There’s nothing like God communicating with us. It beats everything. When I come home from church and I know I’ve heard from him, it gives me a recharge to my batteries like nothing else. I guess it’s a bit like being away from home and getting a letter from your loved one. It is better than hearing a great talk – though it’s one of my favourite ways to hear from him as I listen – and that sense of connection with him is better than any wonderful song, though that says a lot, because I love to connect with God as I listen to our wonderful musicians play and sing worship. When we stop talking, or singing, and we just listen, it’s wonderful what God can do.
I say just listen, but actually I’m finding lately that what activates hearing from God is starting a conversation with him. Trying to blank my mind is no good – it blanks it – while God’s trying to fill it!
It turns out that God is maybe not that interested in making big pronouncements from on high. Because I seem to hear from him more easily when I engage with him and I do that best by dialogue. Talking at him doesn’t work – it needs to be real dialogue – saying (thinking) something and actually listening for an answer, thinking about it, then responding back to God.
We are all on this journey of discovering that takes faith. It’s not (normally) an audible voice of God. From a technical point of view, I’m aware that hearing is an auditory event and a neurological event, and from what I can tell, when most people ‘hear’ from God they are sensing it as a neurological ‘hearing’, they are not sensing it as sound from somewhere. I have never yet literally heard God’s voice – as in, looking around wondering who said that (but people in the Bible did, and I’ve met real,live people who have experienced just that). But I have heard everything but. As in, it wasn’t through my ears, but my brain processed it as a heard thing. It was as surprising and as clear as day, and he said ‘Look up!’ On that occasion it was unmissable, but I still needed to believe that it just happened, not dismiss it. I confess I sort of acknowledged it, then turned back to what I had been doing, thinking, ‘funny…that’s nice’. It didn’t occur to me God wanted dialogue.
That was years ago, and I spent a lot of time not taking any notice of that good advice (or rather, command). But it’s been my favourite subject matter since then, to find out how we can engage with God.
It’s so important not to be prescriptive with others, or ourselves, about how hearing from God ‘should’ be done. We are multi-faceted human beings, created for a relationship with a God who exceeds our understanding.
But today as the worship band played I had a number of scenarios play out in my imagination. and I asked God about them, and felt that I heard back. I’ll call that a conversation.
Jesus said, ‘My sheep know my voice’.
We hear a friend talking about something, and a phrase stands out. Almost like watching a movie and realising a character has spoken the key theme – it registers in your brain with extra importance. That’s what it’s often like.
It may be in reading the Bible – a word or a phrase lodges in your brain as if it were highlighted.
Through the world around us. God made people and he made the natural world. He often speaks to us in visual parables as well, if we’re listening. We see a bridge over a street and something registers in us that later we find we recall, perhaps as we consider our role between two organisations. God uses circumstances and ‘coincidences’ in a similar way to grab our attention.
I’m struck that believing in God is much more concrete an experience and more fun that I ever imagined when I was a teenager.
Today I felt like God was equipping me for something, and soon he gave me the opportunity to join up with other people praying for someone’s torn calf muscle to be healed. By then I felt full of confidence in God. As we commanded the pain to leave and the calf to be healed, to the man’s delight and surprise, the pain went down from a 10 to a 5, and where he had not been able to even put his foot to the floor, he was able to put partial weight on it by the time we stopped praying, so we prayed that Jesus would continue to mend it as he rested overnight. It’s totally outrageous from a human point of view, of course, because people alone cannot heal by words. But we’re not alone. What a great God.