The Christian life is a pursue of a relationship with the Lord. Our God listens and talks to us. We need to learn how to listen to Him and discern His voice. Here are 25 great ways to do that.
1. Go to the Bible to learn to discern God’s voice.
The Bible is the Word of God, His revelation to us, breathed out by His Holy Spirit through human authors (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The first step you need to take is to learn how to identify the true voice of God as He communicated through Scripture. To be able to identify the true voice of God, you need to read the Bible. Then, if what you’ve heard goes against what the Bible teaches, you will know that it wasn’t the voice of the Lord (John 10:4-5,7-8,14).
2. Pray and ask God to speak to you through His Word.
Before you read the Bible, begin with prayer. You need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to properly approach the Word of the Lord. Ask Him to open your eyes and your heart so you can hear His own voice (Psalm 119:18). Here’s a sample prayer you can use:
Thank You for Your Word.
Thank You for allowing me to learn more about You and Your will.
Help me hear the small voice of the Holy Spirit.
Help me understand the message that You, o Lord, have for me, and help me put it into practice in my life.
Give me wisdom to discern, a humble heart to accept, and courage to do Your will.
In the name of Jesus, I pray,
3. Read a Bible passage slowly, paying attention to what Scripture is teaching you.
Let the Spirit of God talk to you through the biblical text (John 14:26). You can use the following questions to help you identify the key ideas in the text:
- Is there something that you need to learn about the character of God (the Father, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit)?
- Is there something that you need to learn about yourself, as one of God’s children?
- Is there a sin that you need to confess and repent?
- Is there a command that you need to obey?
- Is there something that you need to change in your life?
- Is there a good example that you need to imitate, or a bad example that you need to avoid?
- Is there a promise that applies to you that you need to be aware of?
4. Be quiet for a few minutes and let God speak to you.
Silence the inner voices (Lamentations 3:26) and let God search your heart (Psalm 139:23-24). Let the small voice of the Holy Spirit show you what you need to learn and what you need to change in your life. Let that truth sink in.
5. Pay attention to anything that God brings to your mind while you listen to hear His voice.
It may be a Bible verse, a song, a message from a sermon, an impression, a piece of advice that you’ve heard before. First, write it down, so you don’t forget it. Then, pray and meditate on it throughout the day (Psalm 19:14).
6. Ask God to confirm what you heard.
Pay attention so you can hear the confirmation. If you’re seeking God’s guidance regarding an important decision in your life, make sure that you’ve understood God’s message correctly before you take action (Proverbs 16:1).
7. Seek godly counsel to guide you.
Your mentor or pastor can help you make sure you understood God’s message correctly, and they can give you suggestions on how to put it into practice (Proverbs 12:15). They can also help you discern if what you heard was a legitimate message from God or if that was your own thoughts.
8. Make sure you want to hear the voice of God for the right reasons.
Don’t do it for the wrong motives. Don’t seek God’s voice only to validate your own understanding of a situation or your own authority over other people. On the contrary, be ready to be confronted, challenged, and be humble about it (Romans 12:2). God wants to correct us and use us to serve others, not the other way around.
9. Whenever God speaks to you, be humble about it.
Remember that God is not obligated to do anything for us. Whatever He does, it is out of love and grace. So, don’t think that you deserve any attention from Him. Also, it doesn’t make you more special than anyone else. Keep yourself humble, and God will continue speaking to you (James 4:6; Galatians 6:3).
10. Remember that God can speak to you in many ways.
The best way to listen to God’s voice is through the Bible, but God can speak to you in different ways. Maybe you’re expecting an audible voice, but He may talk to you through a gentle whisper in your mind, through other people (even if they don’t realize it), through books, music, sermons, etc.
11. Ask God to help you follow what you learned from His Word.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy. We need the Holy Spirit to help us put God’s Word into practice in our life (John 14:26). So, ask Him for His help. You can use this template:
Thank you for Your Word and for what I learned from it.
Thank you for speaking to me and showing me what you want me to do.
I need your help. I cannot do it by myself.
May Your Holy Spirit give me ____________ (courage/patience/wisdom/love/etc) so I can _____________ (what you need to do).
Guide me according to Your will and protect me.
I pray that ____________ (doing what you need to do) will bring glory to Your Holy Name.
In the name of Jesus, I pray,
12. Learn to discern whether it was God’s voice, someone else’s, or your imagination.
Our eagerness or inexperience may trick us into thinking that we’ve heard the voice of God when it wasn’t so. That’s why you need to distinguish the desires of your heart and God’s desire for your life. Therefore, you need to learn more about God and His will from the Bible – He won’t speak something to us that doesn’t agree with Scripture. The more you learn, the more you can discern (Hebrews 5:14).
