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Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
– Psalms 85:8
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I’m willing to do what God wants me to do. I just don’t know what that is. I’ve asked God over and over again, but God isn’t answering.” For that matter, if I had a dollar for every time I said it - back in the day - I’d be significantly better off right now.
I wish that I could give a one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “How do I hear God speak?” I just don’t think there is one. I know a few people who testify of hearing God speak in an audible voice. But most folks that I know of do not. So I think, maybe, speaking of God “speaking” may be a bit of a misnomer. The thing is that human language (at least English) falls short of fully describing God and the wondrous ways that God works and interacts with us. I think we use the word “speak” when talking about God’s communication with us because that is the best word we have; it’s the closest we can get to describing how it is that information, wisdom, insight, urges, ideas, etc., that were not present are suddenly there. It is, somewhat, like when someone speaks and we hear him or her.
One of my she-roes, Bishop Yvette Flunder, uses the term “speak into.” So, for example, she might say, “God spoke into my spirit that ...” I like that way of describing it. It’s like God by-passes my ears and “deposits” information directly into my inner being; a sort of Sprit-to-spirit transaction. My awareness of the information is what I might refer to as “hearing” God “speak.” I’ve heard others talk about God’s speaking as “impressions.” They might say, “God impressed upon me that I was to ....”
... we might not want to be too literal in our efforts to “hear” God “speak.”
I bring this up because it occurs to me that if it seems that God is remaining silent while we’re begging God to speaking and “listening” as best we know how, it might be helpful to shift our focus from “hearing” to recognizing Divine communication. It can happen in many ways, but because it is not usually literal “speaking,” we might not recognize it for what it is.
Have you ever prayed for guidance, waited and listened, heard nothing, given up and awakened one morning just knowing what you needed to do? I have; and I have learned to recognize that as one of the ways God “speaks” to me. Are you a believer in signs? I am; and sometimes God speaks to me through signs - things that some folks would surely see as random or coincidental. But, to me, they aren’t. Sometimes, I have what seems like a weird or random thought. Then, at some point, someone says something or something happens that connects to that thought. God provides the “dots;” I had to learn to recognize and connect them.
So my point is that we might not want to be too literal in our efforts to “hear” God “speak.” Being too focused on hearing some form of verbal speech directly from God can distract us from recognizing the answers we seek when they are presented in other ways. If I may make a suggestion to anyone struggling to hear from God - put your question or request out to God in prayer, expecting that an answer will be communicated to you. Be aware that God communicates in many ways; and release any expectations about how God will answer. God may speak through another person. The next sermon you hear may “coincidentally” (or not) address the question you put before God. The Holy Spirit may bring a scripture, or a conversation, or a song to mind that give you an answer or comfort or encouragement just when you need it. A conversation with a stranger may nail it for you. A series of incidents over a few days, weeks, or months may provide that “dots” which will point you to your answer - if you are looking for it (as opposed to just listening). The question is, will you attribute your answer to God or chalk it up to random coincidence? If you consistently do the latter, that may be why you think God does not speak to you.
There is a saying that I love and strive to live by which says, “Preach the gospel. Use words when necessary.” Remember that God often “speaks” without using words. And frequently when God does use words, they are delivered by other people. Learning to recognize the ways God communicates with us, as individuals, is how we “hear.”