The Bible is full of descriptions of God’s voice. It comes as wild as a burning bush and as scandalous as an invitation to cast a stone.
Sometimes in our normal, daily lives, the stories of the Bible can feel far away; they take place in a world so unlike ours. But God never changes. I think He had to tell us that because He knew we would one day be inundated with voices different from His own. We can still access His voice, even amidst the unending texts, news feeds, cultural pressures and negative self-talk. Unless we practice listening or have an expectation that He will speak, that’s difficult to do.
Hearing God becomes easier when you believe it’s possible. We know from scripture that we can hear Him, because in John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” We know that if we seek, we will find Him. In Jeremiah 29:12 He says, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” And, we know that He has countless thoughts about us to share because Psalm 139:17 says that if we were to count them, they would outnumber the sand.
About four years ago, I was living in New York City and cautiously attending a church. I was unsure and honestly, felt embarrassed for wanting to know Jesus. One day, I had a fleeting thought: “If you come to Nashville, I will show you what you want to see.” At this point, I didn’t know if I liked Jesus, let alone believed something crazy like God speaking to people. Yet, I booked a ticket to Nashville where my best friend attended church. I was excited but wondered if I was insane.
On that trip, I encountered God’s love as I made friends, worshiped and received prayer. I left knowing not only that God was real, but that He loved me. Listening to that thought saved me. Being obedient to it brought the answer to the greatest cry of my heart. I returned to New York a changed woman.
Since then, I’ve moved to Nashville, completed two years at ministry school and served on its staff. I’ve overcome depression and unhealthy habits. I’m confident in my gifts and who I am. I have godly friends, an amazing marriage, and greatest of all, hope. I’ve begun to pursue my dreams again.
Learning to look for this spontaneous interjection has changed me — but what truly changed my relationship with God was learning I could have a conversation with Him whenever I wanted. Even the most sacred, supernatural parts of Christianity have super practical components. God isn’t distant or absent, like dads on earth can sometimes be; He’s a perfect Father who cares about what we think and how we feel. He always has a response.
Following are some easy steps to practice listening. My husband and I don’t make any decisions without first following this process. It’s also significant to my daily life. Sometimes I’ll realize I’m feeling irritated, lethargic and discouraged — and realize I haven’t spent time listening to the Lord in days! An active relationship with Him is necessary to all aspects of my health. I am most like myself when I consistently meet with Him.
The following steps come from Alyn and AJ Jones (www.alynandaj.com), adapted from material by Mark Virkler. If you want to learn more about this idea, you can look to their resources.
1. Quiet yourself down. Find a quiet place, put away your phone and take some deep breaths.
2. Focus on Jesus. Close your eyes and think about who the Bible says Jesus is. In your mind, ask the Lord to show you where He is in the room. Give yourself permission to feel silly. Let your mind’s eye see Jesus (Emmanuel, “God with us”).
3. Tune into spontaneous thought. It’s easy to dismiss thoughts as being silly or not holy enough. But the Gospel is simple and easy enough for a child to understand. God will speak to you in a way that makes sense to you. It might sound a lot like your voice. Follow the seemingly random or silly thoughts and see where they go.
4. Write it down. As you hear or see things in your mind, jot them down. This will help you to remember, but it is also important to test what you’ve heard against scripture. Check to see if what you’ve heard aligns with God’s nature in the Bible.
It’s also wise to share your notes with a mentor or pastor you trust for feedback. Testing what you’ve heard will help you grow your confidence over time.
If I’m having difficulty, I’ll start by making a list of things I’m thankful for, like a love letter to God. If I’m feeling disconnected or restless, I’ll “mind dump” and write out everything causing me anxiety. Both help me to unload my burdens on God and refocus.
If you’re feeling unsure, remember you were designed to be in communion with God. He’s still speaking, and it’s not just for priests. Jesus came to remove any barrier between God and us. He demands no perfection from us. Throughout the Bible, when we’re told to ask God to search our hearts or cast our cares upon Him, these are interactions. They describe a conversation, not one-sided petitions of prayer. He is not far away; He is a perfect Father whose ear is ever inclined toward you.
If you give it a chance, maybe you will experience what I have:
A gentle friend who is patient and will never shame you.
A growing confidence in your identity.
A realization that you don’t have to carry your burdens alone.
Experiencing that God wants to talk to you — all the time, about anything at all.