13. Study the Bible to get to know God better.
The Bible tells us that Christ Jesus is the good shepherd. In John chapter 10, He compared Himself to a shepherd of the sheep, and He said that His own sheep knows His voice (John 10:4-5,7-8,14). That is how we learn to distinguish Jesus’s voice: spending time with Him and listening to Him daily through Bible study and prayer time (Romans 15:4). The spiritual practice of speaking and hearing must be signs of an intimate relationship with the Lord.
14. Allocate time for God in your daily routine.
Prayer, quiet time with God, Bible study, and devotional reading – all these things need to be part of your daily routine. Reserve a time every single day that you will dedicate to your relationship with the Lord so you can know Him better (Psalm 1:2).
15. Don’t use the Bible like a Magic 8 Ball.
Don’t expect to find God’s answer to your questions by randomly opening your Bible and reading a verse. That’s counting on fortune, not God’s voice. Seek an intimate relationship with God, and the Spirit of Truth will guide you (John 16:13; Psalm 32:8).
16. Don’t expect God to speak to you the way you want Him to.
Pay attention to recognizing the words of God, whether they come from a gentle whisper in your mind or other sources, like your pastor’s sermon, your daily Bible reading, a counsel from a godly mentor, etc. Sometimes, the way God speaks catches us by surprise, so be attentive to His voice.
17. Don’t pursue the experience of hearing God’s voice by itself, but seek
Him instead, and you will hear Him.
During Jesus’s ministry on earth, many people followed Him to gain something from Him, not because of Him (John 6:26). Don’t make the same mistake! Seek Him with the genuine desire to know Him. Seek Him for who He is, and you will hear His voice, whatever way He chooses to speak to you (Proverbs 3:5-6).
18. Seek God’s presence so you can hear Him better.
In our chaotic daily lives, sometimes we have a hard time hearing God’s small voice. The difficult part is to seek God first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). If we make Him our priority and focus on spending time with Him, our spiritual ears will be able to hear Him much better.
19. Don’t assume God is silent just because He didn’t speak the way you expected Him to.
For example, maybe you were expecting Him to talk to you in an audible voice, but God did speak to you through your pastor’s sermon. But you didn’t hear because you weren’t paying attention. That doesn’t mean that the Lord is silent, but you were distracted by your problems, your pending tasks, or other little things. So, pay attention. Maybe He is not silent at all.
20. Acknowledge the silence of God and continue seeking Him.
Sometimes God is indeed silent. Maybe it isn’t time to give you an answer yet. Or, perhaps He is speaking, but you cannot hear Him. No matter whether God is indeed silent (Matthew 27:46) or it is you who isn’t listening well, this is the very thing you need to do: keep on seeking Him (Luke 18:1-8; 1 Chronicles 16:11).
21. Listen to God’s voice in your circumstances.
Sometimes we focus too much on our situations, and we say that God is silent because we cannot hear Him. However, we need to learn to notice His voice through what He is doing in our lives. Sometimes the answer to our prayers comes through events instead of actual words (Acts 16:6-7).
22. When God speaks to you, you must respond.
The story of Samuel (1 Samuel 3) reminds us that when God speaks, He wants a response from us. So, it is a good idea to find a way to put God’s words into action. He wants to change us, not only talk to us.
23. When God speaks to you, you must obey.
If it is an imperative from the New Testament directed at all Christians, then do it. If it is from the Old Testament, make sure to double-check with your church’s pastor or Bible teacher if it is still valid for us (Luke 11:28; John 14:15).
24. Share what you’ve heard from God with others.
You can share your conversations with God with a prayer partner, with your pastor, and, if he agrees, with your church. Listening to testimony about God answering prayers strengthens the community’s faith, too (Psalm 66:16).
25. Be grateful for Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, who enabled us to listen to the Father.
Christ Jesus is the Living Word of God (John 1:1,14). He is the answer to our most urgent prayer: the prayer for forgiveness of our sin so we can have access to God. The good news is that thanks to the blood of Jesus, this is within our reach, by God’s grace through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The important truth is that God spoke to all of us through His Son and through Scripture. Be grateful that, because of Jesus, you were also given access to the Father and a hearing heart through the Holy Spirit’s presence in you.
The bottom line is that God’s purpose for our lives is not only to have eternal life and enjoy the peace of God but also to have a relationship with Him right now. Our Good Father wants us to enjoy His steadfast love and have ongoing conversations with Him through prayer and the Bible. So, we need to take our own initiative and seek Him with all our hearts.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.