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How to listen to God

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Listening to God and recognizing how He answers your requests is essential to enjoying prayer. God answers every prayer, and He wants you to hear His answers. Are you ready to listen?


Prayer is a conversation with God


Are your prayers more of a monologue than a dialogue? Are you frustrated by your attempts to listen for God’s voice? Do you struggle with feeling your prayers are not being heard because there is no feedback?


Prayer should be an ongoing conversation with God as a result of having a relationship with God. But for many, there is no conversation. Prayer for many is just talking into the air. A relationship requires a two-way conversation. You talk to God, and He talks to you. Do you listen?


Is it possible that He is talking, but you are not hearing Him? Perhaps you do not recognize His voice. Maybe you do not really want to hear what He has to say. Could it be that you are not hearing Him talk to you because He is not giving you the answer you are looking for?


One of the difficulties people have with prayer is the lack of sensing God’s presence. If there is no sense of His presence, then it is not possible to hear Him. Prayers without a relationship with God are nothing more than conversations with yourself. They are no different than talking into the air, to walls, or to rocks. There is no satisfaction in doing this.


God wants to talk to you


Jesus came to share His message with us. He taught. He discipled. And He sent His disciples to continue teaching. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus told His disciples,


“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”


The message of Jesus is the most important message in creation from eternity past to eternity future. After John the Baptist was imprisoned, Matthew 4:17 says,


“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”


Jesus came to teach. And as we read about the life of Jesus in the Gospels, we see that He taught His disciples many things, all of which were useful to encourage them and strengthen them spiritually so that they could continue to teach others the message of Jesus.


Jesus admonished people to listen to His message. In Mark 4:9, He said,


“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”


In Revelation 3:22, Jesus said,


“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”


In Psalm 81:8, the Lord prophetically said through David,


“Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me.”


Do you really want to listen to God?


Why listen to God?


In Luke 11:28, Jesus said,


“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”


The message of Jesus Christ is more than blessings for now. It is a message of blessings for eternity. It is a message that will determine whether you experience eternal life or eternal death. There is no message more important than this. There is no message more important to listen to. When God speaks, you had better listen.


If you study the lessons taught by Jesus and His disciples in the Bible, you discover that they taught many topics. All topics are of great importance and serve as lessons that confirm the value of God’s primary message of salvation.


Believing God and accepting His will as the right way to think and live is salvation from sin, suffering, and death. When you believe that God’s way is the right way, He will save you. That is His promise. How you live because He saved you will show others that God’s way is indeed the best way. This is how we make our message credible and convincing.


Those who listen to God, benefit from God’s wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5 says,


“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”


How God communicates


If you are struggling with hearing God, consider how He communicates. Knowing how He communicates will help you hear Him.
Romans 10:17 explains,


“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”


The Word of God comes to us in many different ways. God is not limited in any way in His communication to us. Below are six ways God talks to us.


In writing


“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21)


“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16 )


“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)


In visions


Job 33:14-16 says,

“For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.”


The Apostle Paul wrote,

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven…. How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4)


Second Chronicles 26:5 says of Zechariah,

“And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.”


By voice


After looking for the voice of God in a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire, Elijah heard the small, still voice of God. First Kings 19:12 says,

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”


Elijah learned that the voice of God does not necessarily come in an obvious way. Rather, God’s voice may be heard as a gentle, calm, and quiet thought.


With circumstances


God spoke to Balaam through a donkey (Numbers 22:28).
God spoke to Peter through a rooster (Mark 14:72).
God spoke to Moses from a bush (Exodus 3:1-15).
Paul wrote about learning from God in trials.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)


Manifested presence


Paul refers to a manifestation of God’s love in those who hope in trials.


“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)


Jesus spoke of personal manifestation to those who love Him.


“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.” (John 14:21)


Through others


God told His disciples to train disciples in order to keep His teachings perpetuated from generation to generation. In Acts 20:27, Paul says,


“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”


In 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul writes,


“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.”


And Luke 7:30 is an indictment against those who did not listen to the counsel of God spoken by John the Baptist.


“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”


Recognizing God’s voice


Recognizing God’s voice requires having a relationship with God. Just as a child can hear his mother’s voice in a crowd, God’s children can recognize His voice.
In John 10:27, Jesus says,


“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”


Recognizing God’s voice improves with experience. The more you interact with God and hear His voice, the more consistent you will be in recognizing His voice. Hebrews 5:14 says,


“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”


Some struggle with distinguishing the thoughts of God in their mind from their own thoughts. They do not trust their ability to know the difference. Confidence comes with experience.


Others worry that Satan might be deceiving them. It is wise to be cautious, but there is a way to be safe. First John 4:1 says,


“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”


And 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says,


“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”


God gives us three important resources to help us test whether we are hearing His voice or not.

