By Richard Mull
First of all, it is vitally important to determine what you believe about God speaking. If you don’t believe that God still speaks, apart from His written Word, then be content to read the Bible and encounter Him in that way. I know that from the age of nine until I was in my mid 30’s that was all I knew of hearing God speak to me. During that phase of my life, I had a vital relationship with God, was used by God in ministry to others and experienced a very rich personal relationship with God.
When I began to see in scripture that God talked to many of the people that we read about in the Bible, and I saw how personal God was in their lives, I began to ask God to teach me how to hear Him speaking. There are myriad passages that implore us to know God’s voice, to listen to Him and to hear Him. You can readily see them throughout this Bible.
God began to teach me how to hear Him, and it has transformed my life. It seems that all throughout biblical history people knew God’s voice – but I had grown up in church, gone to Bible College and Seminary, yet had never received teaching on hearing God’s voice except as it related to reading the Bible.
I was taught that when the Bible was canonized, God stopped speaking to us except through His written Word. I was taught that anyone who says they hear from God today is New Age and deluded. I didn’t want that, so I was content to read, study and meditate on God’s Word.
When I began to believe that scripture truly reveals to us a God who is more personal than I had ever realized, I began to ask Him to speak to me. The problem was that I had never been taught how to hear God. I didn’t even know what it would sound like when I did hear God. I didn’t realize that my expectations were fairly universal.
I’ve researched it through my conferences and others have researched it as well. The overwhelming response – what people expect God’s voice to sound like (at least in the west) is James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. Not to mention that people expect some low rumbling thunder rolling in the background. Come on! Admit it, if you’ve thought of what He must sound like. Many people will admit having expectations something like that.
That’s because Hollywood has so shaped our worldview. Let me warn you, if you don’t know it already – God doesn’t look like or sound like either Jones or Freeman. I want to teach you what I have learned over the last 15 years about hearing God. I have much more extensive writing on the subject in another book and online so what I offer here is just a simple, practical explanation. I encourage you to read more for yourself on this vital and essential topic.
It is important that you understand from scripture that we are all spiritual beings. Each of us has a soul and a body. There are more passages in scripture regarding our human spirit than about the Holy Spirit or evil spirits. God is Spirit and He has sent us the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit communes with our spirit. The job of the Holy Spirit is to communicate the deep things of God to us (1 Cor. 2:9-12) He gives us the Mind of Christ, and instructs us (1 Cor. 2:13-16). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:12-15) and there is much more.
How do we Hear Him?
The simple steps to hearing God’s voice are:
1. Pray and ask God to speak to you.
Here are some important things to pray:
a. When teaching someone to listen I take authority over unclean spirits because we can be susceptible to the voice of the enemy. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan. We are not to fear Satan and his unclean spirits but we have to realize that we are in a spiritual world and subject to influences that we can’t see.
b. Pray, that your listening not be controlled by our own imagination. We can imagine whatever we want, but that is not the same as receiving revelation from God! When false dreams and false visions are spoken of they are tied to our own imaginations. Trust God to take care of this. Don’t worry when God begins to speak that it may be coming from your own imagination – rather, pray and trust Him.
c. Finally, pray that God will open your spiritual eyes and ears to recognize and hear what the Spirit is saying.
d. It is normally best to be quiet and find a place that’s free of distractions. You can hear God anywhere but it is easier to listen when you are undistracted. Some like to play music softly in the background. Determine for yourself what makes it comfortable for you. I have heard God at a concert where the music was too loud to hear myself, yet God’s still small voice was loud enough.
2. Be still, wait on the Lord and listen with your spirit, your heart and your mind.
It is vitally important for you to write down or type out what the Lord will say to you, so be sure to have either pen and paper or your computer ready.
a. Pay attention to what you see in your mind. (Hab. 2:3) When I first sought to hear God, it nearly drove me crazy that I had so many pictures in my mind. They annoyed me and I wished they would go away. I had no idea that God was giving me visions.
