The Beginner's Guide to Hearing God's Voice

By Alice Clarke

Have you ever heard people say “you just know that you know…” when something is right? Like knowing when you’re in love. Or when God speaks to you.

For most people, “knowing that you know” is an unhelpful description. Thankfully, there’s help out there, at least for knowing if you’ve heard God. (Falling in love is something we’ll leave for another day.)

Hearing God’s voice is not just open to a spiritual elite or select few. Here’s a simple guide to help you learn to hear God’s voice.

Who does God talk to?

God is a loving Father who wants to speak to everyone. In John 10:27, Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice.” (KJV) If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the ability to hear Him.

Throughout the Bible, and in history since, there are clear examples of God speaking to all types of people from all walks of life.

How does God Speak?

If you look to Hollywood for examples, you’d probably be expecting a big booming voice from the clouds. But in 1 Kings 19, God shows himself in quite the opposite way. Elijah waits to hear God and doesn’t hear Him in the wind, an earthquake, or a fire, but in a gentle whisper.

Of course, God is able to get our attention in that cinematic resounding voice, but that’s not always the way it happens. “In the Bible, God speaks through dreams, visions, pictures, the scriptures, prophets, His audible voice, angels, miracles, and even a donkey!” said Steve Long, senior leader of Catch The Fire Church in Toronto, “God is not limited in the ways He can communicate with us.”

Who are you listening to?

So hearing God is about learning to listen out for a whisper, asking God to speak in the quiet of your mind. But what if other inner voices seem much louder and clearer? How can you tell you’re hearing God, and not something else?

There are three options for who we might hear when we’re listening out for what God is saying: yourself, satan, or God. here’s how you can differentiate the three:

  1. Yourself - Your own thoughts are probably going to sound logical or analytical. It’ll sound like the kind of things you often think.

  2. Satan - Satan always condemns. His purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy. So if the thoughts you’re hearing are negative, destructive, vicious or accusing, it’s the enemy.

  3. God - When God speaks, it always lines up with the Bible - His character and His actions. He is kind, loving, inspirational, wise, healing, and convicting without being condemning.

Duncan Smith, president of Catch The Fire, describes hearing God’s loving words for the first time, “I was just completely discombobulated as the Father began to speak right into the very deepest places of my orphan heart... he just went right in and healed my heart in the deepest way with that liquid golden honey love of the Holy Spirit. He just began to speak his words of affection and love over me, ‘Duncan you’re my beloved son. I’m so pleased with you. I have such an amazing plan and purpose for your life.’”

The Four Keys to Hearing God’s Voice

The “you know that you know” question is the very thing that bothered theologian Dr. Mark Virkler, when he wanted to learn how to hear God’s voice. As an analytical thinker, he needed a clearer explanation of how to connect with God and hear Him speak.

Mark spent a year searching for an answer, and God led him to Habbakuk 2:1-2:

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.’” (NIV)

Out of this, he developed four keys to hearing God’s voice, that people all over the world now use:

1.Be still: Quiet yourself down

In our crazy-busy lives, it’s important to take some time out to find peace and listen to God without distractions. Find a quiet spot, get comfortable and get rid of any distractions. Keep a notepad nearby for the items on your to-do list that will inevitably pop into your mind.

Welcome the Holy Spirit, simply by saying, “Holy Spirit, I welcome you. Come and be here with me at this moment.”

2. Look: Fix your eyes on Jesus

Use the eyes of your imagination to picture Jesus. You might see in black and white, in colour, a still image, or a movie on the screen of your mind.

If you’ve been told that it’s bad to use your imagination, or find it a bit unorthodox, then it’s valuable to remember that people heard from God through vision all throughout the Bible. Jesus even used vision to connect with the Father:  “...the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (John 5:19 NIV)

As you picture Jesus, ask him a question, “Jesus, how do you see me?” or “Jesus, what do you want to say to me today?”

3. Listen: Tune to spontaneous flow

Now, listen. What is Jesus saying? Again, his response it might not be an audible voice, but God often speaks in our thoughts. It might sound like your own thoughts at the start, but as you practice, you’ll be able to more clearly distinguish God’s voice. That’s where point 4 comes in.

4. Write it down

Keep a journal of what God says to you. Write it down, unfiltered, just as you hear it. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, and don’t course correct. Then, share it with other people that are more experienced in hearing God. They’ll be able to help you figure out what was God speaking, and what wasn’t.

Of course, God can totally hijack your life at any moment, as He did with Carol Arnott, founding pastor of Catch The Fire, before she had committed her life to Jesus, “This voice, this audible voice, began to speak the 23rd Psalm from the beginning to the end, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…’ and it kept on going. About three-quarters of the way through, suddenly I knew it was Jesus. I knew that He loved me. All of the sin that I was in, and all of the pain, and all the anger, and all the problems, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that He loved me just like I was, in that moment in time.”

If you want to dig deeper into hearing God’s Voice, we highly recommend Mark Virkler’s teaching and resources which can be found at Communion With God Ministries.