Tag Archives: hearing God

Finding God in the Waiting

If we were to take a survey to find out how many Christians would like to hear God personally speak to them, I would imagine the vast majority would say, “Of course I want that!” The percentage would plummet, though, if we asked the same people how many actually do hear Him on a regular basis. Why is that?

Some, unfortunately, have been indoctrinated with the false notion that God no longer speaks to us personally. Others have never been taught how to recognize the voice of God. Still others have bought into the lie that they are unworthy to hear God, that they are some kind of second-class believers in God’s eyes. The truth is, God has promised in hundreds of verses throughout the Bible to help us know His will for our personal lives, to give us wisdom and revelation, and that we will know His voice.

John 8:47 says, “He who is of God hears God’s words; you, therefore, do not hear them because you are not of God.” That means, if you love Jesus, you can hear God. You may not recognize that He is speaking to you, but He really is, and having trouble hearing Him is fixable. If you need some help in recognizing how He is speaking to you, I’ve written an article series on the subject. You will also find that information in my book, Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God.

Besides simply not discerning that God is already speaking to us, there may be specific hindrances getting in the way — things we can do something about.

We aren’t giving God the quality time He desires to spend with us. Time is one of God’s love languages. James 4:8 promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….” He speaks to those who make Him their priority. Yes, He can and does communicate with us at random moments throughout the day. But we are more likely to hear Him then if we have already cultivated a listening ear during a time set aside solely for intimate waiting on Him.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the first idea how to wait on God.” Here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Choose a Bible verse, read it over and over, and ask God to speak to you through it. You’d be surprised at all the new insights you will get as you do that.
  • Ask God questions. Then give Him time to answer you. He may not speak immediately. He might pop the answer into your thoughts later in the day, or even months down the road, but at least you have given Him the opportunity. I have found that God often doesn’t volunteer what we want to know: He waits for us to ask.
  • Think about Jesus.
  • Think about a character quality of God — His mercy, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justness, His purity.  Then praise Him for that quality.
  • Peacefully pray in tongues. As you do that, the Holy Spirit will often bring inspired thoughts, including interpretation of what you are praying, to your consciousness.

Our brain cells are overloaded with other things. Too much news media, social media, video games, or other ear and eye stimulators can so preoccupy us that it is really hard to hear the Lord above all the noise.

Wrong motives for wanting to hear God. Do we spend quiet time with God because we love Him, or only because we want revelation? That’s a selfish motive. It becomes all about us and what we can get out of God, instead of about giving ourselves to Him.

Sinful heart issues harden us to His voice. If we deliberately ignore what He is saying to us, rebelliously do something other than what we know He is directing us to do, or willfully live in sin, His voice becomes gradually fainter. God may even eventually quit speaking. He usually continues to speak for a while before that happens, trying to turn us back in the right direction. And, because He is so merciful, if He can’t reach us by speaking through other avenues, He will still try to turn us from our wrong ways through our circumstances. Remember Balaam and the angel who stood in his way (Numbers 22).

The good news is, even if the Lord has become silent, once we repent, the lines of communication open up again. I didn’t quote all of James 4:8 a little earlier. There is a condition for hearing attached to the rest of the verse: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Repentance goes a long way toward restoring and clarifying our hearing.

While never hearing God is not normal and should be examined for the reason, it’s important to know that every Christian goes through periods when God seems to be silent, through no fault of ours. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out of God’s will or doing something else wrong. These are times of growing in faith by learning to trust God in the silence. God uses silent seasons to cause us to seek more diligently for Him. They are a normal part of Christian life. But they are temporary. Continue seeking His company and listening for Him. He will eventually begin speaking again.

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Advertisements

Praying in the Dark

A concept I love and teach is that intercessors should endeavor to be sharpshooters in prayer. That’s why Annie Oakley graces the cover of my book, The Intercessor Manual.

The idea is that, rather than forging ahead in prayer according to our own limited thinking, we should listen to the Holy Spirit for how to pray. We pray from the details He gives us, rather than plowing ahead without His counsel and dancing all around and over a prayer topic, without a clue as to what God’s take is on the situation. Specific prayers inspired by the Spirit hit the target and get specific answers.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but what happens when we wait upon the Lord, and He still doesn’t seem to give us any light on the subject? You know, that happens to me a lot. A lot!

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you on how to handle praying when the light is dim or nonexistent.

Be faithful in waiting upon God and inquiring of Him. God honors our sincere attempts to hear Him. If He’s not speaking, it’s not necessarily your fault. People have sometimes chastised me for not hearing God on given subjects. The accusation is that, if you’re not hearing and other people are (or supposedly are), that means you are just not listening, or are refusing what God is surely saying. Maybe … maybe not!

