Speak Up, God

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Many of us who’ve been around the church for a few years will probably have heard a number of accounts of people hearing the audible voice of God, or getting a strong sense of what to say to another person (often leading to that other person’s healing/salvation/healing and salvation). These stories are encouraging to us, showing us that the power of God is alive and well in the world and that he’s moving in people’s lives, but they’re not always that useful in helping our own relationships with God strengthen and improve.

It’d be fantastic if God spoke to us all audibly, if we sat down to pray and immediately heard God speaking back to us, but let’s be honest, that just doesn’t happen to the vast majority of us. And I’m going to be honest and admit that the prospect of going up to a stranger on the street and hoping that God will give me a word to say to them terrifies me. Listening to God is something that all Christians are encouraged to do, but it’s just not that easy!

Elijah is one of the greatest prophets the world has ever seen. He spoke up for God in the time of King Ahab’s rule in Israel, a time of great persecution for those who persevered in believing in God and great miracles happened whenever he called on the name of God. Yet when he was at a low point in his life, on the run from the king and his malevolent queen, God promised to speak to him on Mount Horeb. 1 Kings 19 tells of how there was a great wind, a violent earthquake and a raging fire in the mountains, but the Lord wasn’t in any of them. After all this a ‘gentle whisper’ came to the prophet and that was the voice of God.

So what can we in the 21st century take from this Old Testament story? For me, it shows that we shouldn’t always look for God to appear in miraculous, loud, showy ways. God would much rather speak in a gentle whisper. Why? That’s not really for me to say, but if I was to hazard a guess, I think it might be because he wants a relationship with us and doesn’t want us to be scared witless every time he wants to talk to us!

If the voice of God is quiet and calm more often than not, we need to be prepared to hear it. This is the hardest part and there is no one way of doing it, so I’ll give you a couple of things to try that have helped me:

1)      Praying for someone in a group setting. This can be a good way to practise listening to God. If you’re in a group, praying for someone or something, ask God to give you a word to say, whether it’s a Bible verse or a prophecy or something completely random. The next bit’s the harder part: if something comes into your head, trust God and say it. You may be completely wrong; that’s fine. This takes practise. But you have to start somewhere and you have to be able to have faith that God is speaking to you. The more you do this, the easier it will become to say what God’s putting on your mind.

2)      The second way is more personal, but again, it takes practise. Ask God a question about whatever you want and the first thing that comes into your head is likely to be the answer. As an example, when I was told to do this, the question I was told to ask was ‘what area of my life do you most want me to change?’ The answer is then likely to be the first thing that you think of. Again, this method isn’t perfect, but it can get you used to hearing God’s voice and learning what he sounds like.

With both those methods, it helps to be in a focused setting, and when you’re on your own it really helps if it’s quiet. Just stay calm and try to focus on God and what he might be saying to you. Some people find this easier than others, but everyone has to start somewhere.

The important thing is that you don’t lose heart. If you feel like God has told you something important, but you’re not sure, then check it out with another Christian that you trust, preferably someone who has a good knowledge of the Bible and, ideally a strong relationship with God in which they hear from him regularly. They can make sure you’re going in the right direction.

As a final point, remember that the Bible is the Word of God, there for us already. Use it! Read it and see what jumps out at you, then pray around those verses. We are blessed with a way of directly accessing what God has said and it can really help us to learn how God speaks and to work out what it is that God wants to speak to us about. Just don’t stop trying, because once you hear God, it’s all worth it.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Gene says:

    Personally, I think this “God listening” practice is a little troubling. Aside from being knowable in any way, it is unscriptural and potentially dangerous to young believers looking for direction. God has given us His Word, his exact directions for “training in righteousness” and equipping for “every good work (2 Tim. 3:16f). God “speaks” to us today through His Son, i.e., The Word (Heb. 1:1f) and not through audible cues and directions if we just listen hard enough. Who’s to say it is God’s voice at all and not just our own thoughts of what we desire or what we believe we should do?

    I’m sorry to be a bit harsh, but I think encouraging people keep trying to hear God talk to them is terribly misleading and not found anywhere in scripture. In fact, the ONLY reference to God giving anyone the words to say or what to do was in specific reference to the apostles as Jesus prayed for them before he went to the cross.

    God Bless.

    1. bengarry says:

      Thanks for the comment. I spent a little while before replying as I didn’t want to rush in and make mistakes and I wanted to check over this with someone I trusted beforehand.

      I think that there are examples of God speaking to people in the NT. For example, Paul talks about words from God regarding the thorn in his flesh in 2 Cor 12:9 and sees a vision of a man from Macedonia in Acts 16. Peter also has a well known vision in Acts 11. In terms of dreams and visions and hearing the voice of God through them, there are prophecies about that like ‘your young men will have dreams and your old men will see visions’. Partly because of this I do not believe that the Bible is the only method of revelation God uses.

      That said, I just want to make clear that the Bible has to be the authority by which we discern whether a word is from God or not. If we ‘hear’ something from God that contradicts Scripture, then that word is not from God.

      I’ll be honest, I know that there’s no way to definitively prove whether what you hear is from God or not, but in my personal experience, God does speak to people. I believe that I’ve heard him several times; many of my blog posts are inspired by conversations that I believe I’ve had during my prayers. I know that a lot of my understanding of Biblical concepts comes from my conversations with God rather than a human source. As well as that, there have been times where people have spoken prophecies over me that have proved true, as well as many other accounts from people I trust of prophecies that they have spoken or seen spoken that have had a big impact on the person receiving them. All those things require being able to listen to God.

      I appreciate the comment and it did make me look back into what I had written about, but I don’t think there is any reason why God cannot speak to us today. After all, we are his children/brothers/friends and those sort of relationships require unique, two-way communication.

      1. Gene says:

        Very well, you are free to believe that. I will simply say that the scriptural references you provided in Acts and 2 Cor. are pertaining to the apostles, to whom Jesus prayed that they specifically would receive the words to speak, etc. (Jn. 14 – 17). The prophecy you site is from Joel and is speaking of the time the Savior would come and indeed many were given the power to perform miracles and prophecy, which was to confirm the words they were speaking as being from God (Mk. 16:20). Those abilities, including hearing God’s voice audibly, are no longer needed now that we have His Word with us today (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

        I do though appreciate you stressing that the Bible has the authority in all matters.

        God Bless.

      2. bengarry says:

        Thanks for all this, although I don’t agree with everything, I do appreciate you showing a different view (and doing it respectfully, which isn’t always the case with some feedback I get)!

        We obviously disagree on this, but I think it’s more important that we agree that the Bible is the infallible authority of God and that nothing we hear should contradict that if it claims to be true. I know we also agree that Jesus is Lord and Saviour, and that’s enough for me.

        Thanks again for your comments, God bless.

  2. Richard says:

    Good debate from Gene and Ben in a great manner. Thanks, it certainly makes you think. Clearly the Bible is the ultimate clear authority on which you both agree

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