"Are you listening?" a mother asks her child. She knows the child's hearing is fine, but wonders if her child is attending to what is being said. Is the child really listening? Appearances don't always tell the story; we learn at an early age to look attentive when our thoughts are actually far away.
"Are you listening?" our Heavenly Father may ask.
We know that we must try to listen for God's voice in our lives. We know that God is perfectly good and just, and so hearing God's will for our lives will be immeasurably beneficial. In order to hear from God, we must (1) make ourselves available to God with the proper attitude, and (2) learn discernment; that is, the ability to tell whether we have really heard from God or not.
1. Availability and Attitude
There are many things that can distract us from spending time with God. Even at times when we try to make ourselves available for God, our minds may wander to other subjects. Making quiet time, free from as many distractions as possible, is difficult but important. The proper attitude is also important. Attitudes such as humility and courage are important. We have to humbly recognize that we don't have all the right answers. We also need to prepare our hearts so we have courage to do what is right, no matter how our fears or selfish ambitions may try to persuade us otherwise.
Someone who knows what God is like knows his voice. Therefore, we must make time to improve our knowledge and relationship with God, through study of Scripture, quiet prayer, and learning from fellow Christians. Emotions are a part of discernment, but making a choice because you feel it is right is only one piece of the equation. We shouldn't entirely discount how we feel, but at the same time we must be careful to separate what is God's will for us and what are our own desires (which aren’t necessarily his). The first test is that God's voice will never contradict his Word, the Bible. That is one reason why study of Scripture is so important. Quiet, dedicated prayer time is also important in order to try to block out the distractions of everyday life.
A Word of Caution
Sometimes Christians will use phrases like "God told me…” or “God inspired me to…" haphazardly. Every second word out of their mouths seems to be personal, direct revelations of what God has supposedly told them. I don't doubt for a minute that God speaks to us. But just be careful. Before you say "God told me..." you'd better be sure, because if you're claiming God said something when he didn't, you are speaking untruth about him. This underscores the importance of thinking carefully about how to listen for and discern God's voice.
Try the study below to learn more about listening to God! One of our mentors will get back to you soon to have a discussion based on your responses and to pray with you.