We don’t all have the same realm of prayer influence. God shares one secret with a few, and still another secret with a different set of people. That is the way He works.

Don’t let anybody guilt you for not hearing from God on any given subject. It’s good to ask the Lord, “Am I resisting what You want to speak? If so, please reveal to me where my attitude is wrong.” But if you are truly seeking Him, that’s all you can or need to do. You can’t make God speak.

Keep on waiting upon the Lord with the questions you have. It takes time to hear Him. He may not be ready to speak. He may want to see how badly you want His counsel. He may simply treasure your diligent waiting upon Him.

Take tentative prayer steps and then expect Him to lead. Sometimes I have to confess to the Lord, “I don’t have the foggiest idea how to pray into this. It is too big for me! Please lead me as I go.” Then I take the first step in prayer, often in my prayer language. Many times, within moments, He takes over and leads me into prayer paths I never would have expected to go down. It doesn’t always happen that quickly. I could spend weeks or even months feeling my way along, praying in tongues a lot, and praying in English only tiny tidbits of understanding I receive.

Don’t try to sharpshoot based on your opinions. A lot of folks are doing this, and they are not praying God’s will. Don’t assume that your strong opinion must be God’s perspective too. It might not even be close. If it’s not from Him, it’s not going to hit the target, no matter how hard you try, and you will end up disappointed because the Lord didn’t come through for you.

If you desire to pray God’s counsel, He will get you there. Have confidence that, if you are doing your best to hear Him, He will adjust your understanding along the way. Stay sensitive for any uneasy checks in your spirit about how you are praying. If you do, He will steer any mistaken prayers back on course.

At times we have to pray immediately, because there is no time to wait. Just do it, calling on the name of Jesus, having faith that He will assist you and make up for any inadequacies in your understanding. God is not fussy about whether we use the right words. He sees the intent of the heart, and He has compassion on our limitations.

Don’t be surprised if the Spirit leads you down a side trail. This is common for me. I start out praying into a specific topic, and the Lord shows me side issues — still connected with the original matter — that are important to Him (but definitely not the same focus I started out praying into). It’s OK, if that happens to you. Have faith that these tangents are important to the Lord, and that’s why you end up praying about them.

Prayer in tongues will always get you through. You can have confidence that you are breaking things open and changing circumstances, even if you aren’t completely sure how to pray or what the outcome should be. The Holy Spirit knows what is needed.

Don’t use tongues, however, as your lazy man’s way out of hearing the Lord. We should still ask for understanding and expect to receive it. The same Paul who said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18) also said, “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also …” (1 Corinthians 14:14, 15).

There is a time for sharpshooting and a time to throw grenade-like prayers. Different situations require different kinds of prayer volleys. This type of intercession won’t be nearly as specific in details as the sharpshooting prayer. We still want to make sure we aim it in the right direction, though! Both types of prayer should involve using Scripture as the firepower. This one may utilize larger doses of that firepower.

I hope the ideas I have shared here will encourage you and help you persevere in going after the answers you seek.

 

The Intercessor Manual

Trouble Hearing God? This May Be Why.

ear trumpet

Sometimes when I ask intercessors what the Lord is speaking to them, they respond by telling me what they have read in an intercessor newsletter, at a prophetic website, or in a Christian issues op-ed column. Maybe it’s what they’ve seen on Christian TV or YouTube. They sincerely think that what they are sharing is what God is speaking to them, but in reality, they are only regurgitating the ideas and opinions of others. Some are consistently unable to relate what God is showing them personally.

I wondered why that was, so I inquired of the Lord, and this is what I felt He was showing me: Continual bombardment of our mind through the eye and ear gates dulls our spirit’s ability to recognize God’s still small voice.

The people I am speaking of are usually passionate Christians who are eager to learn all that they can about the Lord and what He is saying or doing in the earth today. They get multiple intercessor newsletters because they have a heart to pray into big things, and they want to keep on top of current events from a Christian perspective.  But their minds are in a constant swirl, forever trying to process and sort through the information overload being fed into them. And because their minds are constantly chewing on all the info they’ve consumed, it’s hard for them to slow down enough to hear what God is saying to them, deep down inside.

Now, I think most of us are prone to having difficulty with this. We’re smack-dab in the middle of the Information Revolution, after all. I’ve got an inquiring mind, and certainly want to learn all I can. And keeping up with what’s afoot in our world is important. But I find, for myself, that if I am going to hear God, I’ve got to discipline myself to severely limit the inflow from outside voices.

