Why is it important to listen to God’s voice, and how do we do it?
God is already at work and our task is to join His work, but sometimes it’s hard to hear His voice or to know what to listen for. In today’s mini blog we’re going to explore some of what it looks like to listen to God better in prayer.
You Got Me Monologuing
No Disciple Making Movement is started without a prayer movement preceding it. Too often, though, we see prayer as merely talking to God while he listens.
Typically in church we’re watching someone on stage pray a shorter prayer talking to God with formalized language, signaling that we can relax, feel for our belongings and get ready to go. There’s nothing wrong with thanking God for who He is or asking for His provision, but talking at God can become the only way we know how to pray, both in and out of church.
Our prayer lives are marked by us asking God to show us what He wants for us and then just going on with whatever we’re doing. We don’t take the time to stop and listen. It’s the equivalent of calling up a friend on the phone, asking them a question and then hanging up before they can respond.
Obviously we would never do that to one of our friends, so, how do we turn prayer into a conversation — a back and forth with God — not just a monologue?
Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Normally, at CDM, we’ll have people start off with something simple like, “Lord, speak to us.” Then, we let them share what they feel is being put on their hearts.
As we engage people in conversation throughout our day, we can pray and ask God, “What do you want to do here? I know you have a plan for this person’s life, but I don’t know where they are in their spiritual journey. Would you help reveal that to me and then show me what your next step is so that I can join you in that?”
That’s why listening is so important! It’s no longer about us merely making a convert who verbally assents to some things before they go on their way. It’s about us realizing that the people we meet are created by God in His image for a plan that He is working out in them day by day. We want to seek His will so that we neither overstep and try to force people to a place that God doesn’t have for them today, nor settle for less than God has for them today.
It’s a prayer that goes to God and says, “I know that you have a plan, and I know that I am meant to be part of it. Could you tell me today how I am supposed to fit in that plan so that I can obey you and do your will?”
And we take the time we can to listen for what God wants to put on our hearts. It could be five minutes, thirty, an hour or more, but what’s important is that we take the time to get our hearts and minds right and let the Lord respond.
More than a Feeling
As we ask God for His guidance and take the time to listen, there are all kinds of ways that He may answer and speak to us. For some people, it can be a strong nudge towards a certain person or place, or a vivid dream that God gives them, or something that another person shares with them.
Whatever that spoken word of God in a person’s intuition or soul is, it will never violate what God has already revealed about Himself in His Word. That should always be a litmus test for us when responding to something we think may be from God. Does it contradict what He says in Scripture?
“If the Holy Spirit guides us, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.” — George Müller
If we feel an intuition to do something, we should always turn to the Bible and to other believers who know us well enough to see through our proclivities and idols and point us to truth.
1 John 4:1 tells us to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” There will be times when we may feel a nudge to do a certain thing and we can definitely say that it’s pleasing to God, and there will be other times when we can say, “No, that thing isn’t really of God.”
What’s important is that we know God’s character well enough from His revealed Word to be able to make the distinction.
There is so much more to talk about when it comes to prayer and listening to God, and a lot more that Paul and Rebecca cover in “Listening to God“ on the CDM Podcast. If you found this blog helpful and would like a more comprehensive breakdown of practical tips for growing in listening to God’s voice, be sure to check out that episode