This is the first of my Twenty Principles of Prayer.
If you want God to listen to you and to hear your prayers you must be attentive to Him and listen to Him. This statement of course is true because true prayer must be according to His will and purposes; and in order to know His will we must listen to Him.
As we approach this subject of our attentiveness to God we will consider these three things: how God speaks to us, where and when He speaks to us, and what we need to do in order to hear Him or to make ourselves attentive to Him.
How He speaks. The Bible tells us that we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). What this means is that as believers who are born again and indwelt by God’s Spirit, we have a new nature and a new mind—A Christ-like mind. Our renewed mind is just like His mind and is capable of knowing His mind, of understanding His will, and of hearing His voice.
But how does He speak to us? What does His voice sound like? Well, God can and has spoken to people in various ways, but since the days of Christ, He has chosen to speak to people through Christ, by means of His Spirit, through the Word (Heb. 1:1-2). Since God is pure spirit He speaks to us in spirit to our spirit. And so, if we desire to hear Him we must listen to Him with our spirit (Jn. 4:24), that is, with our inner being and with our mind.
Our unredeemed flesh gets in the way sometimes and makes us less capable of knowing His mind. For that reason, we need to keep at the renewal process. The more we abide in Christ and are filled with His Spirit, the more we will know His mind and hear His voice (Jn. 10:27).
The voice of His Spirit and the thoughts of His mind are especially clear to us, and understandable, when we meditate on His Word—for all His teachings are of the Word. I find that God speaks to me most when I am meditating on the Word. His voice comes right through the words of the Bible and into my mind as if He Himself were speaking to me through those very words.
Along with abiding in the Word, we should also pray constantly. And when you do God will reveal His will to you and tell you how to pray. He will give you the very words to pray, words that match up with His will perfectly.
And as you fellowship with other believers, and as you hear your pastor preach to you, God will speak to you. Sometimes He will give you a message through others that is new (that He has not spoken to you about before) and it may jolt you and convict you. But more often I think God will speak through others to confirm to you what He has already been saying to you. At least this has been true for me.
Where and when He speaks. We might say that there is a special place, a secret place, where God speaks to us. But I would rather say it this way: there are special places where we can hear Him, or where we are more attentive to Him. As we know, God is everywhere and is always with us, but we don’t always hear Him when He speaks to us. So the secret place of God is really that place where we are able to concentrate on Him only, where we can hear Him clearly, where we have found solitude—not only outer solitude but inner solitude, where our soul is at peace and at rest with God.
The time of His speaking, or rather the time of our hearing Him is when we have been able to make ourselves attentive to Him—when the hindrances of solitude have been dealt with; hence, when our rebel heart of lust is tamed, when anger is controlled, when pride and selfishness is revealed and dealt with, and when the entanglements of this world have been untangled through the power of the Spirit. Then we will find rest in Him and we will be able to hear His voice. Yes, I think God is always trying to get our attention; He is always speaking to us. It is up to us to free ourselves from sin and to humble ourselves before Him. I think we all know how to hear Him. We just need to put the effort and the will into making ourselves attentive, which really amounts to being obedient to the Holy Spirit; for the Holy Spirit is always at work to move us toward God; He is always telling us how to hear Him, how to listen to Him. He speaks loudly to us. It is up to us to uncover our ears.
What we need to do to hear Him. Repenting of our sins is the first thing we need to do in order to hear God’s voice; sin is the biggest hindrance to our attentiveness to Him. But we should not stop there. There are other steps we can take. Here are three additional things we can do.
- Seek Him. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you…” God wants us all to seek Him and find Him. He is waiting to be found. He is near us and we can find Him if we are diligent to look (Is. 55:6). When I seek God I usually look for quiet places, places of solitude, because it is there that I am able to be more attentive to Him. Thus it is there in those quiet places that I find Him waiting for me.
- Wait on Him. When you have found a place of solitude, next you must be patient and wait on Him to come near you and speak to you. As you wait, meditate on a passage of scripture; for He usually speaks to us through the Word. As you meditate, write down your thoughts in a tablet—especially those things you think God is saying to you. Note taking is one of the best ways to be attentive. It shows God that you care about what He is saying to you and that you intend to follow His instructions.
- Realize His presence. When you begin to hear God’s voice (in your mind) as you are taking notes on what He is saying, believe that He is near you and actually speaking to you—through His spirit to your spirit. Ask Him to help you sense Him and make you aware of Him. As you pray, speak directly to Him as to a friend, and know that He is listening to you. The fact of the matter is, He is listening to you and He enjoys your friendship.