Let's be honest: it's hard to image that God is speaking to directly, or what it even means to hear from him. But the greatest act of faith we could ever be called to in our human lives could be this: believing that God desires to speak to you and to me.
“I wish I could hear from God.”
“If God wants us to hear him, why doesn’t he speak in an audible voice?”
“Maybe God talks to other people, but he’s not talking to me . . .”
Sound familiar? Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us are on the fence about God speaking to us. Sure, he might speak to others—but to me? Does he care about my worries, my daily concerns, my little life? We find ourselves doubting that God is really interested in us.
The greatest act of faith we could ever be called to in our human lives could be this: believing that God desires to speak to you and to me. It requires great faith because it’s a great miracle! To actually hear from the God of the universe, who spun the stars into place, who orchestrated all of human existence—to think that he would listen and respond to us—the ones in the carpool lines or the dead-end jobs, the ones scraping through school—that same God would respond to us?
Let’s be honest: It’s quite a stretch. No wonder it’s hard to believe. Even David, the giant-slaying, harp-playing, warrior-prophet-poet king of Israel, had a hard time grasping that the magnificent God of creation could also be involved in our daily concerns. “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” pondered David on an inky night under a dazzling array of stars (Psalm 8:4, ESV).
Maybe you don’t believe God hears you because you have decided he’s just too big, too uninvolved, too distant for your concerns. Maybe it’s because you believe your life doesn’t deserve God’s entwinement. Maybe a little piece of you worries that if God was involved, he would disapprove—so it’s easier to think he doesn’t care.
Hearing God’s voice isn’t just about us hearing God’s voice. It’s even bigger than that. It’s about what we think of God and what we think of ourselves, and how our answers to these questions merge in our souls. They are big questions to ponder, and they dig us down into our foundational beliefs. That’s why the answer to the question of how to hear from God is a surprising one. It’s not about technique—although technique can help; and it’s not about theology—although theology helps. It’s about the one thing that can’t be taught or explained or even transmitted from one to another. The surprising way we hear from God has everything to do with belief.
Why Belief Matters When It Comes to Hearing God's Voice
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he taught consistently about the necessity and efficacy of belief. In the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about belief more than eighty times. Essentially Jesus is saying to his disciples, his enemies, and everyone in-between, “Believe in me, believe in what I say, believe based on what I’ve done.” Jesus said, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says” (John 8:47). Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). If we believe in Jesus, we belong to God. And if we belong to God, we have access to hearing from God.
God speaks to us through everything he’s made: his world, his Word, his people. Our belief is what opens our eyes to see him and our ears to hear him. And what’s more amazing is that because of God’s great love for us, he meets us based on whatever small crumb of belief we can scrape together. Jesus said that even faith as small as a mustard seed—that’s one tiny millimeter of faith, so small it can balance on the tip of your finger—would be enough to move mountains (see Matthew 17:20). Clearly God has set the bar very low for us to enter into relationship with him. Yet often it feels like the whole world is against us focusing in on that little seed of belief. The voices of doubt shout loudly over the whispers of God; but with just a little belief, just enough to balance on the tip of your finger, you can cultivate the daily practice of hearing from God. With this firmly in mind, here are a few techniques that can help:
4 Ways to Cultivate the Daily Practice of Hearing from God
1. Look Up
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” With belief, look up today. Look at something that God has made and believe he is teaching you something specific and intentional that you need for your life. Perhaps it will be about the resiliency of a weed that’s sprouted through a crack in the parking lot at your workplace. Maybe you’ll have a new appreciation for the beautiful sunset that’s freely available to all who will notice. Or it might be in realizing the simple fact that God causes each 24-hour period to have a time of light and darkness, of work and rest. Look up today and willfully decide that God is speaking to you about your life through what he brings to your attention.
2. Look Down
There is no greater way to grow in the knowledge of God than through his Word. He has revealed everything we need to know for life in the pages of Scripture. Cultivating a habit where reading Scripture is as much a part of your day as brushing your teeth is a key to belief-building. When you read Scripture, read it and believe that God has something for you to learn. And if you need help knowing how to understand God’s Word, commit to the process. The Bible is not an unattainable resource. It is complicated and mysterious and deep, but it is for you—for what you are struggling with, for what you hope for, for the encouragement and direction you seek from God. Every day you open your Bible is a day that God will speak to you.
If studying the Bible seems confusing, boring or impractical, you're not alone. Even those among us who have a great desire to study the Word often see our good intentions fall flat when reading the Bible just doesn’t seem to help us experience God in a real way. What should feel dynamic and important and alive often feels confusing and boring and irrelevant. But it doesn’t have to. If you're looking for a resource to help you learn how to Study the Bible and hear from God in a real, life-transforming way, I hope you'll check out my FREE eight episode podcast, How to Study the Bible. It's a roadmap to help you begin the journey of understanding, interpreting and applying Scripture to your real, everyday life.
3. Look Around
Every relationship, every opportunity, every moment of work, play, and rest is an opportunity for you to be attentive to God. In his last night of earthly life before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples that it would be better for them when he leaves, because then he would send the Advocate—the Holy Spirit, the one who will guide us into all truth (see John 16:7; John 15:26; John 16:13). God has chosen the dwelling place of his Spirit to be within believers. He speaks through external means (his world and his Word), and he speaks through internal means (the Spirit). Everything speaks of God’s presence to us if we can continue in the small and simple belief that this is true. With that little mustard seed of faith, with the knowledge that God speaks to you through his creation and through his Word, you can go into each day not just hopeful but also expectant that God is engaging with you.
4. Look to Jesus
Sometimes it’s hard to hold on to the mustard seed. It happens to everyone—it even happened to David. He cried out to God, “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea” (Psalm 55:1). When trouble, doubt, or heartache tempt you to believe that God is not hearing you, you can pray like the man with the disabled child who was desperate for God’s presence: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, ESV). Even in our disbelief, God helps us to believe. Let that one desire guide your every day in Christ.
Image Credit: ©Unsplash/priscilla-du-preez
Nicole Unice is an author, a pastor, and a teaching elder in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. For the past 20 years, Nicole has served the local church through teaching and leading various ministries and start-up initiatives, from capital campaigns to campuses. Her books come to life through her popular video curriculum series found on RightNow Media. She holds degrees from the College of William and Mary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Nicole lives in Richmond, VA, with her husband and three children.
Nicole’s latest book, Help! My Bible Is Alive!, from NavPress, releases in October.
This article is brought to you by How to Study the Bible with Nicole Unice, a FREE eight-episode podcast that will help you personally encounter God through his Word by giving you a practical, clear road map for understanding, interpreting and applying Scripture in your life.