The Most Effective Way to Hear from God
Inside: “I wish God would just tell me what to do!” It’s a familiar complaint. But have you gone through days that are so packed full that even if God spoke to you, you wouldn’t hear it or know it was from Him? What should we do if we really want to hear from God?
“I wish God would just tell me what to do! I’d like a lightning bolt.” Have you thought that before? Me, too! We so want for God to direct us in audible, obvious ways. If He would just light up the path, tell us to turn right or left, or help us know what job to take, where we’re supposed to live, and what our next big decision should be, life would be so much easier, we think.
Could it be that He is telling us these things, but we are missing His voice?
It takes me several hours to write each of these devotions. I usually start midweek, reading the Bible passage and letting it roll around in my mind for a while. I ask God to show me what to say. What word does He want me to write? How does His Word relate to our everyday lives?
This past week, by midweek, I was nowhere near starting on this devotion. This month is one of the busiest for me. I had come off of a fantastic bicycling and shopping weekend with friends. Now I looked ahead to pumpkin patch, birthday parties, Trunk or Treat, my own daily devotional time, and planning the last of a Sunday morning Bible class series. The schedule was so packed, I actually pulled one of the girls from school early so we could cram in the pumpkin patch before dark.
Friday night became filled with sleepovers and birthday present planning.
Saturday came and went, with my morning women’s Bible study (one of my favorite times of the week), volleyball games, pulling up part of my garden for the season, and a birthday party.
Sunday afternoon, I found myself setting up my laptop at a restaurant while the football games on the screens competed for my attention.
Did I really expect to hear from God in that atmosphere?
I came home and fell asleep, exhausted from the week’s activities.
Can you relate? Have you gone through days or weeks that are so packed full that even if God spoke to you, you wouldn’t hear it or know it was from Him?
A voice-directed GPS path through life might be nice, but even in the car, I miss the GPS’s directions if the music is too loud or I’m in conversation with other people. Once I realize it and we quiet down, I hear the familiar “Make a U-turn.”
If we really want to hear from God, we need to be still and listen.
Enter Elijah and his very famous encounter with God in the cave of Mount Horeb. Without listening for direction from God, Elijah had run in fear for his life from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Along the way, the angel of the Lord attended to him. The angel of the Lord was likely a physical appearance of God, and possibly preincarnate Christ. God with us! Elijah journeyed further for many days and arrived at Mount Horeb.
There Elijah laid his head, and there God called him out. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asked, as if He didn’t know. It was a conversation starter. Elijah poured out his heart, complaining that even though he had been zealous for the Lord (jealous in some translations), the people of Israel had not heeded his pleas to turn to God. The prophet was in despair. Had all his work been for naught?
It was at this point that God had a word to speak to Elijah, and it would be a word of great comfort and purpose. (Stay tuned for next week’s devotion!) But first He needed Elijah’s undivided attention. How did He get it?
He asked Elijah to stand before Him.
And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke 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.12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. (1 Kings 19: 11-12, ESV)
Wind, earthquake, and fire! Can I just say, maybe I don’t really want God to strike me with lightning in order for me to hear His direction? Chaos swirled in the wind, earthquake, and fire, all signs of God’s almighty power. When God finally spoke, Elijah knew it. He had been waiting.
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12-13, ESV)
Now, granted, people in the Bible heard from God in many ways, and we can, too. They heard from him in visions, in a whirlwind (Job 38:1), in a voice that sounded like thunder (1 Samuel 2:10, Job 37:2, Psalm 104:7, John 12:29), and when playing music (2 Kings 3:15-16).
But in our noisy, busy modern lives, where activities and screens compete for our attention, perhaps we first need to take a cue from Elijah’s encounter with the Lord at Mount Horeb and quiet our souls long enough to hear God whisper.
Another translation for that low whisper is “a sound, a thin silence.” You might remember it as “a still small voice” from the King James translation. Whatever it was, it was delivered in quiet, silence, stillness.
What is the most effective way to hear from God?
Be still and listen for the low whisper.
I shut down the laptop. I went to bed early, asking God to forgive me and to speak to me. In the morning, I awoke with prayers on my lips after a full night’s sleep. I opened my Bible and listened, and God’s Word came to me fresh and anew.
What changes will you make this week so you can hear from God?
Be sure to continue with the Digging Deeper questions below for more ideas on how to hear from God.
Do you need help surrendering a situation to God? Click on one of these links to access a free printable of a Prayer of Surrender!
Digging into God’s Word: The Lord Speaks to Elijah
Soak in this rich passage of scripture. Let God speak into your life through His word to Elijah. The first couple of verses will help you remember last week’s devotion, where God came alongside Elijah in his despair.
1 Kings 19:7-13 (ESV)
7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
The LORD Speaks to Elijah
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke 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.12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Digging Deeper: Making Space to Hear from God
Enjoy this time with the Lord! Breathe. As you are able, spend time with God, reflecting on these questions or journaling your thoughts.
1. Consider whether your life is quiet enough to hear from God. If it is not, spend time in confession before the Lord.
2. In his book The Root of the Righteous, A.W. Tozer said, “God will speak to the hearts of those who prepare themselves to hear; and conversely, those who do not so prepare themselves will hear nothing even though the Word of God is falling upon their outer ears every Sunday” (2015 version, Moody, pp. 27-28). Ask God to show you what you might change and how you might prepare to hear from God, both during worship and at other times of the week.
3. God will speak through His Word, His people, and through divinely orchestrated circumstances, and His voice will always align with scripture. Which of these do you find easiest to listen to? How can you be sure that what you hear aligns with God’s Word in the Bible?
4. God is so very faithful. Just as He did not abandon Elijah in the prophet’s times of fear and doubt, so He will not abandon us. Thank God for His faithfulness in your life, and then freely approach His throne with any prayer requests you have. Is there an area of life for which you’d like to ask God for direction? Pray about that now, asking God to help you trust Him and to help you surrender to Him. If you like, you can use the prayer of surrender below, or print out your free printable of it here (8.5 X 11 version, half-page version).
Dear Lord, I come to you now, in need of your wisdom and direction. I bring to you this situation [name it, describe it]. . . . I open my hands and my heart to hear from you [open your hands]. Help me to hear your voice clearly. . . . What you have asked me to do, help me to do with faith and courage. What you have asked me to release, help me to release to you and not grab back as if I know better than you. I surrender to your will. Give my feet your direction and my will your will instead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
5. If you like, use these songs to worship and to encourage your seeking of God’s voice:
Word of God Speak (MercyMe)
God I Look to You (Francesca Battistelli)
Speak, O Lord (Keith & Kristyn Getty) This is one of my favorite modern hymns.
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To start this series from the beginning, click this link: Elijah: Fully Surrendered.
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