Discovering the Sacred Echo
Can't hear God? Try these 8 ways to listen for his voice.
By Margaret Feinberg
When God really wants to get your attention, He doesn't just say something once. He echoes. The same scripture, idea, or theme will reappear until you can't help but wonder if a greater something, or Someone, is at work.
The persistent voice of God in our lives--the sacred echo--is available if we take time to slow down and really listen. But do you begin to hear God's voice in your life? Consider these simple steps for getting started.
Margaret Feinberg is the author of "The Sacred Echo," "The Organic God," and "God Whispers: Learning to Hear His Voice."
Take Time to Seek God
The first step is to take time to seek God. What does it look like to seek Him? Well, King David displayed his search for God in his life, his leadership, and even the songs he wrote. In Psalm 63, he wrote, "Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
So how can you seek God? Through prayer--which is simply talking to God. Spend time letting God know your concerns, your questions, your doubts. Ask God to speak to you. At the same time, don't forget to take time to thank God for who He is and all that He has done.
Be Honest, Be Dependent
In our modern world, it's easy to think you can do things on your own. But if you want to begin hearing God's voice, you need to seek Him and recognize your dependence on Him.
That means being honest with Him. Admit your need for Him. Confess your disappointment with Him. Ask Him to give you ears to hear and eyes to see the ways in which He is speaking. And ask Him for the ability to discern His voice apart from your own.
Hear God in Scripture
Next, it's essential to spend time in scripture. The Bible is like God's megaphone for His people. That's why Hebrews 4:12-13 describes the Word of God as "living" and "active." If you want to hear God's voice in every aspect of your life, then you need to spend time in the Word, because scripture provides balance, confirmation and direction.
Many times a scripture will be an actual sacred echo. For example, you may read Matthew 5, which says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" and find a much needed reminder on the attitude you need to deal with a conflict in your life. God may use scripture to expose an area of sin, compel you to give or serve, or confirm something He's already spoken to your heart.
Ask God Questions
As you're spending time in the Bible, consider prayerfully asking God questions. It may seem simple, but asking God a question implies humility and dependency. Ask God to give you insight. Ask Him to reveal things that are hidden. Ask Him to show you how to pray. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask and keep asking.
You may even want to write down small question marks next to scriptures that you don't understand. These portions can be explored later in commentaries and in discussions with members of your spiritual community.
Be Quiet, and Listen
As you're spending time in scripture and asking God questions, it's essential to take time to listen.
You may find that a certain issue or person keeps coming to your mind. Spend time praying about that situation and individual. Or you may find that a verse or passage applies perfectly to the circumstances in your life. Thank God for the His wisdom. Or you may feel compelled to drop a note or call someone out of the blue. Be sure to follow through on these nudges. You may discover that God is speaking to you--convicting, revealing, exhorting, and communicating with you!
Practice Hearing the Echoes
After you've tried these things, if you still find yourself struggling to hear God's voice, try some very practical steps.
Find a quiet place where you can unplug from the busyness of the day. You may discover that the challenge of Psalm 46:10 to "Be still, and know that I am God" takes practice.
In addition, you may find distractions of to-do's filling your mind. Keep a pen and pad of paper nearby to write those things down as they flutter through your mind. Then intentionally return to the time of stillness.
Finally, you may discover that spending more time in worship--whether through music or scripture read aloud--can be a helpful tool to drawing your focus to God and what He has for you.
How to Know if it's God
As you begin to hear things, you may find yourself wondering, "Was that God or not?" That's why the scripture is so important. If you feel something that goes against God's commands, then it isn't from Him. Remember that He's in the business of loving and redeeming mankind.
Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the echo:
- Does what I heard line up with the vision God has for my life?
- Does what I heard line up with the wise counsel in my life?
- Does what I heard leave me with a sense of peace?
- Is what I heard blanketed with love?
Be Patient-Speak, Listen, and Wait
Along the journey of hearing from God, don't lose heart or patience. Developing any spiritual discipline takes time. It requires a measure of hard work and waiting. Remember that prayer has three parts: speaking, listening, and waiting. Take time with each one.
As Philippians 4:6 encourages, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God." When you do, you may be surprised and delighted that God is speaking to you more than you ever imagined.