Some time ago Sharon Rawlette, one of my regular readers posed a fascinating question that has inspired this post. In essence, she asks, how can we discriminate between “true” voice of God from “false” ones? This question gets to the heart of how God speaks to us as well as how the Enemy tries to keep us from hearing.
First, look at what it says in Hebrews:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Jesus is the Word of God spoken at creation, made flesh in his miraculous birth, demonstrated in his compassionate ministry, redeemed in his sacrificial death, enlivened by his resurrection, and delegated to the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension. As we read the whole Bible with prayerful eyes and obedient hearts, we come to know Jesus. We become like sheep who recognize the voice of their shepherd.
But what about believers like me who hear competing voices, commanding, almost god-like false voices distracting us from hearing what the true voice of the one and only God?
The first step I take to tune into God’s voice is immerse myself in Scripture. I begin my morning prayers with Bible reading. I have recently found an app called “Lectio 365.” Unlike reading plans that take you through the breadth of God’s Word, this leads you on a path of deep devotion on a few verses each day. I listen to this and follow along reading. There are moments built in that prompt me to pause and reflect, but it is reflection on something substantive, not meditation on nothing. Or worse, on the false voices that divert my attention from the true God.
The next thing I do is read through the day’s selection in the Book of Common Prayer. This book is composed both of Scripture passages and prayers of the faith community that have been handed down from generation to generation. When I served as a student chaplain, we would begin each morning with these prayers and now I find them to be familiar friends connection me with the host of saints that have gone before me.
I then get out my prayer journal. Here I list praises and petitions as they come to my mind. I worry less about false voices here, because I trust God will screen them to see what is consistent with his will. I typically close with an exercise born out of my life verse, Psalm 37:4 –
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
In my prayers over the past few years, I have come up with five desires: 1) Grow in the saving knowledge of my Lord and Savior; 2) Better express love for my children and grandchildren; 3) Live in peace with others, as much as is in my power; 4) Pursue my vocation to best serve God’s people; 5) Give my first and best for the work of the Lord.
One final step I take is draw on the discerning wisdom of the Church. The Bible says there are no private interpretations. The Church has been anointed the body of Christ and, even though it is often a wounded and wounding body, it is still the best place to find confirmation or correction on what God says to his people.
Before I conclude that something I’ve heard internally or audibly is the voice of God, I take it to church leaders – often an elder who is spiritually mature or a pastor who is Scripturally sound. In some cases, my own discernment is affirmed. On other occasions, I am cautioned to consider other alternatives.
So that is my process to distinguish the true life-giving voice of God from false death-dealing ones.
1. Listen for God’s Word in Scripture.
2. Express my heart’s desire in a prayer journal.
3. Consult church leaders where God’s voice is unclear.
How do you hear the true God’s voice?
How do you distinguish it from other, false voices?