How To Know We’re Hearing From God: Part 1

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How To Know We’re Hearing From God: Part 1

This is the first of a four part series on How To Know We’re Hearing From God.

The idea of having conversations with God wasn’t a part of my religious upbringing.  Prayer was talking “at” God in appropriately reverent language about a limited set of topics.  God talked “at” me through the Bible and the pastor.  Pious Sunday School teachers could also be divine messengers, since angels don’t make house calls anymore.

But personal conversations with The Almighty?  What would we talk about, and how would I know I was hearing from God and not just making it up in my head?  Sure, God talked with some people in the Bible, like Moses (a very spiritual guy).  But me?

The way I learned to have conversations with God was by trying it.  On the possibility that He or She actually wanted to say something to me one-on-one, I decided to listen and see if I could hear anything.

The first thing I did was ask God to let me for certain I was hearing from Him/Her.  I truly didn’t know what to expect, but was curious to see if God would answer a direct question from me.  It took some time for me to become sensitive to God’s voice, but the first time I was certain God had spoken to me, I was both stunned and excited, and wanted it to happen again.  I’ve been having discussions with God ever since, though I don’t always hear Him speak to me.  But God doesn’t always hear from me either.

The good news is God wants to talk with us, and will make sure we know when we’re hearing from Him or Her, if we are willing to listen.  The messages can come in an infinite variety of ways, sometimes when we least expect it.  Here’s how my son, Gideon, heard from God for the first time, from my book Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God:

My oldest son, Gideon, loves playing basketball and is good at it.  Throughout his youth he played for a competitive club team.  His first year of high school, Gideon tried out for the freshman basketball team and made it.  This was the last year he was eligible for his competitive team, where he was a successful, respected player.  Who knew how he would do on the school team, facing new challenges, but his future was in his high school basketball team.

The problem was Gideon couldn’t play on both teams at once.  He had to choose between them. With a deadline staring him in the face, I told him to ask God to make the right choice clear.

My son had never sought God’s will before, and was skeptical, but gave it a try anyway.  Knowing him, I imagine he prayed something like, “God, help me know what to do,” like this would do any good.  I promised not to tell any of his friends.

For a week he said, “One day I want to play school ball, and the next day I want competitive ball.  I can’t make up my mind.”

I don’t think I had ever discussed seeking God’s direction through prayer with my son.  Gideon went to church because of his family and friends. Following Jesus didn’t cross his mind.  He would take his turn sometimes praying before meals, always starting with, “Thank you, dear God, for this wonderful day you have given us,” followed by ”Thanks for the food, Amen.”  It might have been the only prayer he ever prayed.

It was unusual for him to confide in me with a problem and ask for advice.  So I told him what I would do in his situation, and he was willing to try it, being out of other ideas.  I was careful not to give him a specific line to say, so he would pray in his own words.

Two things were bothering Gideon that made him try prayer.  First, he wanted two things very important to him, and he couldn’t have both at the same time.  Second, there was an internal daily tug-of-war inside him – a pendulum that swung one way, then the other, back and forth.  He couldn’t put the decision off, due to a deadline.  He asked God what to do as a desperate last-choice solution.

How did God make the right choice clear to my son?

He asked God to give him guidance, and he was willing to listen, even though the only way he could imagine God talking to someone was through an audible voice, like how Charlton Heston heard God say, “Moses!” in The Ten Commandments.  We want God to let us know in a real and tangible way.  We want God to shout, when often God whispers.

The day before the deadline, Gideon came to me with light in his eyes.  He said, “I know what to do!  I’m going with school ball.  I woke up this morning and the conflict was gone!”  To his utter shock, asking God for direction worked. Gideon asked because time was short, and this was a really important decision. He chose to engage God because it was deeply important in his life.

How did God answer his prayer?  Did he hear God speak aloud from heaven?  No, the internal conflict disappeared, leaving one desire instead of two.

How did he know the answer came from God?  The conflict hadn’t gone away through any other means.  Could he explain it?  No.  Gideon knew what to do now, because choice was no longer an issue.  He didn’t have to choose, because there was only one answer – kind of like voting when there’s only one candidate.

God had replaced conflict with peace.


About the Author:

I never have found a box that fits me, so I follow Jesus into the wild. My husband, Bud, and I are two life-long hippies, parents of four grown children, and live in Bartlett, TN, with six cats, two dogs, and no TV. I am a voracious reader and am passionate about prison ministry. I am also an advocate for middle-aged and senior women, and anyone who suffers from depression.

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