Hear God's Voice
Is It Biblical to Hear God’s Voice?
In my Christian experience, I started listening and hearing from God on a regular basis. Then Christians I respected began telling me things like: “If you’re hearing voices, you need to check yourself into the psych ward.” They shamed me into believing I was doing something wrong and unbiblical so I backed away from this habit for several years.
During that time, my life took a downward spiral that sent me into complete dysfunction. I rapidly slipped into the grips of mental illness. Looking back now, it wasn’t hearing God’s voice that constituted craziness; it was NOT hearing God’s voice that caused craziness.
Then, when I was exposed to some biblical teaching on the subject, I realized hearing God was not only acceptable but, in fact, required of every Christian. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Anyone in a relationship with Christ will know Him well enough to recognize his voice and follow Him.
In fact, God has some stern words for those who don’t listen to His voice:
Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!
Hebrews 12:25, NLT
Sadly, many Christians don’t listen to God’s voice because they have been taught God doesn’t speak anymore. That’s funny, because my Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NLT).
Don’t let anyone convince you it is wrong to hear from God. Because of my experience with Christians criticizing an intimate relationship with God, I get really riled up when I hear Christians trying to put a guilt-trip on others for hearing from God. Jesus said:
“Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! . . . Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
John 8:43, 47, NLT
So the answer to whether it is biblical to hear God’s voice is an unmistakable “yes.”
What preconceptions do you have about hearing God’s voice? What have you been taught (rightly or wrongly) that has shaped your views up to this point?
Friends with God
God called us into relationship with Him so we could be friends of God:
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Romans 5:10-11, NLT
So what do friends do? They talk. Laugh. Share moments. Do life together. That’s what God wants in His relationship with you.
God wants you to talk to Him and listen to what He wants to say to you. He doesn’t want a mere thirty minutes in the morning; He wants all of you, all day, and every day. He wants to share moments with you, laugh with you, and do life with you.
The Creator of the Universe wants to spend time with you! How cool is that?
How would you categorize your relationship with God? Friends? Acquaintances? Formal and distant? All business? How do you want your relationship to be?
How often do you interact with God? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? Occasionally? Only in an emergency? If your relationship with God was more interactive, where you could hear from Him, how would that change things?
Prayer Is a Dialogue
Prayer is not a monologue; it’s a dialogue. We tend to spew out our requests to God without giving Him a chance to get a word in edgewise, but a dialogue involves two-way conversation.
Moses is my favorite example of this two-way conversation with God:
Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
Exodus 33:11, NLT
God spoke with Moses just “as one speaks to a friend.” Let’s focus our attention on becoming friends with God and that alone will cause change in our lives. One cannot enter the presence of God without being changed.
Have you treated prayer like a monologue or a dialogue? Has this been effective for you? Why or why not?
Write out a brief prayer telling God you’re ready to start listening to His side of the conversation. Invite Him to interact with you. Ask the Lord to help you start hearing from Him.
Let Your Words Be Few
Did you know the Bible says we should let God do most of the talking?
As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.
Ecclesiastes: 5:1-2, NLT
Does that surprise you? If you’re not accustomed to hearing God speak to you, it might seem surprising or strange, but this is powerful advice. After all, what could you tell God that He doesn’t already know? So bring up a topic and listen to what God has to say.
Talking to God and listening to Him is not as difficult as you might think. Holy Spirit lives in you so listening to God’s voice is really a matter of tuning in to the Spirit. It’s as simple as Stop, Look, Listen, and Write.
How does it change the meaning of prayer if we allow God to do most of the talking?
This seems obvious, but stop means “stop.” We have to settle down and be still inwardly to hear God. If we’re blaring the radio, cooking dinner, and minding the kids, it will be difficult to hear from God. It’s not impossible, but it will be difficult.
In order to position ourselves to hear from God, we need to settle down and be quiet: “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7a, NLT) and “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him” (Psalm 62:5, NLT). In God’s presence, we are to be still. I know that’s not easy for some people.
Moreover, we are to be still and WAIT! Waiting can be difficult, but think of how long God has waited for you to come to Him ready to listen:
So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.
Isaiah 30:18, NLT
God won’t make you wait long because He is eager to be with you.
What makes it difficult for you to settle down with God? Making time? Distractions? Noise? Racing thoughts?
Write out a brief prayer asking God to help you with your specific obstacles so you can settle down to hear from Him.
During His ministry, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19, NLT).
Jesus did what he saw the Father doing. He didn’t just hear from God, He saw God. He looked into the spirit realm and saw the Father. Then He did whatever He saw the Father doing.
How do we hear from God? “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a, NLT). It’s often easiest to initiate a conversation with someone you can see. Therefore, once you have quieted yourself down, look for Jesus.
