My daughters often dig up the most challenging questions they can think of to heap on my shoulders right as I close the door at bed time. As I say good-night and pull the door shut one will ask, "Dad, is Jesus God?" or "If God is good then why did He make the devil?" Yikes! It's a ploy to keep me from leaving and thereby delay bedtime. It doesn't work.
I remember one night after our prayers they asked me a question that seemed more sincere. I was still knelt over the bed and just after they said "Amen" they asked, "How do I hear God?" I paused and thought for a moment. The girls had cornered me on a topic that has perplexed mankind since Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. I answered like this:
It sure would be easier to hear God if He would just talk out loud all the time, wouldn’t it? We usually spend far too much time asking God to speak and far too little time listening. Sometime you try to talk to me and I am so focused on something else that I don’t pay attention. Then you smack me on the leg and I turn my ears toward you. Right? Well, that’s kind of how it works with God. The problem with our prayers is less about His talking and more about our listening.
It seemed that I had given her enough to think about that night. She rested her head back on the pillow and turned to go to sleep. I shut the door and thought more about my answer. Her question wasn't fully answered. How do we hear God?
When the Holy Spirit spoke to me about missions work it was with a movement in my soul. I often use the phrase ‘gripped my heart’ to describe the method God used to speak. I can’t answer the question with any real clarity beyond what I said to my daughters. In my own life I have found that when I listened I discovered that God was speaking. His words are not always a career change or major shift in life’s direction. Sometime they are comfort, concern or loving chit-chat that says "Friend". Sometimes they are the radiant beauty of a flower or a fresh wind across my face that says "Creator". Sometimes His words are the deep guilt, conviction and submission that says "Lord". Sometimes His words are renewal and redemption that says "Salvation". In many ways, God speaks.
Step One in How to Hear God: Start Listening.