How to Discern God’s Voice

How to Discern God’s Voice
Photo by Michael Kroul / Unsplash
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” — Jude 20-21 (ESV)

Nothing is more fundamental to spiritual life than prayer. Prayer is spiritually breathing the breath of the Holy Spirit in our souls. This is why Jude tells us to “pray in the Holy Spirit” and “keep yourselves in the love of God.” But what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? That was the subject of last week’s post. To summarize, praying in the Spirit is two-way communication with God, sharing with him what’s on our heart and asking him what’s on his heart for us.

In essence, to pray in the Spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers.

This assumes two things. First, that God still speaks to us today. And second, that we can recognize his voice. Many will scoff at those assumptions (like some of the most popular Christian podcasters, thinkers, and pastors today). Let me put all my cards on the table. Given what we read in the Bible about how God interacted with people then, and given that Christians believe God is a personal being with whom we can have a relationship, I think we should be more surprised to hear that God doesn’t speak than to hear that he does. By default, our assumption should be that God can, does, and will speak to us.

What does that look like? Very few people hear the audible voice of God. Yet, he speaks, and does so in a variety of ways. In the book, The Five Stones, authors Foye Belyea and Sam Huggard list several.

We can hear the Holy Spirit speak to us

  • through the Bible
  • through thoughts he whispers into our hearts and minds (the “still small voice”)
  • through the counsel of other Christians
  • by seeing mental images or pictures when we are praying
  • through conviction
  • through a sense or feeling
  • through creation
  • through music and art
  • through a sermon
  • through a worship experience

The list could go on. One very common way the Spirit speaks, although we may not always recognize it, is through putting the name or face of another person suddenly into our thoughts, impressed upon our hearts. We may think it was coincidence that they came to mind, but it could also be that God brought them to mind so we would pray for them. The next time someone pops into your head out of the blue, pause and ask the Lord what he wants you to pray for that person. Listen, and if more thoughts come to mind, pray through them. If nothing else is forthcoming, pray for them anyway (maybe turn to Ephesians 3:14-21 to guide your prayer). Even if it was a coincidence, it never hurts to pray for someone!

I could write more, but I need to wrap this up. Let me do that with one final, and very important, note about discerning God’s voice.

God never puts us down. He always calls us up.

Read and memorize Romans 8:1. If you ever hear thoughts that are condemning, insulting, degrading, discouraging, or devaluing, those are not from God. Even when God is challenging, convicting, and disciplining us, he always calls us up to something better. He never puts us down. Ever.