Listening for God's Voice
When a friend calls you, how do you know it isn't just a prank caller? How do you know it's not your mother, father, brother, teacher or neighbor? You know because you know your friend. By spending time with your friend, you know how they talk—you know the expressions they use, the tone of their voice and the changes in their pitch when they're happy or sad. That's the way it should be with God: You know him—his character, his nature, his interests, his pleasures and displeasure, his joys and hurts—so well that you recognize him and his involvement in your life. God is inviting you to know more than just his voice, though. He is inviting you to know him. It's an awesome opportunity.
Did Someone Whisper?
The prophet Elijah had an awesome encounter with God, and it happened at the lowest moment in Elijah's life. The story, in 1 Kings 19, begins with the prophet hiding in a cave.
"Elijah, why are you here?" the Lord asked.
Exhausted and deeply sad, Elijah explained, "Lord, God All-Powerful, I've always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!"
Elijah was ready to call it quits. So what did the Lord ask him to do? Something a little odd, actually. He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain. I want you to see me when I pass by."
Elijah obeyed. But before he could step out of the cave, a thunderous wind hit the mountainside, shattering rocks in all its fierceness. But the Lord was not in the wind, or the violent earthquake that followed. He wasn't in the fire that rained from heaven after that. No doubt Elijah wondered what would come next: A lightning bolt? A flood? A volcanic outburst?
Instead, in the still silence, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. He knew it was the Lord. He got up, stood at the opening of the cave and hid his face with his coat.
The gentle voice asked Elijah the same question it had before: "Elijah, why are you here?" Elijah repeated his earlier answer. Then, the Lord gave Elijah specific instructions and told him he wasn't the only one refusing to worship idols. Seven thousand others had not left God to follow Baal.
Keep in mind that God whispered. To hear someone's whisper, you need to be near him or her. Whispering doesn't work very well if you're speaking to someone who's standing on the other side of the room. God doesn't want a long-distance relationship; he wants a close, intimate one.
How to Hear a Whisper
How do you begin to hear and recognize God's voice? Five ways:
- Have a seeking heart. In the Old Testament, David had this kind of heart. He once wrote, "In my heart, I long for you, as I would long for a stream in a scorching desert" (Psalm 63:1, CEV).
If you want to hear God's voice, you need to seek him like David. Be honest with him. Tell him any frustrations, fears or doubts you may have about hearing from him. Ask him to give you ears to hear and eyes to see the ways he is speaking to you. Ask him for the ability to recognize the difference between his voice and your thoughts.