Trying to hear God’s voice can be difficult at first. Maybe you’ve gotten quiet but you still can’t hear. Maybe you’ve waited a long time but nothing happened. Maybe you’ve tried to make prayer conversational but you still feel like you’re talking to a wall.
You’re trying, and that’s important. You’re headed the right direction and you need to keep going. There are many things that get in the way of hearing God, but even not hearing is a part of the learning process. For once you finally get to a place where you do hear Him speak, you’ll be able to compare it with the times you didn’t hear Him.
Maybe God Isn’t Speaking
If you can’t hear him, don’t freak out. Maybe you can’t hear Him because He isn’t talking. While I think it’s true that God speaks a whole lot more than we think He does, it is important to note that it’s His voice and He can use it how He wants. Some act as though you can always hear God if you really try (and I don’t know—maybe that’s true or maybe it’s just true for some), but I would suggest that your ability to hear God is going to fluctuate.
After all, in Samuel’s time “the word of the Lord was rare” and “there was no frequent vision” (1 Sa 3:1). Was this because God was speaking and Israel wasn’t listening? Or was it simply that God doesn’t always speak every time we want Him to? I mean, if God always spoke when we asked Him to, would not our lives and this planet look very different? Haven’t people throughout the ages asked God very crucial questions and pursued Him for answers but never received them?
God is God. It is our job as Christians to try to communicate with Him, but if we can’t hear Him, I would assume that it’s not always our doing. This is, to some extent, a prophetic gifting after all. So some are going to be much better at hearing Him than others. Some will be so good at it that it will become clear that God has anointed them to be a prophet.
Don’t Work it Up
When I discovered in college that God still speaks, one of the biggest things that held me back from hearing His voice was that I tried to work things up. I was aware that hearing His voice often required a quiet physical place, but I was unaware that hearing His voice also required a quiet mental place.
So while my room might have been dead silent, my head was saying, Gotta get a word, gotta get a word, gotta get a word. Wait, was that a word? What’s a word sound like anyways? Focus Jamin. You’re trying to listen for a word. Get a word. Any word. Come on words, where are you?
I was so busy trying to work something up that my mental space was actually louder than a room full of people. I find that the more my mind races, the less I can hear. It takes some time, but if you really want to engage God’s voice, you have to learn to be quieter than quiet. You have to yield your thoughts so you can think His.
Rest in God
The best thing to do is to try to rest in God, rather than try to work yourself up into something. If you can just relax you’ll be more capable of concentrating. As you enter this kind of rest, just give your slow thoughts over to God. Talk with Him and see how He responds.
No more racing around with your body or with your mind. Just let your thoughts intertwine with His thoughts and slowly try to discern what’s yours and what’s His. His words should never contradict the Bible and should match the fact that He is love.
God isn’t going to aggressively take over your thought life, so it will take practice to figure out what He sounds like as opposed to what you sound like.
Test Your Words
Hearing His voice will require discernment and even trial and error. Talk with other Christians and share your experience and see if they think what God told you is valid or not. If you felt like God gave you a word for someone else, tell that person what you think you heard and see if it has any validity or not.
Getting a word wrong does not make you a false prophet, especially if you preface these moments with, “I’m not sure, but I think God is saying…” This attitude reveals you as a humble Christian simply trying to be obedient to God’s voice—not a false prophet out to make some money and create anxiety in the church. It displays you as someone trying to learn how God speaks.
A lot of the “false” in a false prophet is found in intentional deception, deep-seated pride, or being the mouthpiece of a source that is not God. If your heart remains humble before God and you are hoping to worship Him by learning to hear His voice to serve others, then even if you’re wrong, you are not a false prophet.
In the end, one of the best ways to train to hear God’s voice is to ask Him for a word you wouldn’t know otherwise that you can give someone else. The validity or invalidity of the word will be proven as you give it and its reception will teach you discernment on what God’s voice sounds like.
Still Having Difficulty?
If you’re still struggling to hear God, that’s okay. Honestly, it may very well take years to figure this one out. It certainly did for me. And again, the more you humbly practice on others, the more you will expedite the learning process. Just keep trying and recognize that there is still benefit in what might feel like a dry prayer session. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote,
it is not necessary that we should have any unexpected, extraordinary experiences in meditation. This can happen, but if it does not, it is not a sign that the meditation period has been useless. Not only at the beginning, but repeatedly, there will be times when we feel a great spiritual dryness and apathy, an aversion, even an inability to meditate. We dare not be balked by such experiences. Above all, we must not allow them to keep us from adhering to our meditation period with great patience and fidelity.