In your mind’s eye, wait for Jesus to appear. You might envision your present environment or a green meadow in Galilee or even the throne room of God. Or, if you prefer to keep it biblical, choose a scene from the Bible and be there with Jesus when He healed the sick, went fishing on the boat, or told stories (parables). Set the scene and look for Jesus.
When He appears, feel free to ask Him a question and wait for His response. Watch what He does, too, because sometimes He will do something significant. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a vision of Christ in action is worth billions of words!
Picture walking by the Sea of Galilee with Jesus. It’s a sunny day, with a gentle breeze. You’re walking along a hillside trail. You see Jesus with His flowing robes. You notice His sandals and dusty feet. You look up at Jesus and He gazes back at you. Ask Him a simple question such as, “Lord, do you love me?” What happens next?
If you are a Christian, you have God’s Spirit in you. There’s nothing New Age about that. Holy Spirit’s role is to guide, teach, and comfort you. He is always speaking words of life to you but you must quiet your mind so you can listen to your heart.
As you listen, God will speak into your life words of love and affirmation. He will encourage and exhort, never condemn. He will give you correction and instruction to build you up, not tear you down.
Did you know God thinks about you? His thoughts are not like our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). He doesn’t think of how horrible you are or how much you fail. Rather, He thinks loving thoughts toward you. He marks your progress, not your shortcomings. He celebrates your victories and guides you onward in love and grace.
The psalmist prayed, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” (Psalm 139:17, NLT). God’s precious thoughts about you will be evident when you listen to Him.
Quiet yourself down, look for Jesus, and ask Him, “Lord, how do you see me?” What is His loving response toward you?
Use a journal (paper or digital) to record what God says to you. Write down a question or open-ended conversation starter and listen for God’s reply. Remember, listen more than you speak and keep things open. I used to come demanding answers, but I’ve learned to phrase things more openly: “Lord, what do you want to tell me about _____?”
As you feel the Holy Spirit begin to flow into words forming in your heart and mind, write them down. The words will come as fast as you can write. Sometimes I have to pause to refocus my attention, but generally, the flow will continue with minimal interruption.
Journaling allows us to engage God with our hearts and let Him direct our lives so we become conformed to the image of Christ. Healing and transformation can only occur with a divine encounter.
Do you prefer to keep a paper or digital journal? Set one up to begin using.
Stop. Look. Listen. Write. Settle down, look for Jesus, ask, “Lord, what do you want to tell me about _____?” Listen to His answer and write it down.
A Biblical Process
The canon (collection) of the Bible is complete. Journaling what God speaks to our hearts does not add to Scripture. The Bible uses two Greek terms for the word of God. Logos refers to the written word of God and rhema refers to the spoken word of God. The logos of God is complete, but we can still receive additional rhema from God.
It’s biblical to write down the Lord’s words. Most of the Psalms are written prayers of dialogue with God. The prophets recorded what the Lord said to them. Many times, God told them to take note: “Now go and write down these words. Write them in a book” (Isaiah 30:8).
This listening process is described in passages like Revelation 1:10-11a:
It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. It said, "Write in a book everything you see" (NLT).
In that short description, John records each of these four steps. It was the Lord’s Day so John was still (Stop). He was worshiping in the Spirit so he was looking into the spiritual realm (Look). He heard a voice (Listen). And the voice told him to write everything down (Write).
If you keep your eyes open, you’ll begin to notice many other examples of these four steps in the Bible. If you want to try this for yourself, look up Habakkuk 2:1-2. See if you can identify each of the four steps.
Pick a Psalm. Look for which parts are the Psalmist speaking and which parts are the Lord speaking.
Now write your own psalm. Write out a brief prayer and then write out the Lord’s response.
An Example of Two-Way Journaling
Jesus, I love you. I know your heart for me is filled with good intentions, but from my perspective it doesn’t always seem that way. Forgive my unbelief and help me see your heart for me in my circumstances.
Christy, sweetheart, I love you, too. I wish you could fathom the depth of my love for you. I leave love notes for you—all around you—but you don’t see them. I will touch the eyes of your heart so you can see. I will heal your spiritual blindness and give you eyes of faith. For only through the eyes of faith will you see your circumstances for what they are—just circumstances and not a reflection of my love for you. I will work in your life, regardless of your circumstances. I am greater than your circumstances, but that doesn’t mean I will intervene to change your situation. But I have not and will not leave you alone. And my love for you will never end.
Right after I finished journaling this, I opened my Bible to begin the next part of the lesson. Although it wasn’t part of the lesson, this was the first thing I saw:
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am (Philippians 4:11-13, MSG).
Quite often, the Holy Spirit will not only speak words of life to you, but will also guide you to Scripture that affirms what He just spoke to you. This kind of confirmation removes all doubt about the source of your journaling.
