. 188)
Why We Don’t Hear God’s Voice
Because We’re Not Prepared To
“If we do not want to be converted from our chosen and habitual ways, if we really want to run our own lives without any interference from God, our very perceptual mechanisms will filter out his voice or twist it to our own purposes.” (p. 197)
“Our failure to hear his voice when we want is due to the fact that we do not in general want to hear it, that we want it only when we think we need it.” (p. 197)
Because He’s Not Giving Directives
“If [I don’t receive specific guidance from God] I am not alarmed. I set myself to hold the matter before God as I go about my business and confidently get on with my life. Of course I make it a point to keep listening. Very often, with a day something happens through which God’s voice, recognizably distinct is heard.” (p. 200)
“[Don’t] be misled into thinking that there is some sure-fire technique for squeezing what we want to know out of God. A life surrendered to God, a humble openness to his direction even when it is contrary to our wants and assumptions,” is what is most important. (p. 201)
“God will not play little games of hide-and-seek with us… In our relationship with him there is no mysterious catch to receiving his word for us, no riddle to solve, no incantation to get just right.” (p. 203)
“There are reasons other than [God’s] displeasure why a specific word may not be forthcoming to us in a particular case. One of the major other reasons is that in general, it is God’s will that we ourselves should have a great part in determining our path through life. This does not mean that he is not with us. Far from it. God both develops and, for our good, tests our character by leaving us to decide. He calls us to responsible citizenship in his kingdom by saying — in effect or in reality — as often as possible, ‘My will for you in this case is that you decide on your own.’” (p. 203-204)
“What we want, what we think, what we decide to do when the word of God does not come or when we have so immersed ourselves in him that his voice within us is not held in distinction from our own thoughts and perceptions — these show us who we are: either we are God’s mature children, friends and coworkers, or we are something less.” (p. 204)
“Generally it is much more important to cultivate the quiet, inward space of a constant listening than to always be approaching God for specific direction.” (p. 200)
For more help on hearing God our Soul Shepherding booklet “Methods For Hearing God’s Voice.” (Coming soon!)