I’d much rather be able to hear from God firsthand than to hear it from someone else. Secondhand just isn’t quite as good. And, I’d much rather spend the majority of my intercession time following the Holy Spirit’s promptings than merely praying what somebody else tells thousands of people on their mailing list that we should all pray. (It isn’t wrong to pray directly from a newsletter; it just shouldn’t be the sum total of our intercessory prayer life.) We need one-on-one communication directly between our spirit and the Holy Spirit. It’s like the difference between fresh fruit and the canned stuff. Not the same. But if we only consume the canned version, we don’t even have a clue how good the fresh fruit is!

Shouldn’t we all listen to good teaching and preaching? Of course. Can’t God speak to us through prophets, preachers, intercessor leaders, and teachers? Yes. We need these wonderful people. I have a few really, really favorite teachers I love to listen to. I write books and this blog with the intention of  helping people grow in their Christian life, especially in their prayer and prophetic understanding. I would be SAD if y’all quit reading what I’ve got for you! But I’d be even sadder to find out anyone was reading my materials in place of spending precious time personally with the Lord in prayer and reading the Bible.  We need to spend time with Him, not only in reading or listening to what some fallible human has to say about Him.

So, how does one fix this and get into a place of hearing God firsthand? Start by slowing down and deliberately tuning out. Think of it as a detox. Maybe it’s going to mean deleting a few ministry e-mails without reading them. Maybe it will mean less time watching TBN or Daystar. Maybe it will mean setting aside a specific amount of time for watching/listening/reading every week and then not going over the predetermined limit.

Once you’ve got yourself slowed down by removing the brain circuitry overload, your spirit is going to be able to gradually take precedence over your mind. You can actually relax in prayer and take time to ask, “Lord what do You have to say today?” You can now fill those brain cells which used to be clogged up with thinking about all the stuff you read, saw, and heard with new thinking about something you read in the Bible, or God’s character, or just how beautiful Jesus really is. The new peace and quiet of mind makes it much easier for the Holy Spirit to be heard in your spirit, because you’ve removed the debris which has been getting in the way for so long.

That’s a good place to start, and from there, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll start hearing God clearly for yourself on a regular basis.

A Simple Lesson in Listening

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.

Challenges Prophetic People Face: The Future Factor (Part 4)

Words for the Church or Its Leadership

One of the most frustrating challenges for a prophetic person is delivering a word from the Lord to the local church or its leadership that falls on unsympathetic ears.  It’s not usually much of a problem with prophecies about the church growing exponentially or miracles that are going to rain down in the house, but if you’ve got a word about repentance or course correction, it’s quite another story!  The less than enthusiastic response can tempt one to crawl under a rock and quit.

The problem could be that the word truly is off (or partly off / partly accurate, or maybe not delivered very graciously), but a lot of times all that is wrong is that the prophetic person is ahead of the game, seeing into future happenings that don’t look like they fit with current trends or events.  Remember, when you receive something from the Lord, it feels so relevant to you that it may seem like a “now” word — but it may not be for yet.  Even a positive word about great things to come may excite everyone in the moment, but when months go by without seeing its fulfillment, they won’t always continue to believe along with you.

Even church leaders who understand how prophetic gifts operate don’t always recognize that someone’s revelation really is from the Lord — because it doesn’t fit their present mindset.  A course adjustment word may not be embraced because it is not pleasant to hear that something is amiss, especially if everything looks fine right now.  So you get the blank stare, or see the brush-off body language, or maybe you even get the verdict, “That’s not God.”

This is hard.  It can cause you to second guess whether your word is genuine, and it can cause you to fret about whether you will be taken seriously in the future.  Nobody wants to have a track record of being perceived as the kook in the church family.

Hang in there and wait it out, even if you feel alone (and you will, at times).  Just because you aren’t hearing the same things as the other prophetic people around you doesn’t necessarily mean you are off-balance. It could  just be that factor of living in a different time zone showing up. Eventually, someone else will have revealed to them the same thing that you have heard.  It might even be your pastor.  A number of times I’ve told my pastor about something God was  showing me, and he didn’t seem to see its importance, only to have him receive the same word months later, long after he had totally forgotten whatever I’d said.

While we are waiting, it can be comforting to realize that great people of the past have experienced the same problem.  It took hundreds of years for some of the Old Testament prophets’ words to be completely fulfilled.  Some have yet to see fulfillment — but they will.  Those prophets took a lot of heat in their day.  Many true prophetic words were not popular then, and the same happens now.

I often think of Jesus’ mother Mary.  Gabriel brought her quite a stupendous revelation about the Son she would carry.  Her fiancée Joseph was a godly man with a prophetic bent himself.  It is likely that Mary expected God to tell him about the coming baby, too.  But He didn’t, until the eleventh hour.  Joseph finally received his own angelic encounter and all was set right, but in the meantime, Mary suffered humiliation because of a true word from God that no one in her immediate acquaintance understood or believed.

