Christian Living

Spiritual Life

How Does God Speak to Us?

When they hear the word prophecy, most people picture someone like John the Baptist. They think of a wild-eyed man with a bushy head of hair, living by himself in the wilderness, subsisting on locusts and wild honey.

That may or may not be an accurate picture of a prophet—but it has almost nothing to do with the gift of prophecy we’re talking about, which is available to all believers. Jesus said that His sheep listen to His voice (see John 10:27). When we hear His voice, we can prophesy in His name to comfort, strengthen and exhort believers.

How does God speak to us? There are many ways.

1. He may speak in an audible voice.

When John baptized Jesus, a voice spoke from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). There are other instances in the Bible where God’s voice was heard, and He still speaks today.

I know many people who have heard the audible voice of God. A woman who was going through a painful divorce heard Him say, “I am with you. Everything will be all right.”

When I asked how she knew the voice belonged to God, she said, “I just knew.”

Hearing the audible voice of God is not a common occurrence. But it does happen, and when it does, it’s not to be taken lightly.

2. He may speak in a still, small voice.

I love this passage from 1 Kings 19:11–13:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

The most frequent way God speaks to me, and, I believe, to most Christians, is through that still, small voice. He spoke the universe into existence, but He also whispers quiet messages into the hearts of men. Did He really give you a specific message to deliver to that person over there? Or is your imagination just running away with you? The only way you can find out is by listening to God, more with your ears than with your heart, and learning to recognize His still, small voice.

3. He speaks by popping words or Scriptures into our minds.

I remember a friend telling me that when he first came to Christ, he often saw, in his mind’s eye, a hand writing a Scripture verse on a chalkboard. When he looked up the verse, he discovered that it spoke directly to something he had been praying or asking about. For example, after he prayed about the end of the world, he saw “Matthew 24:35” written on that chalkboard: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” He wasn’t greatly familiar with the Bible at that time, so he felt certain God was talking to him.

4. He speaks by popping pictures into our minds.

There have been many times during my ministry when God has spoken to me by flashing a picture, or a collage of pictures, into my mind. Some things can become clear to us only when we see them, and that’s especially true in our visually oriented age. In a single picture, we can see details that it might take a thousand words to explain.

If you are seeking God about something and a picture suddenly pops into your mind, don’t get angry with yourself for letting your mind wander. It may be that God is speaking to you. The picture you see may not seem to have anything to do with what you were praying or thinking about, so when it comes, stop and ask God what He is saying to you.

5. He speaks through dreams.

The Bible is full of references to dreams. Remember how angry Joseph’s brothers were when they heard of his dream in which the sun, moon and stars bowed down to his star? Pharaoh’s dream of the seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny cows meant that famine was about to grip the Middle East. And, in the New Testament, Joseph had a dream warning him to take Jesus and Mary and flee into Egypt, and the Magi were warned in a dream not to share with Herod where the Messiah had been born.

If God used dreams in Bible times, He certainly can and does use them now. Joel spoke of the importance of dreams when he prophesied, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams” (Joel 2:28 kjv). When I lie down to sleep at night, I often pray, Lord, speak to me in my Night Visions (as the prophet Daniel called them). And He does.

6. He speaks by giving us sympathy pains or sensations.

Perhaps you have heard me suddenly say during a meeting, “There is someone here with a burning sensation at the top of the shoulder. If that’s you, please come up here and let me pray for you.”

How do I know that? Often, it’s because God has showed me by giving me a pain or sensation at the top of my shoulder. I’ve learned that this is a message to me that someone else is experiencing the same thing, and God wants me to pray for that person.

I’ve had terrible headaches, excruciating back pain, stabbing pain in my knees—I could go on and on. Name it and I’ve probably had it. The difference is that I’ve had it momentarily because God is showing me what someone else is going through. Unless they get healed, they’re going to keep on enduring that pain. It certainly increases my desire to see people healed.

7. He speaks through others.

This can be one of the most important ways God speaks to us, but it can also be one of the most difficult ways to hear or discern His voice.

When I say that God speaks through others, I am mostly thinking of our spiritual leaders or others. But He can speak through anyone and everyone. God has spoken very directly to me through my four-year-old son Caspian, even though he was unaware of it. The Bible book of Numbers even tells us that God used a donkey to speak to a man named Baalam.

I’m not saying that you should accept everything everybody says to you. But neither should you dismiss it out of hand without even considering it.

8. He speaks through the Spirit bearing witness.

Have you ever been reading the Bible when you came across a Scripture that seemed to jump right off the page at you? When that happens, it’s the Holy Spirit bearing witness that this is a message to you straight from the heart of God.

The same thing may happen when you’re listening to a song on the radio, conversing with a friend, or even driving down the street. Suddenly, a phrase, a picture on a billboard, or just about anything else grabs hold of you, and you know God is speaking to you. Your heart may start pounding, or your friend suddenly may sound as if he’s speaking in an echo chamber, or you feel emotion rising up in you for no apparent reason at all. All of these things happen because you are standing in the presence of God and He is speaking to you.

Excerpt from Do Greater Things by Robby Dawkins, copyright © 2018, published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used with permission.

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