Each year on President’s Day, the pastor of the Church I grew up in would take the men on a day of prayer and fasting. I remember when I was finally old enough to go and got to go on my first trip. Several men from the church had a deer lease not far from town, and that’s where we went. Our day was very structured. There were times of teaching, we would go get alone in the woods, return to discuss and then hear another teaching. On this particular trip, the teachings were about hearing God’s voice. On one of the prayer times, we were instructed to go into the woods, speak a few words of prayer and then listen. That was the first time I heard God speak. I wasn’t sure it was Him until we came back to share and several others had heard the same thing.
I like how my current pastor describes hearing God’s voice. The next time you’re in an auditorium, listen for the air conditioner. When it gets quiet in there, you can hear it. The sound is there all the time, but it’s only when you’re quiet enough and listening for it that you hear it. Too many times, we miss hearing God’s voice because we’re too loud and our lives are filled with peripheral noise. There’s a reason God said in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” When are we ever still anymore? When do we ever go to where it’s quiet and there aren’t any distractions? We’ve grown accustomed to noise so much that our minds crave it. We turn on the radio when we get in the car. We turn on the TV when we walk in the house. We create our own noise without even thinking, and we’re doing it at the expense of hearing God’s voice.
Psalm 81:13-14 says, “O that my people would once and for all listen to me and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways. Then and only then will I conquer your every foe and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’” (TPT) God is constantly speaking to each of us. He’s not silent, but He is quiet. He’s begging us to once and for all stop and listen so we can go where He’s called us and to follow where He’s leading. In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NLT). How can you know His voice or even follow it if you aren’t listening? It’s time to find a place away from the noise in our lives, to put down our phones and to listen to what God is saying. He’s speaking to you this very moment. Are you listening?
As we walked through Nazareth Village, the had a shepherd there feeding his small flock. The sheep were just about ready to be trimmed so the village could make yarn. I walked around the side and took this photo of the sheep eating. While I was doing that, our guide said something I had never thought of. He said, “Did you know that goats have ears?” I thought, “Of course they do!” Then he said, “Both sheep and goats can hear, but only sheep listen for their master’s voice and obey it. The goats hear his voice and do their own thing.” That’s why sheep have shepherds and goats have herders.
I believe we all can hear God’s voice, but are we listening for it? Hearing is a passive thing that happens just by having ears. Listening is something that is done intentionally. We’ve all be in conversations where we are barely listening to the other person, then we realize we missed the important part. We have to either pretend that we listened to what they said or we have to ask them to repeat it. When the King of King speaks to us, we should be giving Him our undivided attention. If we are merely passively hearing His voice, it calls to question whether He is shepherding us or is herding us.
In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NLT). The only way to know Jesus and to follow Him is to listen to His voice. He is constantly speaking to us, so we need to be constantly listening to Him. Ive found that the best way to listen is to be quiet. It sounds so simple, yet many of us are afraid of the silence of sitting in His presence. Today practice being still in His presence and listening for His voice. Be obedient to whatever He tells you to do. Don’t just be someone who hears His voice, be a listener of it.
One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, help us to hear your voice more clearly, and give us the courage to do what you say.” That prayer prompted my son to say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice before. Is He speaking?” I told him that God is always speaking. It’s up to us to find a quiet place and listen. I then explained that God rarely speaks to us audibly. He usually speaks to us through the Bible or He whispers in our heart.
One of the times God spoke audibly was in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel was just a boy and lived in the Temple with Eli the priest. In the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. He thought Eli had called him, so he went into the room where Eli was sleeping to ask what he wanted. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him and sent him back to bed. This happened three times before Eli figured out what was going on. He then sent him back with instructions should he hear the voice again.
Verse 10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” As I told my son, I believe that God is always speaking to us. It’s up to each one of us to listen. Just like you have to learn to actively listen to someone, we have to purposefully listen for God’s voice. When you open the Bible, pray, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Do it when you pray as well, then give God Time to speak.
We live in such a busy world that we rarely take the time to slow down and listen. The same voice that spoke billions of galaxies into existence wants to speak to you today. Any relationship requires two way communication. God isn’t looking for someone who will follow a bunch of rules. He’s looking for someone to speak with. That’s why christianity isn’t about a bunch of regulations, even thought we’ve made it that. It’s about having a relationship. All relationships rise and fall on communication. Yours and God’s is no different.
Have you ever been around a person who loves to hear the sound of their own voice? How does it feel when you try to engage them in conversation and they never give you the opportunity to speak? After a while, you either quit trying to talk to them or you just don’t say anything at all to them because you know it’s going to fall on deaf ears. When you see them approaching you or their caller ID shows up on your phone, you almost sigh because you know what’s coming.
If we don’t like it when people do that to us, then why do we think God likes it when we do it to Him? Think about your prayers to God. How often do you stop talking and start listening? Prayer should be a conversation between you and God, not a wish list of things you’d like to see done to make your life easier. There’s a time for you to talk and a time for God to respond. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard God speak to you, ask yourself, “When’s the last time I was quiet in my prayer time?”
I know it’s a hard concept to some because we think of prayer as a list of things we want, but prayer is so much more than that. It’s designed to be the time you communicate and have a conversation with the creator of the universe. It’s designed for us to spend time with Him getting to know His heart. We have to learn that it’s ok to spend your prayer time listening. If we never listen, how will we know His heart, His desires for our life, or His thoughts on how we should respond to social issues as His representatives on earth?
David said in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]” (AMP). David understood that God wanted to hear his prayers and that God wanted to speak to His heart so he built time to watch and to wait into his prayer time. God wants us to do the same so He can speak to our hearts. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard God speak to you, try watching and waiting today to see what He says.