I was eight. Sitting in my mom’s bathroom. Painting my nails. Alone. Suddenly, I heard something. Like, HEARD something. Was it in my head? Was it out loud? I still don’t know. I heard my name.
I looked up and it was REALLY bright. I responded, “yeah?” because what else was I supposed to do? I strangely was not scared. I felt warm. The voice said “tell [my neighbor] about my Love.” I said “okay,” and then finished painting my nails and left the house and told her about Jesus. Something inside my eight year old heart and mind knew it was Him. And as an eight year old, I thought, “well, I guess that’s just how He works.”
Some of you might say, “perhaps a psychiatrist should have been called” Others might say, “wow that’s really sweet.” Me? I still think it’s normal. I am honestly disheartened when I find other people confused by the notion of hearing God.
I heard about Jesus when I was young. I was given a Bible and completely enamored with how amazing He was by age 7! I mean – He walked on water, healed people, raised the dead, turned water into wine, multiplied food, comforted people, the list could continue…
It was not hard to name Jesus as one of my favorite people. I liked who He was and what He stood for. He was the Life of the party (always going to every party he could, ensuring the wine continued to flow, etc.), crazy bold, and humble. The older I got, the more I learned of His story, the more I liked him.
I learned that He LOVED me beyond understanding. I realized that I was destined for death. And though, at 7, death was a big concept, I knew I was often tempted to do wrong. To steal from my sister. To hit my brother. To lie. Then I heard Jesus fixed that wrong stuff for me by taking my punishment. He didn’t just sit in my time out, or take my spankings, or claim my bad grade. He died. For me. In my place. Wow. The meaning of this continues to blow me away the older I get.
And then I learned I could KNOW Him. Like, we could be best friends.
And I could talk to Him.
And He would talk back. And to me, that wasn’t weird. I was 7 and that seemed logical. I spent my childhood regularly conversing with God. He came to my tea parties, He jumped on the trampoline with me, He played house with me, He would play on the swing with me…and He was more than an imaginary friend. I knew this because when I was with Him my body felt warm and my heart felt a different type of happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I still struggled and sinned and got in trouble and was a pain in the rear end to my parents and baby sitters most of the time. But as I sat in my room and played, I did so with Him and He still showed up. Even if I was in time out. We had fun together.
The Bible talks often about hearing God…
In John 10:27, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will will snatch them out of my hand.”
Saul “fell to the earth, and heard a voice” (Acts 9:4) (he continued to hear the voice of the Lord from that point on…)
God’s voice “came to” Peter in Acts 10:9,13.
We are told “If you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7) – It seems He expects us to hear Him.
There are all sorts of stories in both the Old and New Testament that testify to our ability to hear God. It’s really only as weird and complicated as you make it. In fact, learning that you can actually hear God talk should add a lot more adventure to your life. Because He is always speaking.
So what does it practically look like to hear from God? Is it something that just happens and the room shakes and lights get brighter and a loud voice rumbles from under your potted plant that burst into flames?
No. Not necessarily.
And along my journey of becoming an adult I befriended others who I discovered also heard Him! I learned He spoke to them in different ways than He spoke to me. I’m going to share a few ways that I tend to hear God, and other ways I am learning to listen to Him.
5 ways God speaks to us:
- He will speak through our thoughts – In 1 Corinthians 2:16 it says “But we have the mind of Christ” – when we give ourselves to Him. He will redeem us. All of us. And He will use our very bodies, our minds, and our emotions, to speak to us. Sometimes I’ll ask God just to come speak to me and I will hear something internally, almost like a voice speaking to myself. Too many people get caught in the trap of “was that me or was that God?” If it does not contradict the Word of God, and it is grounded in Love (because God is Love 1 Jn 4:8), then it very well could be God. If you know Jesus, your mind is sanctified as you walk with Him. Just do what you hear (even if just to be safe and test the waters). The truth is, if you’ve given your life to God, then YOU ARE ONE with Him anyway. You died to yourself. He came to life in you. He will speak to you through thoughts and desires that He puts in you. Don’t complicate things.
- He will speak in pictures – Stories about people having visions are all over the Scripture. God LOVES you. He loves communicating with you! You are the very result of His Love. If you ask Him to give you a picture, He will! What does that mean? A lot of times people will close their eyes and just see an image. For example: a waterfall, a flower, a pearl, a man riding on a horse, a mountain, etc…Then you can say “God, what does this mean?” and wait to see if you get any kind of impression or thought. One of my friends was in the midst of a stressful season and asked God for a picture and she saw a piano playing by itself and walking out of a door. She asked, “what could this possibly mean?” We realized He was saying “things will play themselves out” and we laughed together. Don’t take yourself too seriously or make it weird. God is the author of humor.
- He will speak through other people – Sometimes God will creatively place people around you, and put thoughts in their mind and words in their mouth that correlate with what He wants to speak into your life. Be open to the fact that God will speak through anything and anyone. I mean, He spoke through a donkey in Numbers 22.
- He will speak through nature – God is symbolic. The scriptures are filled with symbolism and allegories. Be willing to let yourself consider what He is speaking through nature. What could fire represent? When you stumble upon that random turtle in the street, give Him a chance to say something! I know it sounds silly, but so often He is speaking through mundane occurrences and we overlook it as coincidence or just everyday life.
- He will speak through The Bible – which is Truth. He had authority in the way it came together. I believe in a God that is big enough to hold the universe together. I can’t even begin to understand the intricacies of how that works. But if this God is big enough to create and hold together the entire universe, I’m confident He got everything He wanted to into this precious Book. I’m pretty sure He is powerful enough to have allowed the Bible to be arranged in a manner that reflects His intentions. Bottom line is that anything and everything you feel you are hearing from God cannot contradict His Word. We are human, we are fallible, we are works in progress, and He gets that! We should practice taking what we hear from God back to His Word in order to seek the depths of what He might be saying (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17).
It doesn’t matter who you are. What you worship. Where you are in the process of life. This God LOVES you and He will speak to you.
3 ways to practicing hearing God:
- Sit down with a blank piece of paper and two different colored pens. Write a question or thought with one color pen, and then allow God to respond. Write the FIRST thing that comes to mind with the other color pen. Don’t stop to re-read. Just keep going. Keep a dialogue going for at least 5 minutes. Then you can re-read it. Circle words or themes that stand out and then look them up in the Scripture.
- Google “scripture on _____” and type the topic you want God to speak on. Read where it is discussed in the Bible.
- Journal what you hear or descriptions of pictures you see. God also frequently speaks through dreams. It is often helpful of type these out or write them down and later re-visit these words to look for repetition and explore what God is teaching you or where He is taking you.
Take risks. If you feel He is telling you to DO something (which he usually is) and it aligns with His Word, then DO it. What is there to loose? If it is something big like changing jobs, moving, or getting married, I would highly recommend you meet with someone else who knows Jesus and believes in the ability to pray and hear God. Since we can misinterpret what God is saying, it is often worth inviting other people into the process when you are hearing Him call you toward a big life change.
God often speaks best through kids. They are unfiltered and full of faith. Hence, my ability to have conversations with him when I was a child.
Four years ago, I was sitting outside in a rural neighborhood and taught a group of 7 and 8 year olds how easy it was to hear God. I was in the middle of a difficult season. I was really doubting God’s promises and my future. In hopes to quiet the kids down for just a bit, I sent them to separate parts of the yard, each with a set of markers and a piece of paper. I gave them one simple instruction, “Draw what you feel like God is saying to us today.” After 10 minutes, I called them back together and they shared their artwork. This is what I saw…
There were actually 3 other similar drawings, but I sadly did not get pictures of them.