A big stumbling block within our faith may be that we feel unable to hear from God. This is a common problem in Christian communities, as we often are listening for a big, loud and clear voice or we are too distracted by other things in our lives to listen long enough for God to speak to us.
The fact is that God speaks a lot. It is often the way that we are too busy watching Netflix, paying our taxes or doing any of the 101 things that we prioritise before spending time with God. Now more than ever before, we have so many distractions thanks to social media, instant streaming and online games, that we barely have any time in our daily lives where we aren't distracted and can spend time in prayer and waiting.
Now, I'm not saying technology is evil and that you should delete Instagram immediately, but that we ought to take some time out from endless scrolling once in a while. One of the biggest reasons that we struggle to hear God is because we don't set time aside to actually listen. So that brings me to my first point:
1) Find a quiet place.
God won't shout over the noise in your life. Instead, He waits until you come to Him, ready to listen to what He has to say. If you truly want to hear what He has to say, set aside some time in the day to let Him speak to you.
It is important that this time is uninterrupted, as this time is for you and God, and only you and God. This means that solitude is a key aspect of being able to hear God's voice. Whether you prefer to get up early and listen before you start your day, or finish your day in prayer, spending time alone in God's presence was a practice that Jesus did often. For instance, after the Feeding of the 5000, 'Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself', John 6:15.
This is confirmed in Mark 6:45-46, as it is recorded that Jesus 'dismissed the crowd' and 'went up on the mountain to pray.' Jesus made sure he was alone before He began His 'alone time' with God, as He knew that having this time away from His disciples and followers would give Him the opportunity to really hear His Father. Mark 6:47 confirms that 'the [disciples'] boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land,' which meant he was truly free from any distraction. Since the invention of the internet, social media and television, we must make even more effort to free ourselves from distraction. Not only must we be physically alone in our prayer time, but we must also unplug from anything we may be watching, and set our phones to silent in order to really focus on what God has to say to us.
You may find that you need complete silence to do this, but sometimes it is helpful to listen to some worship music while you wait, as it makes it harder for your thoughts to drift. Here are are few good soaking playlists on Spotify:
And speaking of waiting...
As much as we hate it, another key part of hearing God's voice is waiting for Him to speak. In our instant society, we loathe waiting. We want our burger or our coffee order now and we want our apps to show us content right now, so why can't we hear God right now? God doesn't go at the speed of man, but rather, man must go at the speed of God.
We must be patient when waiting for God to speak to us. Often, we take a measly five minutes from our busy lives to wait for God to speak, but give up quickly when He doesn’t. Be intentional in the time you give to your private prayer life, and be prepared to wait for God to speak to you. In that rushed five minutes you grabbed in your lunchbreak, you were probably too busy thinking of what you have to do afterwards, or that it’s been THREE WHOLE MINUTES and God still hasn’t spoken yet.
Relax. Set aside enough time to really listen and wait. If you do start to hear something, remember to:
3) Listen intently.
A lot of the time, believers think that God will speak to them in a loud, clear voice, that is definitely, without a doubt God. Often, we're expecting God to speak to us the way he did to Saul in Acts 9. However, 1 Kings 19:10-18 tells us that God can whisper too.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
- 1 Kings 19:11-13
In this passage, Elijah hears God speak to him in the still, quiet part of his waiting. Although God had spoken to other people in the Old Testament through fire, and this is probably what Elijah was expecting, he heard God in a different way. The fact is, God speaks to us in a different way than we expect, so instead of waiting for God to speak to us in the way we think he should, we should be more aware of how is speaking to us. God can speak to people through visions, dreams, the Bible or words spoken in a still, small voice that can only be heard when we quiet our hearts to hear it.
4) Practice hearing His voice.
As God speaks to different believers in different ways, it's important that we know how God speaks to us, as it will be different from how he speaks to other people. The way that we learn to recognise what God's voice sounds like is to practice hearing him and listening to him speak. Set aside regular time for you to spend time in God's presence, let yourself be still and just give him room to do what he wants to do.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
- John 10:27
The more you listen to his voice, the more you’ll recognise his voice. You'd immediately recognise your best friend's voice if they called you, and this is because you've spent a lot of time listening to them speak to you. Therefore, to get to know God's voice you must practice listening to him more.
5) Trust what you hear:
The key thing to remember when listening for what God is saying to you is to trust what you hear. Of course, if you really aren't sure about the message you're getting, pray about it. Ask God to confirm what he has said, and pray about it with others, ask them what they think.
|Soul Food by Innate Expressions on Wordpress|
Ultimately, it's up to us to have faith in God and trust what he says to us, even if it doesn't make immediate sense. The disciples faced the same decision when Jesus gave them instructions they didn't yet understand. For instance, in Mark 14:12-26, they asked Jesus that where they should have their Passover meal that year. Jesus instructed his disciples to find a man carrying a large jug of water in the city and follow him to a particular house, where they would find that the landlord had already prepared a room for them to eat in. The disciples must have thought that it was a little strange that Jesus knew all of this, but their faith in His word paid off, as it happened just as Jesus had said.
It's important to note that Mark makes no mention of the disciples hesitating to follow these instructions - they just obeyed. Will you respond in the same way when He speaks to you?
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