Summer is almost here and I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to warm temperatures, wearing shorts and flip flops, exploring new places and hitting the beach. Another big reason that I look forward to the summer is because for those of us in college ministry, things usually slow down a little bit and I can spend more time with God. Don’t get me wrong, there can still be quite a few commitments, but I often find that the summer is a great opportunity to set aside more time and focus on my relationship with Him.
Too often I find myself so consumed with activity that I don’t take the time I should to develop my relationship with God. King David was known as someone who was close to God. He was known as someone who spent time in God’s presence regularly and yet this is what he said in one of the psalms, “God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this dry and weary land where there is no water.” Even David knew that he had to set aside time to earnestly seek God.
There’s many ways to grow in your relationship with God. You could spend more time reading the Bible, in worship or reading books. But one way I’ve grown closer to God that has really been a blessing is learning how to better hear His voice through prayer. In our lives prayer is the grease that makes the engine go. Going through life without prayer is like driving a car without putting oil in. You won’t get nearly as far as you could.
James wrote in the Bible that, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Making space in your routine for a daily prayer time is really important and beneficial. If you don’t do this already then try starting with a reasonable goal like praying for five minutes. Once you’ve established a routine you can always increase the amount of time you spend each day.
I would suggest picking a time that you’re normally alert and don’t tend to have many other commitments. Think about a time you would normally spend mindlessly scrolling through social media or watching a TV show. Then put your phone on do not disturb so you’re not distracted. If you’re really having trouble remembering to do it put a daily reminder in your phone or determine that you won’t do something else you would never skip (like showering or eating dinner) until you’ve done your prayer time.
As you actively spend more time in prayer, eventually you can learn to hear God’s voice. It’s just like when you’ve spent a lot of time with a friend. I know my wife’s voice so well that I don’t need to look at caller ID when she calls, when I hear her voice I know that it’s her. And over time you’ll begin to know the voice of God through prayer.
It’s very rare that someone hears the voice of God in an audible way, but it can happen. Usually it sounds more like a thought within your head. Often you’ll find yourself questioning if what you just heard was your own thought or God speaking.
It takes time to determine which it is, but it’s helpful that God has given us the Bible to help us test what we’re hearing and determine if it’s from God or not. Anything that we think may be the voice of God must first align with what the Scriptures say. This is why it’s important to be reading and studying the Bible regularly so that you can go back and determine if something you’re hearing makes sense with what God’s Word says.
God has spoken some incredible things to me throughout my life. Some of the things I’ve heard Him say have been absolutely life changing. But it’s taken years of seeking God in prayer and through reading the Bible for me to clearly understand when I’m hearing God’s voice and when I’m just thinking my own thoughts. There are still times that I don’t always get it right, but for the most part I’ve learned to distinguish between the two.
It’s not easy or able to be explained in a five step process, but it is worth the time and effort to get to know God’s voice. You can grow in determining God’s voice through regular practice. Set aside time to be still, focus on Him and wait to hear His voice.
In a world where we’re used to filling every free moment by looking at Facebook or playing a game on our phones (guilty as charged) this will be incredibly difficult at first. But over time you can train your mind to focus and be quiet. God has so many things that He wants to tell you if you’ll take the time to listen. Tell God that you’re coming to Him because you want to hear His voice. This is what King David was doing when he said, “Earnestly I seek You.” And God will be so delighted when you do this because He longs to spend time with you.
Praying with a friend can also help you practice hearing God’s voice. I have a friend who I regularly pray with and when we pray we take the majority of our time to listen for God’s voice and then we share with each other what we heard. This might sound strange to you, but I’ve found that this practice has really helped me learn to hear God’s voice better. There are many times that God gives us words to share with one another.
Over the years I’ve shared words with him that have most likely been my thoughts more than God’s words, and I’m sure he could say the same, but as we’ve continued to lean into God and listen for His voice we’ve gotten better at discerning when it’s Him speaking and when it’s just us. And as the years have gone by we’ve seen words that we’ve given each other come to pass. When you see that happen, then you can confidently say that you’ve heard God’s voice and it strengthens your desire even more to keep listening for what He wants to say to you.
Even though there’s been times I’ve gotten it wrong, I don’t give up listening because I want to be someone who hears God. But this is not something to take lightly either. We have to be very careful with any word we share with others that we believe God has given us. Because our words are incredibly powerful and can have a big influence in the lives of others.
When you want to grow in hearing God’s voice it’s best to submit what you’re hearing to leaders in your life. Ask them what they think before you take it to heart or share it with another person. And remember that the Bible says anything God speaks to us for sharing with others will always be for strengthening, encouragement and comfort. If it doesn’t fit in one of those categories, it isn’t God.
When you devote some time each day to draw closer to God you’ll experience what David did. David had discovered that spending time with God was the greatest thing he could do in life. In fact, he considered it even better than life when he said, “God, your unfailing love is better than life itself. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.”
I hope you can start setting aside time this summer to seek God in prayer and I know that as you practice hearing His voice He will speak to you and encourage you. Have a great summer!