“And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, ESV)
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11 ESV).
I’ve been writing about prayer, which is far more than just telling God what we want him to do for us. The Bible teaches us that we are to pray in the Spirit (see Ephesians 6:18). Praying in the Spirit is two-way communication with God. Yes, we share with God what’s on our hearts, but we also ask him what’s on his heart and what he wants us to pray.
In essence, to pray in the Spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers.
But how does one “hear” the voice of God? Most people have never heard the audible voice of God, but many Christians do sense God’s communication in a variety of ways. I often hear people say, “I feel the Lord is saying…” Others will say, “I heard a word from the Lord…” Some will say, “I see a picture of…” And still others prefer the phrase, “The Lord put a burden on my heart for…”
One of the ways God spoke to people in the Bible was through the “low whisper” of 1 Kings 19:12 (older English Bibles translated that as the “still small voice,” which may be a more familiar phrase to some of you). The low whisper of the Holy Spirit is the voice of God speaking in your thoughts. It might come as a surprise to find out that not every thought that goes through your mind is your thought. In fact, there are four voices influencing or speaking thoughts in our minds:
- The flesh (our fallen, sin-twisted human nature)
- The world (society, media, educational institutions, etc.)
- The devil (yes, evil spirits are real)
- God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit present in those who’ve been born again)
The first three voices speak lies that lead to slavery and death. But God’s voice is the voice of truth that leads to life and freedom. If we’re going to pray in the Spirit and have two-way conversation with God, we need to learn to discern his voice and declutter our minds from the distractions of the first three voices.
Psalm 119:11 gives what I believe is the most important tip to discerning the Holy Spirit’s voice:
Put God’s words into your heart.
What am I allowing into my mind? If I’m filling my head and my heart with trash from Netflix, garbage music, explicit movies, lies from social media, and misinformation from the news, then all of those voices will be screaming in my thoughts, making it difficult to hear God’s low whisper. But if I am filling my heart with Scripture, uplifting music, and wholesome entertainment that reinforces biblical values, my mind will be a far more peaceful place and it will be easier to discern God’s voice. Someone once asked me why he should read the Bible when he doesn’t remember or understand most of it. I replied that the Holy Spirit can’t use what isn’t there. When we plant God’s words into our hearts, the Spirit can use it later to produce fruit in our prayers. It’s amazing to me how often a Bible verse pops into my head when I’m in prayer or conversation with someone. I don’t usually remember the reference, but the words are there to be spoken anew by the Holy Spirit. They’ve been stored up in my heart waiting for him to bring them to life in my thoughts.
If you want to learn to recognize God’s low whisper in your thoughts, the best thing you can do is fill your life with God’s words through worship services, reading the Bible and devotional books, listening to and singing worshipful songs, and having spiritual conversations and praying with brothers and sisters in Christ.