When I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart at age 15, an immediate hunger to know God sprang up within my spirit. I first attempted to satisfy this desire by devouring the Bible. However, within weeks it was obvious to me that the people in the Bible knew God through hearing Him speak to them and seeing visions of Him. God was their Friend. They walked and talked with Him. Every day, Adam and Eve heard God's voice and lived out of it. What an astounding lifestyle! From Genesis to Revelation, people heard God's voice and saw visions. I wanted that, too! What I didn't know at the time was that this hunger to know God had been placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit, and that God fully intended to satisfy this passion.
As time went on, I devoted myself to reading and memorizing Scripture. I went to Bible college. I became an ordained pastor. I prayed and fasted. I obeyed the Lord’s commands to the best of my ability. And I closely questioned people who professed to hear from God, since I still didn’t know what His voice sounded like. Their favorite answer seemed to be, “You know that you know that you know.” Well, that didn’t help me because I didn’t know, and that is why I was asking them! I could not hear Him, see Him, or feel Him, and yet I was taught and believed that I had a relationship with Him. If I were married to someone I could not hear, see, or feel, I would be quite disappointed in my marriage relationship! It appeared to me that my “relationship” with Jesus was rather thin. It sure seemed more like a theology about Jesus than a relationship with Him.
As I began my 11th year as a Christian, I had a “thought come to me” that I should set aside the entire year, and focus intently on learning to hear the voice of God. Well, I was ready to do this, because by this time I had noticed from John 5:19-20,30 that Jesus was anointed because He only did what He heard and saw His Father doing. I wanted desperately to be anointed, and so I was willing to spend an entire year focused on learning to hear and to see. Obviously it was the Lord telling me to set aside this time to learn to hear His voice, but at this point in my life, I had not yet identified God’s voice as spontaneous thoughts that light upon my mind as my heart is quiet before the Lord.
Focused effort meant that all my Bible study was on learning to hear and see. All the books I read were on prayer. All the conferences I went to were on prayer, and some were way outside of my theological traditions. I was willing to seek out those who were different from me because my theological tradition said God no longer spoke or gave dreams or visions in this dispensation, and my heart had rejected that notion as being false. All my experimentation was on learning to hear and see. All my preaching was on prayer and hearing and seeing. That year, 1979, I had my breakthrough.
Through a full year of my life devoted to focused prayer and research, the Lord taught me four simple keys that unlocked the ability for me to discern the voice of God within me. They would have to be simple, because the Bible says if we want to enter the Kingdom we must become as little children. So hearing God’s voice cannot be anything more difficult than an 8-year-old can do! I had made it so much harder. Now I was being stretched because I discovered it was so easy.
Very simply stated, the four keys to hearing God’s voice are:
- Stillness: Quiet yourself so you can hear God’s voice.
- Vision: Look for vision as you pray.
- Spontaneity: Recognize God’s voice as spontaneous thoughts that light upon your mind.
- Journaling: Write down that flow of thoughts and pictures.
Now, whenever I need or want to hear from God, I can—as long as I use all four of these keys. I have traveled worldwide teaching what I have learned, and the four keys have worked in every culture and every circumstance and every age group. God’s people can recognize His voice, just as He promised, and YOU can hear His voice!
God introduced me to these four keys by awakening me early in the morning with an actual loud voice in my head that said, “Get up, I want to teach you how to hear My voice.” When I arrived at my office, the Lord took me to Habakkuk 2:1-3:
I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.
These four elements—becoming still, using vision, tuning to spontaneity, and journaling—are the elements used by the prophet Habakkuk to hear the voice of God. I believe this is a divinely ordained pattern that assists us in our approach to God and helps lift us to the level of the Spirit. Until I combined all four of these elements in my devotional life, I was not able to discern God’s voice and commune with Him. I often had become frustrated and uncertain about what God really wanted. These FOUR elements truly have transformed my devotional life. In my earlier Christian life, I had stopped singing the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” because I never had sweet hours of prayer. Now I find that I can enjoy dialoguing with God by the hour and leave fully charged with His life and love. I have discovered that almost everyone I teach will hear and recognize God’s voice if he or she will use all four elements at the same time!
Creating a desire within for more of what God has to tell you and to give you is the beginning of a new way of thinking, living, and believing. For instance, when Oral Roberts was asked, “How do I go about learning to hear God speak to me?” he replied, “Wanting it badly enough to work on it.” You will not learn much about the spiritual world until you take time to be quiet and look within. Relating to the spiritual world is complex and takes as much time and effort as relating to the physical world. Learning to walk in the spiritual world is similar to learning to walk physically. There will be stumbling, falling, and getting back up again. Do you have a passion to live and walk by the Spirit?