Most of us will experience humiliation too, although to a lesser degree, as we wait for the present to catch up with what we have seen or heard futuristically.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to survive that humiliation and successfully live out the prophetic calling God has put upon us.

Challenges Prophetic People Face:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 5 

Personal Prophecy 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Challenges Prophetic People Face: The Future Factor (Part 3)

The Future Factor and Your Personal Destiny (cont.)

As I said in our last post, most of the time, God starts speaking to us about the personal destiny He has planned for us long before we are able to step into it in its entirety.  And this can cause problems for us, because those words often feel like “now” words when we first hear them.  But we are not usually ready to take on those destiny-callings immediately.  God takes His time in preparing us. He has to bring us to a place of greater maturity and humility so that we handle our callings well, and the bigger His purpose for us, the more refining of our character there will have to be.

Joseph and Moses both found out about the future factor the hard way.  Joseph told his brothers about his prophetic dreams of one day being a ruler over them, and they not only hated him for it, but they did their best to stop it from ever happening (Genesis 37).  Moses knew as a young prince in Egypt that he was to deliver Israel from bondage, but he was rejected by his own people when he mistakenly tried to step into that calling prematurely (Exodus 2:11-15).  Acts 7:25 tells us, “For He supposed his brethren would have understood how God by his hand would deliver them, but they did not understand.”  Both Joseph and Moses needed some maturing before they could fulfill their destinies in such a way as to bring the most glory to God and the most benefit to other people.

In summary of these last two posts, let’s briefly list what you can do while waiting for your personal destiny to unfold in your natural world:

  1. Draw ever closer in intimate relationship with the Lord.  (This really is of #1 importance.)
  2. Have faith for the things God has spoken to you.
  3. Don’t give in to being disheartened if the circumstances don’t immediately line up or if people give you flak.
  4. Do what you can to prepare.
  5. Serve to the best of your ability.
  6. Take the baby steps forward as opportunities open up before you.
  7. Don’t beat up on yourself when you make mistakes.
  8. Keep the prophetic vision God has given you before your eyes.

If He spoke it to you, He’s going to do it for you, as you trustingly hold His hand.

In our next post, we’ll look at how our future factor affects prophetic words we release to church leadership or the congregation.

Challenges Prophetic People Face:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4  

Personal Prophecy

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Challenges Prophetic People Face: The Future Factor

One of the greatest challenges prophetic people face is our tendency to live in a different time zone than the rest of the world.  While our pastors and family members are often concerned with what is occurring in the present, those of us who are prophetically inclined are often miles down the road into what is coming next.  We have one foot in the here and now and one foot in the future, often with the majority of our weight resting on the future-foot.  The horizon looks different to us than it does to those around us, which can create confusion in our minds and tension between us and the rest of our world.

Understanding that we have a future factor at work within us which is not always shared by those around us can minimize our personal confusion, help us deal with the temporary disappointment of not seeing our prophecies immediately fulfilled, and overcome inner hurt that stems from being misunderstood.

We can learn to harness our futuristic tendencies, rather than letting them run wild, but we must also keep in mind that this will be a lifelong challenge.  Just understanding why you tick the way you do will go a long way toward helping you be secure in who you are.

A general principle in God’s Kingdom is that things become a reality in the spirit realm before they take concrete form in the natural realm.  When God speaks something into existence for our lives, it is immediately fact, as far as He is concerned.  But it usually takes time for it to develop here on earth.

As a result, if we hear or see an event in the spirit realm, but the circumstances we experience in the natural world appear to go against the revelation we have received, it can cause us to question our ability to hear God accurately.  We might even begin to question our mental or spiritual stability.

The truth is, the natural circumstances will almost always rise up in opposition to what we are hearing.  Part of why that happens is that the future realities which we are peering into, because they are realities, seem to be very much a “now” thing to us.

Another factor is that, while God desires for us to hold onto the words He speaks to us, incubating them in prayer and growing in our faith expectancy for them, the devil wishes to steal our words by getting us to fix our eyes on the contradicting events unfolding in the natural world.  He hopes to discourage us into giving up, into believing that we have misheard God, thereby deterring us from praying for the fulfillment of those words or otherwise preparing for them.

Waiting for the manifestation in our natural world of what is already reality in the spirit realm is a challenge that all Christians face to a degree.  Faith is not faith unless there is something not yet obtained to believe for (Hebrews 11:1), so all Christians experience the future factor challenge at some level.  But the more prophetically inclined you are, the more you will bump up against this challenge.

In our next post, we will talk about working with the future factor when it affects our personal destiny.

Challenges Prophetic People Face: The Future Factor (Part 2)

Personal Prophecy

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy