As daughters of God, we can hear God’s voice, because He promised in His word that, “he who is of God hears God’s words” (John 8:47). Though it could be difficult to recognize when God speaks to us, with the noise coming in from everywhere. Noise from other people’s opinions, from culture and tradition, and noise of social media trying to push us in a certain direction. Let us not forget also the noise of our own desires, thoughts, and feelings. Information is literally coming from all sides, hemming us in, causing confusion in our minds.
What should we listen to? Where do we go for advice about your daily struggles? If only you could hear God’s voice, you would know what to do. How do you do that? In which ways can you hear God’s voice? What are the manifestations of God’s voice? How do you experience hearing God’s voice?
How do you discern when God speaks to us?
God wants us to hear His voice to enable us to have a deeper relationship with Him, increase our faith, provide guidance and direction, and do His will. By allowing ourselves to hear His voice, God can direct us anywhere He wants us to go and in His will. God speaks in several ways; He isn’t limited to one manifestation of His voice.
Everyone can experience the various manifestations of God’s voice; it is not for a particular person. Once you are His child, have a personal relationship with Him, and listen to Him, He will manifest Himself and speak to you.
Is there something we should do to recognize when God speaks? Yes. We must be available and listen actively. Being too busy or passive doesn’t help us discern when God speaks to us. Hearing alone is also not enough. You need to pay attention to what He says, believe it, and then act on it. Putting your faith into action. That is what it takes to live based on recognizing when God speaks and the various manifestations it may come to us.
10 manifestations of God’s voice:
You can recognize when God speaks to you by paying attention to and learning to recognize God’s voice. We can even hear God’s voice literally, though that may not happen often. We can discern God speaking to you in various ways, and learn to know the characteristics of God’s voice.
These are ten manifestations of God speaking to us:
- A loud audible voice
- A still small voice
- Inner conviction
- His written Word
- His spoken Word
- Other Christians
(1) Loud audible voice
This is when we hear God’s voice literally. I experienced this once during a fasting period with our church. I did a Daniel’s fasting: light meals only, no sugar, no meat. During the fasting period, we had a compulsory dinner, where someone shared a birthday cake with a sugary icing (which I love!). I took a bite, ate it, and watched the remaining piece on my plate and saw the tempting icing when I remembered I was doing a Daniel’s fast and was not supposed to eat sugar. Contemplating for some time, I finally took the cake and took another bite, including the attractive icing. What happened then still gives me the chills. I literally heard a loud voice behind me saying, “it is a sin”. I heard it! And I knew I had been wrong. I dropped the cake instantly. I wondered how eating a cake could be a sin. God made me know it was not the cake itself, but because I had made a covenant with God that I would not eat sugar, and I broke that covenant. I felt so bad.
(2) Still small inner voice
If you want to know how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, pay attention to a still, small, and gentle, inner voice. That is how God speaks through His Holy Spirit. You might have experienced this many times, and even acted on it, whether or not you are aware of it. It feels like instinctively knowing what to do or what not to do. You won’t hear God’s voice literally, but you recognize it in your heart, within your spirit.
(3) Inner conviction
This is when God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit (Romans 9:1). It is another manifestation of the voice of the Holy Spirit. This voice convicts of sin. We may feel this each time we say or do something wrong (or are about to do). God’s voice sparks our inner conviction. We could also have an inner conviction prompting us to do something, or rather, not. God leads with His Spirit through our spirit, by an inner conviction.
(4) His written Word (bible)
We can recognize God speaking to us through His Word. He speaks through His general Word (Logos), the Bible. And sometimes God speaks directly and specifically to our situation, through a specific part in His written word (Rhema). It is up to us to recognize this. A portion of His Word can appear completely new (even if read many times already) and fit exactly in our situation, or a particular verse could even seem to light up in the Bible. That is when He makes that verse a revealing insight to us. God often speaks to you through His written Word when you need to hear from God.
(5) His spoken word (preaching)
Another way God speaks to us is through the spoken Word, such as preaching. A full sermon or a specific portion can just click in us and seems to be for us only. This is when God speaks directly to you through a sermon. We can recognize God’s voice through preaching, when we attentively pay attention to hear Him speak. I remember a testimony of a man in our church, struggling to get baptized or not. During a church service, the pastor suddenly deviated from his sermon and spoke about getting baptized. Instantly, the man was convinced and after service he made the arrangements to get baptized. He recognized God speaking through the preaching, and he got clarity to get finally baptized.
How do you know when God is speaking to you in a dream? The Bible has many examples of God speaking through dreams; an example is Joseph. Dreams can warn us or provide information. Many Muslims become born again through dreams. They see Jesus in their dreams. God speaks to them in their dreams when there is no other way for them to hear God’s voice. God may have directed you through dreams, but perhaps you didn’t recognize it. When you have a dream which confuses you, warns you, or seems to lead you, you can pray in the morning and ask God to clarify the dream to you. That is the best way to know when God is speaking to you in a dream.
God also speaks through visions. For example, in Acts 18:9-10, God speaks to Paul in a vision. God instructs Paul not to be afraid but to speak boldly and assures him He will protect him. Because of this vision, Paul continued preaching at that specific place for one and a half years.
(8) Through worship
God speaks directly to your heart during worship. We can open our hearts and will recognize God speaking to us. A specific phrase in a song or the tune itself could speak to our hearts and minds. For example, when you are afraid to take a step at your workplace, fear seems to paralyze you, and you hear the song “be bold” during worship in church. When you hear the words, they just click in your heart: “be bold, be strong, for the Lord Your God is with you”. And instantly, you receive the courage to do what you must do.
We can hear God speaking to us when we pray, if we listen attentively to Him and our minds are not preoccupied with our prayer requests and other thoughts. Prayer is a two-way conversation. We speak, God listens. God speaks, we listen. Let’s say you need to decide in a difficult situation and don’t know what to do. The decision will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of your life. You take it to God in prayer and ask Him to help you. While you lay your situation in His hands, you get a strong conviction of what to do. That happens when God speaks to your heart and provides confidence in what to do. “Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it’, whenever you turn to the right hand, or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21).
(10) Through other Christians
We can also recognize God speaking to us through other Christians and sometimes even through unbelievers. An example of hearing God speak through others is when someone gives you a word exactly befitting your situation or an encouragement. People around you can also warn you or provide guidance. In all of this, it is God who speaks through them. I remember a young lady who my husband and I interviewed for a job vacancy. My husband got a powerful impression of talking to the girl and told her to “let go”. He did not know what it was about, but immediately the girl gripped on to what my husband said and told us what she was struggling with. With the encouragement my husband gave her, she now knew what to do. She would “let go”.
God isn’t limited to our ways of communication
God may use any means to speak to us. He isn’t limited to your communication ways. If He wishes, He could use your communication channels though. Years back, when our company was in rough water, and my husband and I didn’t know what to do anymore, we started receiving emails in our corporate email inbox. An unknown sender (bearing a foreign name) sent us daily encouraging emails. During the tougher days, we would get more emails. One of those encouragements that I will never forget was: “God can make greatness out of a great mess”. Well, yes, we were in a great mess! The message spoken through the email provided us with the strength to go on.
How can you know if it is God’s voice and not another voice?
Can we be sure that it is God speaking and not the enemy or our own voice? If we listen to the wrong voice, we will make the wrong decisions and end up in a mess.
There are two things we should check when discerning whether it is God’s voice, our own voice, or the voice of the enemy. What we hear should:
- Be biblical.
- Give inner peace.
When we hear a voice speaking to us, we must be able to:
- Distinguish the enemy: God will say nothing contrary to His word. We must compare whatever we hear with the Word of God.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.”1 John 4:1 (NKJV)
- Distinguish our flesh: your flesh also has a voice. Check what you are hearing and be honest. Then you will know the difference between your own desires and flesh, and God’s voice.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)
B) Inner peace
What we hear should give us inner peace, even if what we hear is contrary to our circumstance. This is the confident assurance (unwavering belief) that we feel or have in God and His word about what we have prayed for, even though outside circumstances or situations may show the opposite. Whereas we should feel restless in our spirit based on circumstances, we feel rather calm within us. That is inner peace and means it is God speaking to us. If it doesn’t give us peace, it is not from God.
“Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”John 14:27 (NKJV)
God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thought are not our thoughts. Similarly, God’s voice is not our voice. God manifests His voice in ways He chooses. The most important thing is that He lets us hear His voice. We must make ourselves available, and we will hear Him say:
“this is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand, or whenever you turn to the left.”Isaiah 30:21b (NKJV)
I am grateful, Lord, that I am Your daughter. You gave me ears to hear, a heart to understand Your voice, and wisdom to know when you are speaking to me. Thank You for speaking to me through various manifestations of Your voice. Help me recognize clearly Your voice and to acknowledge that it is You speaking to me.
I open my ears and heart, Lord, to hear You and discern Your voice among the many other voices around me. I place Your voice above the voice of others and above my own voice. Thank You for manifesting Yourself in so many ways to me. I am grateful.
Help me, Lord, teach me Your ways and guide me with Your voice. I can’t live without hearing Your voice. Let me understand Your ways, Lord, speak to me. I want to know You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
I appreciate your well thought out teaching on the manifestations of God’s voice and I appreciate you insight on how to know if one is hearing God’s voice.
I use James 3:17 to discern God’s voice, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, free from hypocrisy.”
I’m so thankful that He speaks to us and gently leads us in the way that we should go.
And that’s a great verse to use as your guide to discern the voice of God. Truly the type of wisdom determines whether it is of God or form the world.