By Dyrie M. Francis
Amidst the clutter and noises of everyday life, some would relegate hearing the voice of God to pastors and spiritual leaders whose vocation requires them to commune with God for enablement to minister to His Church. The truth is, God delights to speak to His children and to have them listen to Him. Scriptures are replete with examples of individuals and even a nation that heard God speak.
From the beginning, God enjoyed fellowship with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden until sin disrupted the relationship between God and humankind (Genesis 3:1-10). God spoke to Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham) and directed him to move to a country He would give to him and his descendants if he obeyed God’s commands. God promised to bless all nations through Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Imagine Samuel, a young boy hearing God calling him by name in order to have a conversation with him. Jeremiah, whom God ordained as a prophet to the nations, felt inadequate for the task, but God promised to enable him (Jeremiah 1:4-10). Exodus 33:11 records that God spoke with Moses “as a man speaks to his friend.” Joshua, Moses’ successor, encountered God as deliverer and Savior in a time of military defeat against the nation of Ai. God revealed to Joshua the reason Israel was defeated and the steps to regain victory (Joshua 7:4-11).
The New Testament records many instances when God spoke to the disciples; for example, on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Luke 9:35); to Saul the persecutor of the Church, while he was on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6); and to Peter while he was in a trance on the rooftop (Acts 10:9-16). Lastly, John the beloved apostle recorded the end-time revelation of Jesus (Revelation 1:11; 2, 3, 22:12,16, 20).
God desires to speak with every one of His children still today! God speaks through dreams, visions, the Scriptures, by feelings or thoughts, and less commonly, audibly. But His children are often desensitized to the gentleness of His voice.
My then four-year-old son once asked, “Mommy, why does God speak so soft?”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
He responded, “I have been trying to hear God, but He speaks so soft!”
It was a great teaching moment coupled with a deep sense of joy that my four-year-old desired to hear God audibly. I encouraged him to listen more keenly and even ask God to speak more plainly to him. God answered about a year later when my son woke suddenly and asked about a missionary our family prayed for regularly. He told us something was wrong with her. He also told us that one of our local pastors (whom he mentioned by name) was undergoing a problem. We encouraged him to pray for both persons and joined him in prayer. Shortly after, the pastor revealed that his church was going through a serious split. We also received news that the missionary was having some challenges overseas as well.
Four factors that help us hear God’s gentle voice are focus, time, self-discipline, and faith. Through the goodness and grace of God, we can hear Him while growing in these areas.
Factor #1 — FOCUS
We must guard against distraction, our number one enemy when it comes to hearing from God. The plethora of distractors in our personal environment from waking to retiring to bed clamors for attention and draws focus away from God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, our teacher and guide. Our homes and automobiles are filled with technological gadgets. The cacophony of music genres, movies, world news, sports, and electronic games compete for the minds and captivate the heart. Jacob’s instruction to his family to put away their foreign gods, purify themselves, and then come seek God together at Bethel (Genesis 35:2-3) would benefit our culture. Sadly, some gadgets are now taken to the house of worship. Regardless of age, believers must be aware of the impact of the distractions and intentionally secure a “quiet” place to meet with God. Even a quiet corner, a closet if need be, a spot outside the house or apartment, or a parked vehicle may change the trajectory from distraction to the ability to discern God’s presence and hear Him speak.
Factor # 2 – TIME
Everyone is allotted the same 24 hours daily – or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. The popular maxim reminds us that “time wasted can never be regained!” Consider the benefits to the average person who reflects on the wastefulness of the seconds, minutes, or hours spent on activities that do not foster spiritual growth and chooses instead to reverse their course and listen and meditate more on the Scriptures and on hearing God.
Commonly, our prayers are more like monologues. We speak, God listens, and we run off without allowing Him to speak to us. We blame our lack of prayer, meditation, and hearing God on our overwhelming schedules. Life becomes an endless cycle of activity after activity! Yet in 1 Kings 19:12, when Elijah needed to hear from God, he observed that God was not found in the noisy wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire. Elijah heard God in His still, gentle whisper. We must choose to listen to hear!