No one ever told me to pay attention to the images in my mind. God asked Jeremiah several times (Jer. 1:11-13) “What do you see?” He asked it of Amos and Zechariah as well (Amos 7:8 and 8:2, Zech. 4:2, 5:2) Daniel, John and many others from Genesis and throughout the Bible talked about what they saw. They were seeing visions from God.
Be ready to write down anything you see in your mind. Write down the details. God speaks, even in the details – sometimes ESPECIALLY in the details.
b. Pay attention to your thoughts. – Write down every thought. It is amazing how easy it is to discern afterward what is coming from God and what is coming from the enemy, or from our own fears, insecurities or vain imaginations. You can know the voice of God. (John 10:27)
c. Pay attention to your feelings and thoughts of the heart – God can communicate things to our souls that go beyond our reason. God can give us a feeling of peace and safety in the midst of the wildest storms of life. We may not hear words in our mind, we may not get a vision, yet somehow we can still know in the core of our being (our spirit) that God has assured us that He has control of this one. It is taken care of.
It is almost like getting a nod from God, even though you can’t see Him. People who have experienced this type of revelation know what I mean. God cares about our entire being, and He can communicate in many different ways.
d. Sometimes we hear a song or a verse in our heart and mind– God often gives me a song. Sometimes He personalizes the words. Sometimes He brings back a song that has special meaning for me or the person who He is leading me to speak to.
3. Write down whatever God gives to you.
I always encourage people when they start to not censure what they write down. There is Biblical precedent to do this: In Revelation 1:19 (and in several other passages), John was specifically instructed to write down what he saw and heard in his vision.
a. Write out your prayer to God, and then write what comes to you in response. The next step will be to test everything after you write it out. Most people get stuck at the first thought or image they see. They begin to wonder, “Is that God, or is that me?” – and too often, they stop listening.
b. Don’t censure what you are receiving. Later you can discern easily if it was the voice of the enemy or God’s voice. The time for testing will come, and it is important that we “Try the spirits” (1 John 4:1), but many people analyze when they should be listening.
c. During the listening time, just write down the things you see with your mind’s eye and hear with your heart, spirit and mind.
4. Test what you have written.
I believe that discernment and testing of the spirits is vitally important.
a. First of all, does what you wrote line up with the Bible and the Character of God? If (for example) you have a voice telling you that you’re stupid or you should hurt someone else, that voice is not God and you need ministry for freedom from the demonic.
b. Ask God to help you discern and test things that you’ve written down. Do you believe God answers prayer? Then can you trust Him to show you what is from Him and what is not. God is intensely personal and real. He answers prayer. Trust Him to give you understanding.
c. Recognize when evil spirits are talking – I have ministered to thousands of people with evil spirits. Before they are free, they normally hear voices telling them everything imaginable, such as that they are stupid, or that they should kill someone. Some of the voices even masquerade as God.
It is normally very easy to tell when the enemy is speaking. I’ve had young kids write something down that they knew was the enemy and also hear God’s voice. Just because the enemy can speak doesn’t mean that we should not listen for God’s voice, or that God is not as personal as unclean spirits are. That is foolish to believe but many people say that anytime you listen and hear a voice it is demons.
These believers obviously have never heard God’s voice. It is easy to recognize His voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) If you are hearing things that you discern to be demonic, seek personal ministry from a solid ministry that knows how to help people get free of the demons.
d. Also, recognize when your own vain imagination is leading you – Many people equate God speaking to them as their own imagination because it is in their mind, much like our imagination conjures things up in our mind. The difference is in the origin.
Evil spirits can suggest thoughts. People can suggest thoughts. We can generate our own thought or imaginations. And God can speak to us in our heart and mind, in visions, dreams and more. If you are open to God’s Spirit, He will show you when your own imagination gets in the way.
God is a talker, as you can see through the God Speaks Bible. There are very few references for God not talking to someone. Saul could not hear God and it drove him crazy. He had known God’s voice, had even prophesied but by his pride, anger, independence and other issues of his heart, God had stopped talking with him. As a result he turned to a witch for divine direction and it brought tragic results.
The problem is that many of us either are not good at listening or have never been taught how to hear God’s voice. I pray that you will grow in your intimacy and abiding walk with Christ as you apply these principles and learn to hear God Speak.