Describe your experience with hearing God so far. What is working or not working?
Talk to God about any part of the process causing difficulty. What is His answer?
As I returned to the practice of hearing from God, my life, which had been tied in knots, began to fall into alignment again. God healed deep wounds in my heart through regular conversations with Him and I was so completely changed that my friends and family commented on how different I was.
When I began listening to God’s voice again through two-way journaling, I received the amazing love of God like never before. I heard God tell me how much He loved me and why He loved me—ME! He didn’t just love the world as in John 3:16; He loved me as an individual.
He spoke words of life to me. Rather than condemning me (for there is no condemnation in Christ according to Romans 8:1), He exhorted me by giving me positive actions to take to move forward.
The life-changing word of God is essential to experience change from the inside out. Our efforts to change will fall short, but we can submit ourselves to God and listen to what He wants to share with us. Believe me: listening to God through two-way journaling is the beginning of heart change culminating in life transformation.
Describe some difficult thoughts, attitudes, or actions in your life right now. Later, come back to compare notes. You’ll see how much God has changed you.
Suggested Journaling Prompts
Lord, do you love me?
Lord, how do you see me?
Lord, what do you like about me?
Lord, what do you want to say to me?
Lord, please talk to me about becoming still.
Lord, how do you see my heart?
Lord, what do you want to say to me about seeing you?
Lord, what do you want to say to me concerning journaling?
Lord, what do you want to show me concerning myself?
Lord, what do you want to show me concerning my family?
Lord, what do you want to show me concerning my health?
Lord, what do you want to show me concerning my finances?
Lord, what do you want to show me concerning my job or ministry?
Lord, in what areas of my life do I need to allow you more access?
Lord, where do I need to allow Holy Spirit to speak more life to me?
Lord, what parts of my life have I closed off?
Lord, what are the desires and dreams you have for my life?
Lord, how do you want to use me for your kingdom?
Lord, what is your kingdom assignment for me right now?
Lord, what part of the Bible do you want me to spend more time in?
Lord, am I speaking truth or lies in my thoughts?
Lord, am I resting from my works and only doing what you ask me to do?
Lord, have I neglected to obey you in some area?
Lord, are there any “what ifs” allowing fear to take hold in my life?
Lord, what do you want me to focus on?
Lord, how do you want me to spend my time today?
Lord, how do you want me to spend my time each week?
Lord, what things am I doing that you want me to drop from my schedule?
Lord, what should I not be concerned about right now?
Lord, what is or is not a priority for me right now?
Lord, do I harbor any unforgiveness or anger?
Lord, are there any areas of insecurity in my life?
Lord, am I living from my identity in Christ?
Lord, show me myself as you see me.
Lord, in what ways am I comparing myself to others?
Lord, do I have any attitudes you want to change?
Lord, what good thing are you creating as a result of my present troubles?
Lord, what sins do I need to repent of?
Lord, what pain from my past needs to be healed?
Lord, what do you want to tell me about healing [depression, anxiety, etc.]?
Lord, how do you want me to respond to [a difficult situation]?
Lord, what do you want to say to me about [this Bible verse]?
Lord, what topic do you want me to focus on in the Bible?
Lord, how can I see you more clearly in every situation?
Lord, how can I hear from you more clearly throughout the day?
Lord, how can I partner with you in what you are doing in this situation?
Lord, how can I deliver your love to someone?
Lord, does anything I do make a difference?
Lord, what is my value to you?
Lord, what do you want to say to me about _____?
Continue Your Conversations with God
Does your prayer time seem one-sided? You can change your monologue into a dialogue by using these 90 devotionals as conversation starters with God. Written from God’s perspective to you, each devotional gives you a place to begin interacting with Him. The Bible says God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11). You can have that kind of relationship with God, too. Take your shoes off and dig your toes into the cool grassy meadow of an interactive prayer life.
Virkler, Mark and Patti. 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2010.
Mark Virkler has an easy, conversational style and an endearing, self-effacing sense of humor. He candidly shares his years of frustration with trying to hear God’s voice and how he learned to do so. Through years of experience, he has honed his technique to four keys that open the door to hearing God. The ten chapters correspond to the ten lessons in his online course by the same name (listed below). This book is included in the cost of the course.
Virkler, Mark and Patti. 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice [Online Course].
This ten-lesson course helped me immensely when I was struggling with whether or not Christians could hear God’s voice. Dr. Virkler explains the cultural and historical issues causing confusion. In more than ten hours of video teaching to a live audience, Dr. Virkler takes you step by step through hearing from God through two-way journaling. You’ll learn how to test whether your journaling came from God and give you tools for overcoming hindrances to hearing God. I can assure you this course is worth the investment of time and money because you’ll experience greater intimacy with God and the life transformation that comes with it.