How to Hear God's Voice
In the Old Testament, God's voice was heard through various means, the most common, and the most powerful, being the prophets. In the New Testament God still fulfils a large role in the prophet. The prophet still hears God's voice and speaks it forth. How does a prophet hear from God? Are there specific ways that God speaks? Can a prophet develop a greater capacity to hear the voice of God?
In this lesson I want to deal with prophetic listening and the ability to hear God's voice; how the prophet hears God's voice, how God speaks and how it is possible for us to hear and to take heed and receive from Him, especially as the prophets of God, that we may speak forth His words into the earth. We first have to hear, and before we can hear we have to learn how to listen.
Hear God's Voice in Seven Way
Hearing God's Voice : The Spiritual Urim and ThummimThe first method that God used to speak in the Old Testament was the method called the Urim and the Thummim. In that first verse that we looked at it said that, "God did not answer Saul by Urim..." Urim was one of the ways that Saul tried to hear from God. The Scripture says that God did not answer him by Urim. So we need to understand what the Urim is, and we need to go back into the Old Testament and look at a few Scriptures.
The general consensus amongst those who have studied this, is that the Urim and the Thummim were two stones. These stones were either the stones that were embedded in the breastplate of the ephod worn by the priest, or they were two stones that were contained in a pouch that was on the side of the ephod where he could place his hand. Somehow these two stones would give a person direction from God. It was not the kind of direction that says, "What must I do? Where must I go?" but the kind of direction that says, "Should I do this or should I not do that?" And the answer would come either as a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.
So when they used the Urim and the Thummim to obtain direction from God in those times, they would know which direction they were planning to go. What they would do is to present to the Lord a question. "Lord, shall I do this?" And they would hear God's answer back by Urim or Thummim, yes or no. It seems that if you had a Urim the answer was yes, and if you had a Thummim the answer was no.
I want to show you a Scripture that indicates how David used it. In 1 Samuel 23:9 it says:
"When David knew Saul had secretly planned evil against him he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod here.’ Then David said, ‘O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city because of me. Will the man of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beg of you, tell Your servant.’ And the Lord said, ‘He will come down.’ "
God answered him with a Urim. And so in the Old Testament there was this means of hearing from God, a means of receiving a yes or no answer from God.
God has placed within you a spiritual Urim and Thummim. He has placed within you a sign, a revelation that will cause you to receive a yes answer or a no answer. You can come to God in prayer still with that kind of question. "Lord, must I do this?" And the answer will come up from within your spirit as a, 'yes, yes,' or a 'uh uh, no way.' You will sense it in your spirit. You will feel it. You will feel it as a surge which says, "Yes, it is good, do it." Or you will feel a check in your spirit. It is a gut feel, an inner thing. It is a very deep thing, and what is actually taking place is that you are hearing God's voice speaking to you out of your spirit.
Hearing God's Voice: Dreams and Visions
Hear God's Voice Through DreamsWhen you dream, what you have received from your spirit in your dreams has to come via the senses. In your dreams you see things, hear things, taste things, smell things, and touch things. All of those senses come out in your dreams. There is no other way that your spirit can communicate outwards through your mind except through the senses.
So as you dream, you need to identify in your dream what is being communicated to you via those five senses. What did you see in your dream? What did you hear? Did you taste something? Did you smell something? Did you feel something? All of these things come out and they are coming out to communicate a message to you. Your spirit cannot speak to your mind in words. Your spirit cannot speak outwards in an audible voice. It has to speak via the senses, and the most common sense is always the sense of sight. So most of your dreams are going to be taken up with pictures, things that you are going to see, and what comes up out of your spirit in dreams is going to take various forms. This is a very common way for the prophet to hear God's voice.
Hearing God's voice through VisionsWhat are visions? I used to often ask the Lord for visions. "Oh Lord, I want a vision. Oh Lord, please give me a vision." I would read in the Bible how Peter went into a trance and he saw things. Paul had visions and all the great guys had visions. You hear evangelists and the big preachers standing up and saying, "I had a vision of the Lord, and in my vision I saw this and that, and this and the other thing."
So I used to say, "Oh, Lord, I wish I could have a vision."
People close to me began to say, "I had this vision from the Lord." My Dad began to have visions, powerful visions.
"Oh Lord, why can you not give it to me? Why do I not have visions, Lord?"
