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3 Ways to Hear God
I hear it a lot: “Be sure to listen to God when you pray.” It sounds good. It makes sense–don’t sit there and talk all the time. Make yourself open to hear what God is saying. But then I wonder, “How exactly do I listen?” I mean, short of God speaking through a burning bush or a bolt of lightning, how do I know what God is saying?
I gave myself a couple of weeks of testing just to figure this one out. Here’s what I came up with:
I read a lot, books, Scripture, books about faith, magazines, newspaper articles, stories online, blogs, Tweets, links on Facebook. Lots of it is valuable; some of it, frankly, is a waste of time. What I see, though, is if there’s some issue I’m struggling with, some answer I’m looking for from God, it’ll often appear in print or online.
No, I don’t close my eyes and thumb through pages of the Bible waiting to see where my finger lands. It’s subtler than that. I’ll be reading through the gospels and a verse will speak to me. Or I’ll be grappling with a quandary and just the right book will land on my desk. Or I’ll be searching for something online and land on just the right story.
“What you hold in your mind, you’ll meet in the marketplace,” the mother of an old friend used to say. Same is true spiritually. Hold a question in your heart and let God speak to it with the written word.
2) Look to Others
When Jesus said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I’m there with them,” I don’t think he was referring just to prayer requests. He knew we could give each other encouragement, that we could find models of faith in each other.
Look at how the Holy Spirit came on the first Pentecost. Jesus had urged the disciples to stay together after He left and sure enough, the Spirit came to His followers when they were gathered en masse. If they’d split up, they might have been lost. Together, they were a powerhouse.
We don’t walk this road of faith alone. Others have walked before us. Others are walking beside us and behind us and in front of us. Listen to them. Watch them. Listening to God is listening to them.
3) Listen to Yourself
I look for stillness in prayer. That’s a lot of work because my head is usually steaming with noise. I close my eyes, and I start thinking about our budget and a bill I need to pay–is there enough money in the bank? I think of some airline reservations I should make. I remember that I forgot someone’s birthday. I wonder if it’ll rain later in the day and should I take an umbrella with me or not.
Part of the prayer process is to take those thoughts–mundane or profound–and give them up to God. I get myself quiet and then let go.
“Peace I leave with you,” Jesus said. “My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) I ask God for peace of mind. It can come in a matter of minutes or it can take days, sometime even longer. But I trust it will come. That’s what comes of listening to God. Peace.