Jesus directed His disciples to “come aside . . . and rest” (Mark 6:31, NKJV). This rest was more than physical rest. It was resting in God, away even from the miracles of healing and deliverance and the mighty revival. It was gleaning from God’s love and compassion for the lost and broken and gaining power to minister effectively. Working for God is no substitute for resting in God! Jesus commended Mary for choosing “the better part” in contrast to Martha, who had immersed herself in preparing for the physical needs of Jesus but neglected His lifegiving spiritual food in the process (Luke 10:41-42). The enemies of time spent with God are the busyness and often non-edifying activities that eat away the irreplaceable 86,400 seconds allotted each day.
Factor #3 – SELF-DISCIPLINE
Self-discipline impacts our ability to hear God speak. The Oxford dictionary defines self-discipline as “the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” The story is told of an Asian pastor who had ministered in the villages all day and arrived home after midnight. Yet he awakened at 4:00 a.m. to pray and seek God’s help for the day. His visiting western companion was alarmed at the pastor’s early rising. The praying minister responded that he needed to hear from God far more than his body needed sleep.
David meditated on the Lord day and night (Psalm 63:6; 119:164) and enjoined us to offer God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Jesus, a model of self-discipline, rose early and went to a quiet place to pray and commune with the Father (Mark 1:35). In His most sorrowful moment, He separated Himself from the disciples and entreated God the Father for strength to face His “cup” of suffering at Calvary for our sins.
Guard against self-indulgence, the enemy of self-discipline. We are tempted to indulge more than we should at the expense of self-discipline which goads us to continue to do what is right despite challenges we may encounter. The lines of a famous hymn “Lead Me to Calvary” strengthen my resolve to seek Him despite my challenges and limitations.
Factor #4 – FAITH IN GOD
Faith in God is critical for hearing Him speak. Jesus promised to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit who would teach us all things (John 14:16-17, 26). Often, we choose our ways and make decisions based on market principles. But faith holds firmly to God’s promises and is undeterred by trials. The enemy of faith is unbelief (Ephesians 6:16). The writer of Hebrews emphasized, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Growing in these four areas can help us become more sensitive to God’s voice. Some Christian denominations teach that God does not still speak outside of the written text. Over the course of my Christian experience, God has spoken clearly to me many times. Once was loud, sounding like thunder. Most often He has spoken to me through my thoughts and Scriptures. Some of His messages were instructive; others corrective or futuristic. Two of the messages warned of impending disaster to our nation which occurred on 9/11 and at the Olympic Village in Georgia. Witnesses can testify to the latter two since I reported God’s revelation at a prayer gathering before they occurred.
One of the most difficult assignments I received was when I was given a message for a couple that I respected highly and considered role models. God’s message was a call to repent, or else “they would be like Ananias and Sapphira” (Acts 5). I was petrified and unwilling, pleading with God to release me from this assignment, but He did not! I hoped no one would be home as I rang the doorbell and literally ran back to my car. But before I could turn on the ignition, the front door opened and a voice said, “Wait!”
The tears of dread flowed. I blurted out the message and began to make a hasty retreat. Only the wife was present, and she asked me not to leave. She began to weep and made confession.
I was shocked! I had judged God to be hard on these “good Christians.” I prayed for the family and left saddened and broken. God cares about everything that concerns us.
We must continue to pray for sensitivity to God’s Spirit, hearing ears, a discerning spirit, and an obedient heart. May He help us to focus on the “better part” as Mary did, to guard the seconds and minutes because they add up to days, weeks, months, and years; to grow in self-discipline, and increase in faith nourished by the Word of God. Then we are more likely to pray, listen, and hear God speak to us! Keep the spiritual line open. God continues to speak in our generation (Revelation 3:20)!
About the Author
Dyrie Francis R.N., M.S.N., M.A.C.L. lives in South Florida, where she and her husband, Karl, pioneered Living Word Open Bible Church in Cooper City, thirty years ago. The congregation is comprised of believers from 22 countries, including a minority of Caucasian Americans. The church celebrates unity in diversity and eagerly pursues the fulfillment of the Great Commission regardless of race or color. God and family are central to Dyrie’s life and ministry paradigm. She loves people and serves through teaching the Word and the ministry of prayer. Underlying her calling to service is a deep and inescapable sensitivity to God’s heart on justice and the plight of the oppressed. She serves as a bridge to many and will continue by the grace of God. Dyrie and Karl have two adult sons, Jonathan (married to Andrea) and Bryan (married to Terrone) and one granddaughter, Christine Noelle.