Truth in His Word. God will never contradict His Word. If the voice you hear contradicts God’s written word, reject the voice. Acts 17:11 describes how the Bereans determined if the things they heard were consistent with Scripture.


“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Confirmation by His Spirit. Jesus explained in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit would never bring His own message or a different message. Rather, it would always be the same message of Christ.


“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

Counsel from His Church. God has a church home for every Christian for the purpose of training and doing His work. Ephesians 4:11-14 explains how the church also serves as a source of safety.


“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”


Proverbs 11:14 reinforces the importance of a church assembly.


“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”


How to listen to God


Ask Him to teach you to listen


If you cannot hear God’s voice and are struggling to know what to listen for, ask Him to teach you. God wants you to hear Him, so He will grant the request. King David prayed in Psalm 143:8,


“Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”


Have you ever asked God to teach you to listen to Him? If you have, and you are still struggling to hear Him, then ask again.


Ask questions


Too often, we offer prayers to inform God of things that He already knows. He already knows everything. We would do better to ask Him questions about things we do not know or understand.
If you ask the Lord questions, then you can look for answers. The more specific your questions are the more recognizable His answers will be. Here is a list of a few questions I have asked the Lord many times.

  • What does this verse mean?
  • What is the best way to apply this verse in my life?
  • How is the thought in this verse consistent with other verses in the Bible?
  • How should I answer or counsel a particular person?
  • How can prayers move mountains?
  • What ministry goals do you want me to focus on?
  • Where is the verse that will answer my question?


Expect answers


When you ask God to answer a question or a request, look for the answer. If you ask and do not look, you may miss it.


As for timing, sometimes God will answer immediately. Sometimes He will answer months later. I have experienced both situations. I have learned to just ask and then wait for the answer. I know He will answer when it is time.


I have noticed that sometimes the Lord teaches through experiences. And over time, due to a combination of events or conversations, the answer to the question I asked about becomes clear. I asked the Lord why He sometimes uses this approach. I am still waiting for a confirmed answer. But I am inclined to think that some answers are blessings for being faithful.


For example, I asked the Lord for understanding about a particular relationship between the Old and New Testaments. About four weeks later, I met a man who asked me the same question, and instantly I knew the answer. I explained the answer and gave him verses to support the answer. If I had not been engaged in meeting and teaching people, I believe that my question would not have been answered.


Sometimes I have forgotten the question, and then the answer which came later reminded me that I had asked about it. These have been pleasant surprises. But if you want to make sure that you do not miss God’s answer, then listen for it.


Be willing to hear


If you are frustrated with prayer and disappointed due to not getting what you ask for, you are not offering prayer requests. You are offering prayer demands. And when God does not give what you ask for, you pout, blame, complain. This way of praying is not about praying to hear God’s answers. This kind of praying is telling God what He should do for you and how He should answer your prayers.


When you pray to ask a question or make a request, you need to be willing to accept God’s answer. If you are only asking Him to confirm what you are asking for, then you may not hear His answer. Listen for His answer, not yours.
Ecclesiastes 5:1 says,


“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.”


The advice here is to listen, rather than to command. When you ask God a question or make a request, do so to accept His answer His way. If you only look for the answer you want to hear, then you will likely miss His answer. Proverbs 18:13 explains,


“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”


If you make requests of God with an answer already in mind that you consider acceptable, you have already prejudged God. You are telling Him what to do, rather than asking Him. And if He does not grant you the answer you expect, you will be frustrated. You might even complain and be critical of God. You might accuse Him of not answering your prayer. But God answers every prayer. It is up to us to accept His answer.


God answers every prayer. When people say that He does not answer their prayers, they mean that He is not giving them the answer they want to hear or in the way they want to hear it. It is important to stay humble and receive God’s answers. If we are proud and stubborn, we will be disappointed and critical of God.
Hebrews 3:15 warns us not to be like Israel was at one time in what is called the provocation.


“While it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.”


A hardened heart refers to a stubborn attitude. A person with a hardened heart is a person who insists that they are right and God is wrong. When God does not answer your prayers your way, do you get frustrated? This will happen if you disagree with God’s answer or the way He gives His answer.


Are you willing to accept God’s answers? Jesus said He taught with parables because the people were not going to hear anyway.
James 1:19 offers good advice, not only for relationships with others, but especially with God.


“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”


Luke 11:28 says,


“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”


Genesis 3:10 says that Adam heard God’s voice.


“And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”


Search His written Word


Jeremiah 15:16 says,


“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”


Reading the Word of God is reading the words and thoughts of God.


Second Peter 1:20-21 says,


“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”


Prayerfully meditate


Psalm 46:10 says,


“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”


Reflect on experiences, counsel, your thoughts, and His Word. Spend time thinking about God’s will and how it applies to your life.


