Recently, I spent an entire day in prayer. A very close friend was having serious surgery, and I felt compelled to wait before God on her behalf. Not so many years ago, I would have been unable to maintain an attitude of prayer for anywhere close to an hour, much less a day. While I would have had the same good intentions, I just couldn’t think of that much to say to God. Then I realized that prayer is a two-way conversation.
A few days later, I was discussing this with another friend:
Friend: I hate repeating myself in prayer. That’s why I don’t do as much of it as others. One reason, at any rate. I either find myself quickly addressing all the things on my heart and then ending the call, so to speak, or I keep digging and stretching and reaching for little things and obscure people to bring up, just to meet some bizarre prayer length quota.
Me: Try listening instead of talking; it’s very hard to have a one-way conversation with anyone.
Friend: I already feel like I’m talking to the ceiling. There’s never been much to hear. Sorry, but revelation is not for me.
Me: Sorry, I refuse to believe that. But listening is a learned skill, and you might need practice.
Does God, who must be awfully busy running the universe, actually talk to us? All of us? Or was this person right in assuming they just weren’t special enough to hear from God?
There are 54 verses containing the words, “God said….” It’s highly improbable that God will say things if we are unable to hear him. That doesn’t count all the other ways the Bible records conversations between God and mankind. Consider a few examples.
David writes in the Psalms, “I sought the LORD, and He answered me” (Psalm 34:4, italics mine). But does He speak to all of us, or just the chosen few? Will He speak to me?
Even in the Old Testament, when the Holy Spirit would only descend upon various people for a season, Isaiah assured his audience that they would hear God: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).
Again in the Psalms, David writes on God’s behalf, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 36:8). This applies to all of us, not just David. Solomon adds, “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). And how about Jeremiah 33:3—“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” It doesn’t get much plainer than that!
Now that Jesus has come, we have the privilege of the indwelling Holy Spirit—God speaking inside of us! His voice comes to us directly—we should be able to hear clearly.
Jesus tells us that we will all be able to hear him: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
In 1 Corinthians 9:10-16, Paul expounds on the idea of the Holy Spirit revealing God’s truth to us. The Apostle John wrote, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3, italics mine). It’s hard to have fellowship with someone who never speaks to you. Finally, John records Jesus invitation to listen for his voice in Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” This invitation is for all believers.
Usually, the problem isn’t that God is silent. He’s speaking to us. It’s just that we don’t hear Him. Learning to recognize God’s voice takes some practice.
Next week I’ll explain how I go about listening to God, and how I know it’s His voice I’m hearing.
Do you hear God when He speaks to you? What is He saying?