People often tell me that they have difficulty hearing God. Many times the problem is not that we don’t hear Him, but that we don’t recognize the small ways He is speaking to us in our thoughts every day. I’m going to share with you a recent experience from my own life, which is a practical example of hearing God’s voice and responding to it — both what I did right and what I did wrong.
One evening last week, a concern popped into my thoughts about our teenage daughter falling down the stairs which lead from her bedroom to the ground level of our house. The stairs are a little steep and uncarpeted, and she often takes them in a hurry, so this would be a bit of a natural concern for me. Because I tend to be in a flow of prayer most of the time, my natural response was to say a quick prayer for her safety and then move on. The next morning, several times, I again thought about the possibility of her falling down the stairs, and each time I prayed briefly that she would be safe on the stairs. At one point I even thought, “I should probably caution her to be extra-careful on the stairs today” — and then I promptly forgot to do it.
I dozed off during my prayer time that morning, and dreamed (always pay particular attention to doze-off dreams in prayer, because they are usually from God!) of an orange-colored box with an assortment of crackers pictured on the front, and in the dream, I knew that the cracker box belonged to our daughter. I wrote the dream down, but I had a busy day ahead of me, so I didn’t take the time I should have to ponder the dream.
That evening, my daughter fell down nearly the entire flight of stairs. She got a little banged up, but, much to our thankfulness, she was not seriously injured.
Let’s take apart what happened — what went right and what went wrong. As the thought repeatedly came to mind about her falling down the stairs, I quite naturally prayed for her safety. So far, so good. I am absolutely certain that those repeated prayers saved her from serious harm. However, it never fully hit my consciousness that it was the Lord speaking to me about a danger. I didn’t think, “Oh! God is speaking! I’d better pay attention!” I didn’t hear Him say, “Your daughter is going to meet with an accident if you don’t pray for her.” It was just my natural response to pray about the thoughts I was having, because continual prayer communication with the Lord has become a habit.
Where I went wrong was in not paying better attention than I did, because if I had, we probably could have avoided the stairs incident entirely. I didn’t listen closely enough to the thought that I should warn my daughter to be careful. Hence, I didn’t follow through on it.
I also did not pay attention to the dream — until after the accident. Do you know what orange can symbolize in dreams? Danger. The various crackers? Broken or “cracked” bones. The dream had indicated that the orange box of crackers belonged to our daughter. Hindsight is a great teacher, and I may not have understood the crackers’ significance ahead of time, but the orange = danger connection I could have picked up on, especially with what had already been going on in my thoughts — IF I had been paying attention.
This experience became a lesson for me in listening to the Lord. I am so very grateful that our daughter was kept from serious harm, and that at least I had prayed for her. Those prayers were answered. But not listening closely enough allowed some harm to occur.
Probably all of us are hearing from the Lord much more than we realize, and if we will practice tuning in carefully, we will catch a lot more of what He is saying. He does not generally shout to make Himself heard. Church bells do not ring and heavenly choirs do not sing to announce that God is about to deliver a message. Many times, persistent thoughts, although they do not sound like “a voice,” really are from the Lord — especially if we have our minds prepared through much prayer and reading of Scripture. Paul tells us that “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
If we learn to recognize and respond to the subtle ways God speaks, He will give us ideas which will prosper and bless us, and He will also keep us from many sorrows. I’ve learned a great lesson, and I hope my experience will help you as well.