How does one go about “hearing God’s voice”? I know there are books about it that offer steps and suggestions but they seem too formulaic and bland to me. Is it always going to be like an audible voice or like “a nudge in the spirit” as some people call it? And then how do you know if it God talking to you or if its all in your head? Thanks!
I have never heard an audible voice from God, nor has anyone I know personally. I have, however, definitely heard the voice of God. I bet you have too, even if you didn’t know that is what it was at the time.
In John 10:27, Jesus says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus is shepherding you whether you know it or not. The longer you walk with Him, the better you get at recognizing His voice speaking to your heart. As Jesus points out in this verse, one of the keys is to know the person from whom that voice is coming.
When you are trying to distinguish whether something is from God or just in your head, this most basic question to ask is “Is this something God would say?’ You have the scriptures as a guide.
If you feel a nudge to go sit with the kid who is alone in the lunchroom who looks scared and lonely, you know that Jesus cares about the scared and the lonely- so that checks out. If you feel an urge to elbow the old lady ahead of you in line at the grocery store who has in hour 2 of going through her purse looking for her checkbook…that is probably not the voice of Jesus.
As a side note, this also applies to when other people claim to hear from God. Just because someone says God told them doesn’t mean you have to get on board. It is funny how almost every time I have heard a pastor talking about having gotten a word from the Lord, it tends to be about doing something big and impressive that will require the congregation to cough up some dough, not so much about supporting missions or helping poor people.
The other key is to know what you are listening for. Sometimes we are tempted to believe that we will know God’s voice because it will be the loudest, but that is not the way it works. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah goes to a cave to listen for the voice of the Lord. It comes, not in roaring wind, or earthquake, or fire; but in a “gentle whisper.”
So you know vaguely what you are listening for, the thing to do now is get some practice. Work some listening time into your prayer time. Look back on situations when it has become more obvious what God was up to. The more you do it, the better you will get. God is speaking to your life, and He wants you to hear.
-Matt from The Bridge