Are you a good listener? We all love to talk, but most of us don't like listening. The reason for that is that we all want to share our thoughts! That's OK since we were made for community.
It's unnatural for people to be alone (Genesis 2:18), so we are always seeking ways to socialize whether it's online, in person, text, video or any other way. It's comforting to be able to chat with friends and family, especially those that have similar interests.
The most challenging communication method in the world, that every culture, race and religion struggle with, is prayer. In every nation, people are seeking out possible ways to speak to God, but I would dare say that they lack one thing.
Listening to Him.
God never stops speaking, the hardest part is trying to figure out what He is saying.
There are several ways He does talk to us, and I'm going to go over three of those. It's not to say there aren't more, but I want to cover some simpler ones so you can start hearing His will for your life today.
One of the easiest ways to figure out what God wants to tell you is by simply reading His word.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
You can use a study bible, which is very helpful in dissecting certain verses that can be confusing. Often, a verse might be mentioning a different book in the bible or reference a person you haven't read about, so the study bible will help explain this.
Another way to go through the bible is to use a plan on YouVersion. It's a bible app that has thousands of different bible reading plans, including several "bible in one year" plans that will guide you through all 66 books.
Having an application that helps you organize your reading time can be very helpful since most of us are on the go!
So once you start reading the bible, how do you know that God is speaking to you? Well, if you read certain verses or chapters and you hear that small voice in your head urging you to apply what you read, or a tug on your heart to forgive someone, ask God to forgive you for something you did or drop a bad habit, then you know it was God.
Other ways could be that a certain word, phrase, prayer, or situation in the bible just left you meditating on it. Our spirit needs nourishment, so just like when you have a tasty meal and you feel good about eating it, the same will happen with your spirit.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18
Prayer and Fasting
If you have spent some time in the bible and are now starting to understand God's kingdom a little more, another step would be to start praying.
It doesn't have to be some complicated, elaborate, religious ceremony. You don't even need to be in church, kneeling on a pew, or it to be Sunday! Just be yourself, and talk to God like you would be talking to anyone else. People make prayer complex and ritualized when it doesn't need to be. Personally, I think others do that because they are stuck with how to hear God's voice, so they are experimenting with other methods.
During this time of intimacy with God, take your time to share what's on your mind.
What are you dealing with that you need to let go of? Ask Him to set you free.
Are you believing for a certain situation to happen that's important? Ask Him for help.
Pray for your family, friends, your community, city and even nation. Declare blessings over them and your region, because God promised us blessings if we chose life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
For example, you could pray something like, “God, please help set me free from (issue or sin your dealing with). I’m ready to let this go and I need your strength to do it, I can’t do it. I need your presence in my life”.
Or, “Father, bless my family, I declare they are the head and not the tail, above and not beneath, break the chains the enemy has over them, and I pray that you would guide them in Your will so they will know the plans you have for them.”
Fasting can also help you get closer to God and hear Him more clearly. Ask anyone who has fasted and what their experience has been. Christ mentions how powerful fasting is, and why we should do it in the verse below.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
When you fast, take the time you were going to use to eat, watch TV, whatever you gave up, and pray instead. Skipping a meal or not watching Netflix for a week doesn't do anything for you if you aren't using that time to connect to your Creator.
Lastly, this third one is the most tricky and controversial. God will relay messages, wisdom, and instruction to you from others. The problem is, sometimes we don't like the person telling us!
There are different ways that God uses people to give you information, whether it's a secret only you know about or guidance. These are called words of knowledge, a gift of the Spirit where someone gets a "download" from God and tells you what they heard or saw.
8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV)
It can also be a wise word or lesson that you are being taught, and after hearing it you feel different. As if something was deposited in you and left you thinking.
Other ways could be through a book, podcast, or video. It doesn't have to be something brand new. In fact, you could be hearing a sermon from 50 years ago, and still get impacted by what you heard.
God does not have any limits to how He wants to talk to us, we are the ones that limit Him by not listening carefully, or rejecting what we heard. He wants the best for us, we just have to pay more attention.