How I learned to hear Jesus' voice
When I first gave my life completely over to Jesus I was twenty-one-years-old. I was ravenous for anything I could learn about Jesus and would read my Bible for hours and hours. It was hard at first, but I started using some tools that made it easier. (I wrote about these tools in this article called How I'm learning to pay ridiculous attention to Jesus.)
In addition to reading the Bible, I also tried different ways to pray. I found that just sitting alone talking to God was boring to me; it was counter to my lifestyle to just sit quietly and concentrate and I would often fall asleep. Eventually I started writing out my prayers in a journal, and found that it was just easier for me to focus if I wrote things down.
As I made more Christian friends they would say these things like, "I had a word from the Lord," or "God has been speaking to me." And that seemed kinda strange. I got the "read, study and apply" method, but I didn't get what "hearing from God" was all about. How would I know if it was me or him? What if I got it wrong and then it got me into trouble? Even deeper than that, did I really believe that God was actually here with me?
PS. My buddy Rick Lawrence and I thought this was so important we recorded a podcast about this topic. You can see all of our episodes for Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus here.
So here's how I learned to know and trust in the voice of God...
Keep it simple. I started SUPER small. I didn't go with a big, huge, life-changing decision. I started out in gas stations and grocery stores; I would just ask God to show me if there was anything he wanted me to do and no matter what it was, I did it. And they were super small things, probably just to help me practice how to listen and obey. [Rick Lawrence's book Jesus-Centered Life is all about how you can do this in everyday life]
[Sign up for our free 7-Day Devotional and we'll send you free prompts to test this out with Jesus]
Silence your voice. I always silenced my own voice. To do this, I would simply ask Jesus to please silence my voice and I trusted that he could do that.
Take authority. More recently I've also started audibly taking authority in the name of Jesus over my prayer time. Here's what that looks like: I say aloud. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I take authority over my thoughts and mind." (I admit it felt weird at first, but the more I learned about Satan, the more I've found myself doing this.)
[Rick Lawrence wrote a FANTASTIC book on this topic. If the idea of satan and demons is sort of new to you, I highly encourage reading this book. Get it here.]
The fruit of the Spirit is evidence. Galatians 5:22-23 has a list of things the Holy Spirit brings into our lives, including love joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. If he's speaking to me, then I should experience one or more of these things, right? So this is what I worked out with Jesus early on: I asked him to please make me anxious if I'm not hearing his voice or if someone else told me something that isn't from him. On the flip side, I asked that if it his voice to please give me a feeling of peace that washes over me from head to toe. And he has faithfully done this for me and it's made me more confident in telling the difference between his voice and my voice.
Look for confirmation. If it's a really big decision or direction and I'm just struggling to make sure it's from God, here's a couple things I can do. One, I ask Jesus to bring a sign of confirmation. Two, I follow down the path of what he's asking and if doors fly open and it's natural that means Jesus is in it. If I have to push to make everything work and doors keep slamming in my face I get back into my prayer position.
Keep track of things in a journal. I love how God surprises me and changes things I didn't see coming, and also when he follows through on his promises. I like to circle these in my journal. [Here's a good one]
Here's what's happened when I started hearing from God
I learned that he had different ideas than I did about my life. I grew in my faith and strength because I wasn't alone anymore. When he is constantly faithful to talk to me when I listen to him, it grows my confidence in what we are doing together, and gives me a new boldness with others. I am SUPER devoted and passionate about helping people live a life that is living and breathing Jesus everyday. The team here at Jesus-Centered Life has tons of great ways to help you do that, check them out.