Category Archives: Hearing God’s Voice
Hearing God’s Voice
Reading: Deuteronomy 5 — 8
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV
God so wants to bless us! He yearns for it. “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me … that it might go well with them…”
If my heart is “inclined” toward him — to delight in him, to please him, to obey the promptings of his Spirit — and as I persist with this, God will release his blessing and favour into my life. This is his heart-felt desire and purpose, as expressed in his words above, but it is the inclination of my heart that determines how much his desire for me is fulfilled.
It's as though his desire to bless and bestow favour is pent up, just waiting for the opportunity to be let out. And the inclination of my heart is the key that opens the flood gates of his goodness. No wonder God wants my devotion!
So how do I incline my heart toward God?
Inclination: A disposition or bent, especially of the mind or will; a liking or preference; to deviate from the horizontal or vertical; to lean or bend in a particular direction.
That definition brings to mind certain flowers that turn toward the sun. They don't just stand stock still, pointing straight upwards and unmoved by the sun's presence. Instead, the flower head turns toward the sun and follows it as it moves across the sky. As it does so, the stalk is compelled to bend as well, so that the whole plant becomes inclined toward its glorious source of life and nourishment.
The more closely and consistently that flower can orient itself toward the sun, the greater the “blessing” it receives.
It's the same with me. Not that I can earn God's blessing — it comes as a free gift — but that the degree to which my heart is turned towards him will actually determine how much he is able to bless me.
Father, when I hear your heart's cry for me, I can't help but want to respond — to offer my life wholeheartedly into your hands; to offer to you alone my affection and my devotion. Holy Spirit, help me to hear your voice and feel your promptings. I want my mind and my heart to be fully and always oriented to Jesus, to enjoy his presence and to obey him.
Reading: Isaiah 50
The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. Isaiah 50:4-5 NIV
How beautifully this scripture describes the Holy Spirit at work, in and through Jesus. Speaking though Isaiah, Jesus reveals his attentiveness to the voice of his Father, and how the precious words he heard became, in his own mouth, such a blessing to others.
These were no ordinary words. They carried the power to save, to sustain the weary and bring hope to the broken hearted.
Not one word that the Father spoke to Jesus fell by the wayside. Rather, they were welcomed and acted upon, for this was his life and ministry – to do his Father's will.
Here too is my life's calling, to hear the voice of the Spirit, and to obey it. Just as Jesus was filled with Spirit, so too God has graciously imparted his Spirit to me, and to all who would receive him.
This entire week I have the privilege of 'escaping' to the beautiful Maniototo Basin in the South Island of New Zealand for the express purpose of learning to hear the voice of God and move in the gifts of the Spirit. With the guidance of Rodney Francis, Len Butner, and John Fergusson, I am discovering that, more than I ever knew, God is speaking to me.
I have often struggled with those gentle promptings. Is that God speaking to me or is it just my own thoughts? So this week, I have put it to the test. I have been asking God to speak to me, to give me specific words for the people around me – words that would encourage and minister to them. Most of these folks I have only met this week.
Trusting God for those first thoughts and impressions that come, and sharing them with those people in a spirit of love (and with some trepidation), I have discovered to my delight that the words really are from God. He has given me things I could never have known about those people and enabled me to speak healing and encouragement to them, often in very specific ways.
I feel so encouraged! The Sovereign Lord really is giving me “a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” He is “waking my ear to listen like one being instructed.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit and is, I believe, a ministry for all believers.
For so long I have prayed that God would open my ears, and it seems that perhaps, they were open all along. And so, with Jesus I declare that I will not be rebellious or turn away. Nor will I be constrained by fear. Instead, I will seek his voice, listen and obey.
Thank you so much Father for your Spirit, and the gifts he brings. Thank you for your voice. Please help me as I endeavour every day to listen for your promptings, to put aside fear, and to bless others by sharing your precious words with them.
Reading: Psalms 112-116
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-3 (NIV)
“Because he turned his ear to me…” Two pictures come to mind as I consider the remarkable thought of God turning his ear to me. The first is of a man walking down a road who suddenly stops and kneels down with his ear to the ground to listen to an ant.
The second is of a person who, in the midst of a noisy crowded room, picks out the voice of one particular person and ignores all the other voices so as to focus on what this person has to say.
It is clear from the psalmist's words that God didn't just 'notice' him, but that he showed concern for him in his distress, responding with compassion and grace. And the psalmist's response? Devotion. “Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”
This is yet another reminder of God's love not just for the human race, but for me! He loves me, and one of the ways he expresses that love is by listening to me. He values what I have to say, which means he values me!