Then one day the Lord showed me that I had been seeing visions for a long time, but I did not know that visions do not always take the same form. What is a vision? A vision is simply, an influence coming up out of your spirit and coming into your mind. The difference is it takes place while you are awake. It is really just a dream while you are awake depending on whether that vision really is a play like a dream. And if it is a play like a dream, then it will come to you just like a dream, except while you are awake. It is one of the simplest forms of hearing God's voice.
Hearing God's Voice : Prophetic UtterancesThe third way of hearing God's voice is through prophetic utterances and tongues. You have within you a wellspring of wisdom. You have the Word that has been stored within you. You have the Spirit of God that is within you. In fact you have everything. The Scripture speaks about us having within us a spring of life. Jesus spoke about that well springing up and pouring out of us. He said, "Out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water."
We need to tap into that inner wisdom. So what we have to do is create a link, a channel, for the flow to begin to take place and flow outwards. One of the ways of doing it is through the faculty of speech. As your spirit communicates outwards via the emotions we have our Urim and Thummim. As it communicates outwards via the mind we have dreams and visions. How does it communicate outwards via the will? It communicates through speech. The speech center is linked directly to the spirit, and when you open your mouth by an act of your will to speak forth, then you speak forth what comes up out of your spirit.
Other TonguesJust praying in tongues will cause to come up out of your spirit influences, visions even, pictures into your mind. Your spiritual Urim and Thummim and all of them start to come to life as you spend long periods praying in tongues. And then you are also in a position now to begin speaking in your native tongue because you do not understand what you are saying in tongues. You may be seeing pictures in your mind. You may be feeling a sense of positive and negative in your emotions, but you still do not have any instruction, because you do not know what you are saying in tongues. You do not know what your spirit is saying in tongues.
Interpreting TonguesSo Paul says, "If any man pray in an unknown tongue, let him pray that he can also interpret." Do you realize that as you pour forth in tongues, you are tapping the wisdom that is within? It is the wisdom that your spirit has, because it is in contact with the Holy Spirit? Do you want to know the will of God? Do you want to hear God's voice? Do you want Him to speak to you? He is doing it all the time. All you need to do is learn to hear the voice of your own spirit, because your spirit is going to tell it to you. If you are going to hear God's voice, do you know what it is going to sound like? It is going to sound like you.
I found that as I began to help people move into these things, and to understand the voice of God and the revelations that were coming to them, that there would be times when the Spirit of God would move and God would show me and reveal things to me. And I would say, "Now, God has put something in your mind. Come on, share it with us. What do you see?"
The person would say, "Well, I kind of thought this, and I thought, ‘Hey, it is just me. I am making it up.’ "
Of course it was you. It came up out of your spirit because the Holy Spirit is going to speak to your spirit and it is YOUR spirit that is going to communicate it outwards.
That is the voice that you have learned to hear throughout your life, the real you, the inner you, the spirit within you. That is the voice that is going to come out. That is where God is going to speak through. That is where the influence is going to come from. If you can learn to speak out in tongues, you can then learn to interpret your tongues. And if you can learn to interpret your tongues, you can know what the Spirit is saying.
So you can pray, and you can speak in tongues, and you can interpret your tongues. You can develop to the capacity where God will then begin to speak to you, where the anointing of the Spirit of God will rise up within you and you will speak in tongues and interpret your tongues. You will speak in tongues and you will interpret your own tongues.
Hear God's Voice Through ProphecyProphecy is speaking without tongues. Very often, it will happen while you are praying. I found out that as I would pray with people concerning their needs, it would slip out. I would say something while in prayer like, "Lord, we pray for this person, and Lord I pray that you would do this..." And the spirit of prophecy would rise up and say, "Yes, that is it. This is what I am going to do, and..." out comes a prophecy most unexpectedly. Why? Because I learned to tap the flow from within my spirit by the faculty of speech.
It is like a boat on the water. You can place it in the water and you can sit and play with the rudder all you like. It does nothing to the boat. The boat just sits there. But get the boat moving, push it out and set it in motion, and the moment you move that rudder the boat is affected immediately. You have to open your mouth and speak. And if you want to prophesy, or hear God's voice in prophecy, then you are going to have to practice this. If you are afraid to do it in public, then you must do it the way I learned by doing it in your private prayer closet. You do it by learning to pray in tongues and interpreting your tongues and by learning to prophesy over yourself. The more you do that, the better you will become at it, until eventually you will have the confidence.