Experiencing the presence of God


Love


Experiencing God’s presence requires a relationship with Him. Having a relationship with God is easy. All you have to do is believe Him. As with any relationship, trust is very important. If you don’t believe His will is best and you don’t trust Him to know what is best for you, then you are dishonoring Him. Your unbelief and lack of trust in Him is offensive. After all, God sacrificed His only begotten Son to pay for your sins. In John 15:13, Jesus said,


“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”


Romans 5:8 says,


“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


And in John 10:15, Jesus said,


“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”


What more can God do to prove His love for you? Doesn’t He deserve more than unbelief and distrust? Doesn’t He deserve your trust? Anything less is an insult.
Those who love God experience His presence. In John 14:21, 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.”


Those who believe God obey Him. They believe that His way is the right way. They believe that His will is best for them. They believe that He loves them and wants to bless them.


People do what they believe. This is the reason those who believe in Him love Him and obey Him. Their obedience is a manifestation of their belief in God and their love for Him.


Conviction


A memorable moment of experiencing God is the moment you realize that God is right and you are wrong. This experience is called conviction. John 16:8 explains why this occurs.


“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”


The Holy Spirit is in the world confirming the truths of God. He personalizes the message of God by giving us a sense of our guilt, God’s righteousness, and the consequences of sin. We feel disturbed. Some become angry. Others try to ignore the conviction. The wise humble themselves and confess that God is right.
The moment you change your mind to believe God is the moment you are saved. This moment of change in what you believe is called repentance. Jesus said in Luke 13:3,


“… except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”


Some refer to the experience of being convicted of sin as your conscience. It is the experience of guilt and shame. You have been caught. It doesn’t feel good, but fortunately there is a remedy. Just admit that God is right and you are wrong. At the moment of this decision, God will forgive you and give you the gift of eternal life.


Conviction is the experience of hearing God. He is talking to you. He is confirming in you that you have a problem, and He has the solution. Have you heard Him talk to you? Everyone who is saved has.


Listen to learn


Learn to listen


When you ask God a question or make a request, listen for the answer and learn. Learn how to recognize when God is speaking to you as well as what He is telling you.


Listening to God is somewhat of a learned behavior. We may hear Him, but if we do not recognize His voice, it is as if we never heard Him.
The best way to practice listening for God is to ask, listen, and learn. This is especially true for answers that you are not sure about. Trying to discern the uncertain answers is the best way to develop your listening skills.


While trying to discern whether God is answering you, talk to Him about it. Ask Him to help you be more certain. Ask Him to help you recognize His answers with greater confidence.


Learn by testing answers


Learn how to listen by looking for the answers and then testing them as I have already mentioned. When you test the answers, you will learn how to recognize the answers and thoughts that are from God. You will improve your ability to recognize what God’s answers should be like.


God talks to us because He wants us to know truth. He does not want us to remain ignorant. He wants us to learn how to recognize His voice. It is reassuring to know that God wants to teach us how to listen. We have reason to hope for listening skills. And we have reason to believe that God will protect us from false voices. He will direct our paths if we believe Him and love Him.


Learn by accepting His answers


Ask God questions and make requests in order to learn. Ask in order to be informed, to change your thinking, or to change your behavior. Ask as a student eager to learn. Be teachable.


Accept God’s answers for the purpose of application. Accept His answers and adjust your thinking and behavior. Learn by doing what God tells you to do. His will is always the right way.


Desire to listen


Do you really want to hear what God is saying? Is it important to you? David wrote in Psalm 40:8,


“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”


Living for God is the reason to listen to God. Knowing His will and feeling confident in the choices you make require listening to Him.
If you have this desire to listen to Him, He will teach you. All you have to do is believe that His answers are always the best answers.


Verses about listening to God


Ps 95:7, “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice.”


Ps 85:8, “I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”


Ps 138:4, “All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth.”


Pr 1:5, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”


Pr 1:33, “But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”


Hebrews 4:7, “Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”


Zec 7:11, “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.”


Ps 115:6, “They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not.”


Verses of warnings to those who will not listen to God


Proverbs 19:20, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”


Malachi 2:2, “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.”


Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”


Listening to God


The more you try to listen to God, the better you will be at hearing Him. Watch for His answers in His Word, in circumstances, in counsel from others, and in personal experiences of faith. Consistently listening and looking for His answers will build the experience and skill needed to recognize His answers. Remember to expect answers and be willing to accept His answers. His way is always the best way.


Changing your life for good


If this article has helped you in some way, share your blessing with others. Let me know in what way you benefitted.
Ask God to teach you more about prayer. And search for more articles in my blog for more insights into prayer.
I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comment below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1 thought on “How to listen to God”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Dr. Briney for your wise council and for helping me understand the Word of God. It can be challenging to understand the Old, as well as the New, Testaments and interpretations of both abound so it is hard to know which interpretation is actually correct but your in-depth analysis and insight, as well as practical explanations make navigating this easier. Thank you again and God bless.

    Jack Walczak

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