Nothing is so big or so small that I can't talk with him about it. Paul tells me to “Pray continually.” (1Thess 5:17). In Philippians 4:6 he says, “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT)
But there is more here. Listening is a way that I too can express my love, both for God as I meditate on his Word and seek his voice in prayer, and for others as I take a genuine interest in what they have to say and how they feel about it.
Thank you Lord that you not only welcome open communication with me but you seek it. I don't want to miss any opportunity to commune with you, but I need your help. Please open my ears to hear you more clearly, and teach me as I practice with you the fine art of listening.
See also When Your Words Come
Reading: Jeremiah 10 – 15
Think of how I suffered reproach for your sake. When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:15b-16 (NIV)
Right at the beginning, God had warned Jeremiah that in serving him, he would have “…to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.” (Jeremiah 1:18). Yes, God promised to be with him and protect him, but what a life he must have lived; what a burden his calling must have been to bear. No doubt he longed to be welcomed and accepted by the people around him, but there was something he cherished far more – “When your words came…” Hearing from God was what Jeremiah lived for. His soul hungered for it. “I ate [your words]; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name…”
I too have opportunity to hear the voice of God speaking to me. The wonder of that possibility is almost breathtaking, yet so easily disregarded or made light of. To hear the voice of God is not only a privilege – it is life-transforming. But it can only happen as I purposefully incline my heart towards him and seek him, like a flower unfolding its petals each morning and following the sun as it moves across the sky. It is intentional, and born out of both hunger and delight.
Lord, I also bear your name. Like Jeremiah I have been called and your Spirit is within me. I have been bought for a price and I am yours. I too hunger for your words. As I read your Word, please speak to my heart. May I never be satisfied with just words on a page. Please bring them to life, and sharpen the acuity of my ears so that I might clearly hear your voice speaking to me. May nothing else in this life satisfy the longing of my heart like hearing you speaking to me. May that forever be my joy and my heart's delight.
See also Wake Up and Listen
Reading: Mark 13
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” Mark 13:35-37 (NIV)
Jesus is clearly concerned that some of us who have committed out lives to him will somehow be lost because we have “gone to sleep”. Even Jesus doesn't know the exact time of his return, but his warning suggests it could catch us by surprise if we are not watching.
There is a certain amount of self discipline I require to maintain my relationship with Jesus. I need the Holy Spirit to help me, but I need to consciously “tune in” with him as often as I can think of it.
Daniel had a habit of tuning in with God three times every day. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10 I like this idea. I'm sure Daniel tuned in more often than three times a day, but by making these three times a part of his daily routine he safeguarded himself from “going to sleep” in his faith and remained alert, ready and available to serve his God.
How can I make purposeful “tuning in with God” a greater part of my daily routine? I already enjoy my morning 'snooze time' conversation with God before I get up. Perhaps I could tune in again when I clean my teeth, then with a 5-10 minute lunchtime walk, and in the evening with my “sneaking off with God” time. A short prayer template might be helpful to remind me to give thanks, to listen to God and to ask him for what I need.
Jesus, I want to be ready and available to you every moment of the day and night. I know I sometimes get lost in my own thoughts, and might at times be oblivious to your Spirit prompting me, so please help me Holy Spirit to tune in. I want to truly know what it means to “Be joyful always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances, knowing that this is (your) will for me in Christ Jesus.” (from 1Thess 5:16-18)
Reading: Isaiah 49-50
The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. Isaiah 50:4-6 (NIV)
This is a wonderful insight from Jesus talking in first person about the process of listening and obeying. Jesus is woken each morning not by his alarm clock but by the voice of his father calling him. His ear is awakened to listen. Day by day, in other words, every day begins by waiting on God and listening.
What is covered in this time of listening? Perhaps they're things I need to know concerning the day ahead. Perhaps things concerning the future, or my general calling. Perhaps a word that I can share to encourage someone else. Or maybe something that God really wants me to know.
But of greatest importance is how I respond to what I hear. Ultimately, I listen so that I can know, understand, and obey. As Jesus says, “I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.” And when the rubber meets the road, how much easier is it to obey when I have actually spent time with God, heard his voice, and determined in my heart that I will trust him and obey.
Aside from my normal quiet time, I need to set aside 5-10 minutes each morning, before anything else, to just listen to God. I can start as soon as I wake as I lay in my bed. Perhaps a short walk to escape distractions would help too. And like Daniel, spending a few minutes during the day would also be a great help.
Help me Jesus to follow your example and become a dedicated listener. And father, I pray that just as you woke Jesus morning by morning, you would awaken me, and awaken my ears to hear your voice. Please speak, your servant is listening.
One great way to listen to God is to read the Bible and apply SOAP. You can learn more about this helpful technique here: What is SOAP?