Hearing God's Voice 4: AngelsThe fourth way you can hear God's voice is by the agency of angels. In Acts 27:23 Paul says:
For there stood by me this night the angel of God whose I am and whom I serve, saying, "Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and look, God has given you all those who are sailing with you."
Messenger AngelsThe angel of God appeared to bring him a message. I shared in our teaching on angels and demons in the Way of Blessing, how that one third of the angels of heaven are the messenger angels, the angel Gabriel being the main one. Their responsibility is to come and bring a message from God.
You say, "Yes, but that was fine in the Old Testament when the Spirit of God was not within people, when a person could not hear from God for themselves in their own heart. Yes, God would use angels then."
That is why I picked a verse from the New Testament because I knew you were going to give me that argument.
The great apostle Paul said, "The angel of the Lord appeared to me tonight and brought me a message from the Lord."
You find many occurrences of this in the Old and New Testaments. There are messenger angels. God did not make a third of the angels of heaven to sit around and do nothing. They have a job to do, and their job is to bring a message.
Angelic InfluenceThe way they bring a message is often a lot stronger. Do you know why? Because angels can produce an influence from without. The angels can produce an influence directly on your mind without coming via your spirit, because very often people do not hear their spirits. They do not listen well to their spirits, or they are too preoccupied and too busy to hear from their spirits. So God brings an external influence, a messenger angel, maybe as a confirmation. God uses angels to bring messages.
In vision you might see an angel coming with a scroll in his hand, and he is bringing a message from Almighty God. Perhaps he is bringing a decree that you are meant to take and speak forth into the earth as a prophet. He is saying, "Here is a decree. God has issued a decree and He wants this Word to go forth in the earth. Here it is. I am giving it to you. You are God's prophet. You have the authority. You have the responsibility to speak this forth, to speak a Word of creation. Now you take the decree and you speak it forth."
When you see an angel coming to you in the Spirit like that, this is what is happening. I have seen angels come with a scroll that is sealed. In most cases the scroll is a picture of a declaration which has been made concerning my own life and ministry. Then as the angel gives me the scroll, the instruction comes from the Spirit; "Break the first seal." Usually when I see a scroll like that each seal typifies a stage in God’s plan.
So if I see a scroll with three seals on it I know that God is giving a three-stage plan. And He is saying, "The first stage must now begin. Break the first seal." As I break that first seal something begins to happen in my life and in my ministry, and God begins to put together something. Then further down the line the word of instruction comes and God reveals the scroll again and He says, "Break the second seal."
Messenger angels come to bring a Word from the Lord. They come to bring a decree and a declaration from the Lord, for you to take up and to put in your mouth, and to declare and decree into the earth as the prophet of God.
Hearing God's VoiceThis fifth method of hearing God's voice is a very important one. It leads on from some of the things that we have already looked at. I want to show you a passage from the book of Habakkuk Chapter 2:1. The prophet Habakkuk says:
"I will stand upon my watch and set myself upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am reproved."
Then the Lord answered me and said: "Write the vision and make it plain on tables, that he that reads it may run."
I spoke earlier about how words release the spirit within; how that while you are speaking, things pop up out of your spirit without you being aware of it. Sometimes the things that pop up out of your spirit are a source of wisdom. You might be speaking to somebody about a problem that they have and suddenly you find yourself saying something that you had never planned to say, something that you had never ever thought before. As you speak it you know that you are speaking the solution to the problem. It occurs to you suddenly and unexpectedly. You just see it, and it pops out.
Through Normal SpeechIf as a believer you have been filling yourself with the Word eventually the Word is going to start to come out. And as you are speaking, suddenly into your mind will pop a promise, a commandment, an instruction, something from the Word that you read years ago. You forgot that it was there, but in the process of conversation, while you were pouring out within your heart, suddenly it pops back into your memory and you see it, you just grasp it and you know it, and you say, "That is the answer." The solution is right there.
Now, you can develop this. I spoke earlier about developing this in speaking in tongues and in speaking in prophecy. If you are a child of God you have the ability to tap that inner resource. If you are a prophet of God this capability has become highly magnified. You are more sensitive to the realm of the Spirit. You are more capable of hearing from the Spirit and therefore you are more capable of tapping the resource that is in your spirit through speech.
