Are You Listening?

Sep 20, 2023 by Colleen C Orchanian

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone while they are playing a game on their phone or watching TV? If you have, you know that conversation is not going to happen. They are just not listening to you. We can all be bad listeners sometimes. It can be frustrating when you’re trying to get someone to listen and they don’t.

Imagine what it’s like for God. He is always reaching out to us - trying to speak to us - but sometimes we are deaf to His voice. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Maybe you doubt this statement. Maybe you struggle to hear God’s voice. Maybe you don’t think God actually speaks to people unless they are some kind of saint. Regular people – ordinary people can’t have that kind of communication with God. Sadly, that’s a very common belief. And it’s a lie of the enemy.

Let’s consider four ways that God speaks to us:

  1. In Scripture. When we read the Bible and meditate on what we’re reading, we learn to recognize God’s voice. Lots of people can quote the Bible but they don’t really know what it means or they take it out of context like the devil did when he tempted Jesus three times in the desert. Jesus responded with Scripture, and because he knew the true meaning of the verses, was able to reject the devil’s lies drawn from a distortion of Scripture. When we read and study the Bible, we come to know God. We are able to recognize His voice and reject the distortions that sound “pretty close.”

  2. Internally. We have a sense of conviction, a striving heart, a certainty about His will. The more we learn to discern spirits, the better we are at recognizing God’s voice as distinct from the enemy’s voice or our own desires. Here is an example: I had a sense of a need for a small group in our parish to serve people with anxiety and depression. At the same time, I knew that I was not supposed to lead this group. My role would be to find a team and prepare them to lead. As I began down that path, I got confirmation in many ways and through many people that this “sense” was from God. It began with an internal nudge that was then confirmed externally by others.

  3. Through others in our lives. Both friends and enemies can speak God’s truth to us. A child can correct a parent who is doing something they told the child was wrong. God is speaking to the parent through the child. In the Gospel of John (11:45-57), Caiaphas says, “It is better that one man should die for the people.” And then it goes on to say that this was spoken by the Holy Spirit. So the person speaking doesn’t need to know God for God to speak through them. He spoke through a donkey in the book of Numbers chapter 22.

  4. Audible words that we can hear with our ears, not just our heart. A friend told me her experience with this. She was very worried about her son who was deployed during a war. She was so distressed and could think of nothing else. As she prayed one day, she heard God speak, calling her by name, and saying “He will be fine.” God speaking in an audible way is probably the least common way for us to hear God’s voice, but it does happen.

It’s important to learn God’s voice because we are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that the enemy can disguise himself as an angel of light. The voice or message we hear can be from God. It can also be from the devil. Think about Simon being rebuked by Jesus with the words, “Get behind me Satan.”

How can we know it is God speaking and not someone else? By the words He says. Here are some things God speaks to each of us:

  • I love you. This is all over the Bible. God is love. The enemy says we are not loveable.

  • Love others – even those who don’t love you. The enemy wants us to hold grudges.

  • Always do good. Do not sin. The enemy wants to confuse us about what is good and what is evil. He wants to minimize sin.

  • Speak the truth, even the hard truths. The enemy wants us to think that truth is relative. We can have our own truth.

  • Keep still. The enemy wants us to be overwhelmed with noise – music, talking, mindless diversions so we can’t hear God.

  • Wait. Let it be done in my time, not yours. The enemy wants us to rush in and to doubt God when we have to wait.

  • Follow me. The enemy will not follow Jesus and tells us that the way of God is too hard. He, too, says, “Follow me.”

  • Pray always and He even taught us to pray. The enemy does not want us to pray because he knows it will help us better recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd.

By this point, you should be convinced that God speaks to you – or at least that He wants to and that it is possible for you to hear His voice.

You can hear Him in communal prayer. This is when two or more are gathered in His name. It can be in a worship service, in a small prayer group, or during family prayer time. You might hear something in a sermon that seems to be meant just for you. One of my sisters had this happen during a retreat. She had gone with the hope to have peace about her son’s death. During one of the talks, the priest stopped his prepared message to share something from the Holy Spirit. It was meant specifically for her in answer to her prayer.

You can hear God in private prayer, alone in your prayer space. I often feel God speaking to me when I’m praying the rosary. As I pray the memorized prayers of my childhood, I meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ and I hear God’s voice in my heart. Very often we can hear His voice when meditating on Scripture. We might get convicted about a change we need to make by reading a passage. It may be something we’ve read a hundred times before, but this time it speaks to us in a new way.

You can hear God speaking through the events of the day. It can be in comments others make. When you hear the same thing from several different people, it may actually be a word from God. When you are struggling or suffering, you might hear God speak words of comfort or peace. When you have successes, your heart and mind will be lifted up to God in gratitude and you might feel God’s delight in you.

God is always speaking to us. For our part, we need to listen. I can tell someone is listening to me by how they respond. In the same way, we know we are listening to God by following Him, by responding to His voice. He said, “My sheep know my voice and they follow me.” My response shows that I am listening to God.

Believe in the possibility that God is speaking to you and know that you can hear His voice. Do something to better recognize His voice and then follow Him.

Questions for prayer:

  • What are the ways that God speaks to you? How can you better recognize His voice?

  • What challenges do you face in listening to God? Do you believe it is possible? Do you take time to listen? Are you willing to hear His voice?