God speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear God’s direct voice – Part I

God speaks both directly and indirectly – directly through his Bible (pictured above, the small purple book), his audible voice (rare), and clear thoughts to our mind, among other ways.

Several weeks ago my husband found himself in a pickle: he could not locate his inflatable camping mattress anywhere.

He asked me if I had seen it and I told him I had not. Being the Godly wife that I am, I sweetly asked him:  “Have you prayed about it?”

No, he had not.  Typical male not asking for directions.  

He bowed his head and said a quick little prayer asking for God’s location services. Within a matter of moments, an answer came back in the form of a clear thought in his head:

“The mattress is at your office underneath your desk.”

He couldn’t believe it. Why would his camping mattress be there?  He did not even remember bringing it to his office. 

He grabbed his keys, got in the car, and drove to the office.

Sure enough, he quickly located his camping mattress, right where God told him it would be.

When he returned with his camping mattress in tow, it got me thinking: 

Does God really speak to us like that – so suddenly and directly?  I know that for me, God usually does not. 

This post is my attempt to help you, my Dear Reader, to hear the actual voice of God. If you have followed my writing, I am a fan of both qualifiers and bullet points.  Bullets help my brain to think properly, and qualifiers are excellent ways to include many angles and possible outcomes.  They are also great outliers of information that need to be considered when forming an argument or thesis. 

A few qualifiers in bullet form before we get going:

  • First, I do not pretend to have a corner on the market for hearing the voice of God.  I would say I am fairly sure I am hearing from God about half of the time.  The following post is a summary of what I have learned over 30 plus years of being a Christian and wrestling with this topic.
  • Second, in my experience, God tends to be more indirect rather than direct. It is extremely rare to hear a loud, booming, audible voice from heaven – although it’s not impossible.
  • Third, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, the number one thing He will be speaking to you about is that he loves you and would like to have a relationship with you. 
  • Fourth, God speaks a bit differently to each person.  He is more subtle with me; he may be more obvious with you.  God may give you amazing visions and dreams in the night.  He may give me nudges and slight impressions. Try to be open to the unique ways he may speak.
  • The Bible says that God is our Shepherd and his sheep (his children) will learn to hear his voice. We have to believe that God wants to speak to us because He is a communicative and loving Father, Shepherd, and King.  It is a process to learn to hear his voice.
  • God desires us to walk by faith, and not by sight. I suspect that this is why he speaks to us in more subtle ways. God tends to speak to us in a still small voice because he wants us to work at our relationship with him, and that means working at learning how to hear his voice. 

God speaks directly and clearly:

The following are several examples of ways God can speak more directly to each of us:

Audible voice: This is how everyone, at first, believes God is supposed to speak to people. I quickly googled “hearing the audible voice of God” and apparently, according to one study, up to 10 percent of Christians have reported hearing God’s audible voice. I have never experienced this and it is my understanding that this is a very rare experience.  Let’s look at the life of Jesus himself.  There are only two recorded instances of God speaking audibly to Jesus in front of other people. On the first occasion, Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist and is on the cusp of beginning his earthly ministry.  Suddenly, a voice is heard from heaven proclaiming:“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) God again audibly spoke later in the book of Matthew saying the same thing, but added in a command:

“Listen to him!”  

So although it is possible to hear God’s audible voice, it is not very likely.  However, there are several other ways that God tends to speak to humanity.  

Through the Bible: I believe the number one best way to hear God’s voice is to actually read his word to you – the Bible. Not sure where to start? Start with the book of John or Mark in the New Testament. They will both give you a bottom line version of Jesus and his earthly ministry.  When God speaks to me using the Bible, a verse or two will leap off the pages at me and will impact me more than the other verses.  That, or a specific word will stand out to me.  Oftentimes I get a “fragment of a verse” in my head.  When I look it up in the Bible, it is extremely helpful and encouraging and very applicable to some situation.  I believe this is God’s way of speaking to me through his word.