Now if you are going to receive wisdom from the Lord, you cannot go about muttering to yourself all the time. It is known as the first sign of madness in many quarters. You might have somebody reporting you. They may arrive with handcuffs. "The guy needs to be locked up to protect himself." If you are going to do this you are going to have to be alone. But, it is possible for you to speak without speaking. And how do you do that? By writing. What does a dumb person do if they cannot speak? You can still communicate outwards what is in your heart through writing, where you write on paper, or type on the computer, whichever form of writing you are going to use. When you are writing you are putting speech down on paper, or whatever other medium you are using.
Speaking Through WritingSo it is possible for you to speak by writing. And as you do this you can enter into a conversation with the Lord. As a prophet of God you can come into a place where you can speak to the Lord, and where He can speak back to you again. This is what the prophet Habakkuk was doing. He was saying, "I'll stand upon my watch, and set myself upon the tower, and I will watch to see what He will say to me." He is speaking about coming into a position of hearing God's voice.
How do you journal? You concentrate on Him, you speak in tongues and you get the flow going. Close your eyes and concentrate on Him, get into worship, and if you are going to visualize anything imagine the Lord standing right there in front of you, and you are speaking with Him and having a conversation with Him.
Writing Your Dialogue as you hear God's VoiceThen pick up your pen and paper and write down your conversation. You write down what you are saying to the Lord. You write down, "Father, I need direction at this time. Lord, what is Your plan and purpose for me today? What would You have me to do?"
Then you pick up your pen and you write down His answer to you. Well how are you going to know His answer to you? You are going to hear it from deep within your spirit. You are going to have impulses and thoughts cross your mind. You are going to have pictures come into your mind. It is going to come just like prophecy. There may be a thought, there may be a phrase, there may be an idea. But as you let your mind free and let your spirit bring that influence up from within, thoughts begin to flow and you begin to write them down.
Hear God's Voice 6: The Inner VoiceThe sixth method of hearing from God is what I call the inner voice. In 1 Kings 19 we have the account of how Elijah, after he had run away in fear from Jezebel, sat down and wanted to die. He went to a place where God spoke to him.
And God said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And the Lord passed by, and a great and mighty wind tore in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
The still small voice. This is something that is even deeper. Remember, what is being communicated from the spirit outwards, as it is communicated into the mind, it is communicated via the senses. The still small voice is God communicating outwards, not in pictures, but in the hearing. Not everybody is able to receive and to hear in the Spirit. But most of us are able to hear the still small voice.
You are going to hear this still small voice when things are still. You are not going to hear it where there is noise. That is what God was trying to show Elijah. There was this great big wind and earthquake and fire - the glory, the power, the anointing, the revival power, the river of God. No! The still small voice, not coming from without, not external, but a deep internal voice of God. It is speaking, not shouting, but speaking gently, whispering almost.
You can learn to hear the still small voice of God if you will quiet your heart before the Lord and wait in His presence. I think the Lord had a plan when He told Elijah to go and climb the mountain. It wore out all of his physical resources. He was physically tired by the time he came to the mountain top. His mind was probably boggled from just seeing rocks in front of him all the time. Whatever it was he came to place where he was totally still before the Lord. Then God could speak to him in that still small voice.
You are also able to hear God's still small voice. The still small voice of the Lord is a very quiet, deep, inner voice, and it comes out in words. The Lord will speak to you and you will actually hear His voice speaking deep within you. Now this is a difficult one. This is one that takes a mature prophet of God to use. I’ll tell you why. Because the still small voice comes up into your mind. And your mind is the battleground that Satan can use and attack and Satan can bombard you from outside.
So this is a way of hearing God's voice that takes a seasoned prophet. It takes a man of God who knows the Word. It takes somebody who recognizes deception and will recognize and can discern if that voice is of God and if it is not of God. But you will find that you can come to the place where you enter His presence in silence and God will begin to speak up within you. There will be no journaling, there will be no prophesying, there will be no speaking in tongues, there will be no noise. It just bubbles up deep inside of you, the still small voice of the Lord rising up into your mind, and God begins to speak to you.
Hearing God's Voice: Face to Face RelationshipNow we come to the final way of hearing God's Voice, and that is the face-to-face relationship. In Numbers 12:5 it says:
And the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both came out. Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all My house. With him I will speak mouth to mouth, even clearly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of the Lord he will see. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?"
It was a face to face relationship. Moses saw the presence of the Lord. He saw that manifestation of the Lord that is called the Angel of the Lord, a theophany. He saw God in a physical form and he spoke to God face to face. Is it possible for us to experience that today? Is it possible for a prophet to enter into that kind of relationship with the Lord that he can hear God's voice and speak to Him face to face? Yes it is. I know because I have experienced it myself.
You say, "Well who are you going to see in the Spirit?" The Scripture says, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Jesus said, "No one cometh unto the Father, but by Me." We do not have to speak through the Angel of the Lord any more. We have One who was God manifested in the flesh. We have One who sits on the throne of heaven. We have One in whom we are and who is in us, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is possible for us to enter into a face to face relationship with Him in the Spirit where we can speak to Him as man to man, as person to person, as friend to friend.
Entering into the Love RelationshipHow do I know this is available to us? And how does it become available? It becomes available when you enter into a love relationship with the Lord, where the love of God becomes your consuming passion, and where it permeates your very being. Paul tells us about it in 1 Corinthians 13:9. He says:
For our knowledge is limited and our prophecy is limited. But when that which is perfect has come (or when maturity has come, or when love has come) then the limitations will be removed. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.
He is speaking about growing up. The Scripture says 'Love is the bond of perfection.' The Scripture speaks about being 'perfect or mature in love.' Paul says:
For now we see through a mirror, a puzzling image, but then we will see face to face. Now I know partially, but then I shall know just as I am also known.
Hear God's Voice: Spiritual MaturityWhen is now and when is then? Now is when you have not been perfected in love. Then is when you have been perfected in maturity and in love. It means that you begin to move into a love relationship with the Lord. You begin to move into spiritual maturity. You begin to move more and more into a face to face relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ to where you can say, "Before I saw through a puzzling image, but now that I am in maturity and walking in love, I can see Him face to face. Before I only knew partially. Now I know as I am known."
What does it mean? Paul says:
Where there are prophecies, they will fade away; where there are tongues, they will cease; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away.
What is he saying? He is saying, "Before, I needed to receive a revelation. I needed to obtain a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge to hear God's voice. I needed to receive a prophetic word from the Lord. But now what has happened is I have come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus where I do not need to hear from Him. He does not have to send an angel to me with a message. I can speak to Him and ask Him myself."
This means I come into such a relationship with Him that I speak to Him and I say, "Lord, tell me about such and such a person." And the Lord says, "What do you want to know?" I ask Him my questions and He answers me and says, "This is the problem. This is what I want you to say to him. This is how I want you to advise him. I want you to tell him this for Me." Then I turn to him and I say, "This is what the Lord says." I go back to the Lord again and I say, "Lord, what must I do here?"
I am walking down the street with Jesus at my side and there is somebody lying there sick. I say, "Lord, what do you want me to do? Can I help on this one?"
I hear God's voice saying, "I want you to go and lay your hands on him, and I want you to speak to that sickness and disease and command it to be healed."
"Okay, Lord, let’s do it."
"In the Name of Jesus, be healed!"
It is quite easy really isn’t it?
It comes when you enter into that close relationship with the Lord where you can speak to Him face to face. It is where He becomes more real to you or just as real to you as any other fellow human being. When you can come into that relationship as the spokesman and the servant of God, then you will find that your whole approach changes and you speak forth what He tells you to speak. You are going to find that you do not have to battle to hear God's voice any more because He is speaking to you directly.
ConclusionAll of these means are available. Any believer is able to hear God's Voice in most of these ways. It is not only restricted to the prophet. But as I said before, prophets have a very special ability to hear. They have been gifted to hear better, to have a greater capacity.
If God has given you that opportunity; if He has given you that privilege and taken you through that horrible preparation that has qualified you to be His spokesman, you need to be using all of these methods to hear God's voice all of the time. So whatever circumstance you are in, whatever the situation demands, you need to be able to hear God's voice. Then you can speak forth His Word into the earth. You can speak forth His Word to people. You can speak a prophetic word, a word of encouragement and exhortation to lift up the body of Christ and to build up the church, to help people identify their ministries. Everything that God has called the prophet to do, all of these you can do, when you have learned how to hear His voice by listening in these seven wa