The Bible is a very special book.  When you open its pages, you are handling the medium — the physical object — that God will use to speak to you.  There are other objects out there used by people to communicate with the spirit world: the Ouija board and tarot cards being two examples.  These other objects are all counterfeits and poor substitutes for trying to satisfy the spiritual connection that we all long for.  

But the Bible is God’s.  It is somehow alive and works mysteriously when you read or listen to its pages.  There is a verse in the Bible that speaks to this:

Hebrews 4:12, NIV: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In my many years of reading testimonies of men and women who have come to believe in God and Jesus, they cite something along the lines of the following thought:

I opened up my Bible and read it, and discovered that it opened me up and read me.

Clear voice in your mind: Sometimes God speaks to your spirit in clear sentence form, as he did with my husband at the opening of this post. This has happened to me probably seven times in my life.

I just finished The Phantom Prince, written by Liz Kendall, Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend back in the late 60’s and 70’s.  One story from Liz’s daughter Molly uses this principle.  

One night Molly found herself in a dangerous situation with Ted.  She writes: 

“At that moment, having seen a physical change in the naked man who was no longer my trusted friend Ted, I started to hear something.  Maybe hear is the wrong word; it was like an invisible typist was typing inside of my head.  The words came out as knowing.  Somewhere deep inside me this quiet presence was feeding me instructions on how to remain safe: “Laugh and smile.  Act as if nothing is wrong.  Tell him you love him.  Tell him this game has been really fun but that you are tired, and you would like to go to bed now.”

Molly survived Ted Bundy that night no doubt due to the mysterious instructions that came to her so suddenly out of nowhere, and she attributed this voice as being from the Holy Spirit himself. On a side note, I studied serial killers and wrote a three-part series on my research.  I read many stories of women reporting a “voice in their head” warning them to ‘not do this, do that, go here, don’t go there’ type of thing. I believe that this is the voice of God attempting to help and protect them.

Still small voice/slightly brighter thought:

Another way that God speaks to people is by putting thoughts in their mind. The thought will always be consistent with God’s word. You’ll never have God telling you to go out and murder somebody, for example. But how do you know it is God speaking to you and not your own human thoughts?  This is probably my number one challenge but this is what I have come to believe paraphrased from a book I read:

The thought will tend to be a little brighter than all your other normal human thoughts. Think of your human thoughts as a 40 watt lightbulb. God’s voice tends to be an 80 watt lightbulb that will pop into your head. The thought will bring you peace and a sense of knowing.  

God also speaks in a small voice to your heart.  It will be quiet but you will hear it.  I know that these two ways seem opposite (a brighter thought and a quiet voice) and I will admit I have not quite figured this out yet.  But both seem to be true.  

In conclusion, my amazing friend Ragan (who is the Editor in Queen of this blog, along with my husband) once had a beloved cat that went missing for over a month without a sighting.  Ragan prayed day after day with no apparent result.  Sadly, Ragan had to move to a different home and was in the process of doing that. One day, she was on her way to a doctor appointment when the Lord spoke to her and told her to go back to the house. Ragan obeyed the still small voice and pulled up to the house.  She was delighted to see her missing cat waiting for her on the front porch!  Her cat was suffering from either a snake or spider bite and was badly wounded. She rushed him to the vet. Ragan later surmised that he was unable to come home because he was recovering from his wounds.  

What I love the most about this closing story is that God showed how much he cared about both Ragan and her kitty cat.  God spoke to Ragan with both a still small voice and a blessing.

God is speaking!  Let’s lean in and take a listen.  

For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. Job Chapter 33: 14

Stay tuned for part II of this short series where I reveal ways that God speaks more subtly and indirectly.

God speaks in a wide variety of ways indirectly – including speaking through his creation! Yes, that is yours truly,
enjoying the beautiful view. In part II, we will dig into the indirect voice of God. Stay put!

3 thoughts on “God speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear God’s direct voice – Part I

  1. Pingback: God Speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear the indirect/subtle voice of God – Part II – Permission 2 Speak Freely

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