God speaks time and again—in various ways—but nobody notices” (Job 33:14).
Central to the nature of the human race is a desire to hear God. Well, more than mere desire. We crave a connection with the divine, somehow to see the face of God, to touch and be touched. It’s an inborn, inherent ingredient of our humanity.
Scripture says God is always speaking, but we miss it. It’s not that he doesn’t speak to us, it’s just that we don’t recognize it when he does. Oh, sometimes he breaks in through writing on the wall or thorough a speaking donkey, but mostly he speaks in a still, small voice.
We miss his voice because it is drowned out in the sea of other voices. The cacophony of sounds, like an orchestra tuning, obscures that still small voice. Stomachs growl their hunger, bosses bark their orders, and that insult from twenty years ago still shouts its condemnation.
How do we begin to recognize God’s voice? In meditation. Christian meditation trains our ears to distinguish God’s voice—that one instrument—amidst the orchestra of others. And once we learn to recognize God’s voice, we begin to hear it “time and again, in various ways.”
To hear God’s voice, we need to learn to meditate. Unless, like Balaam, you have a talking ass.
You and I are already experts. We meditate all the time in everyday matters.
With our first child still fresh in the womb, our mind imagines the new bedroom. We picture fresh paint, where the crib fits best, the changing table and rocker. We envision our future life (nursing, teaching soccer, and Christmas mornings) and it changes us today.
We take a truth—our wife’s bulging belly—and consider with our mind and heart. We let the thoughts of our mind mix with the meditations of our heart. And something inside is stirred.
Christian meditation is like that. Unlike Eastern meditation—which empties its mind—we fill our minds with a truth, examine it, let it examine us, and in that meditative mix, God speaks.
Theophan the Recluse (a household name to be sure) said, “To [meditate] is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever present all seeing, within you.”
How Does This Work in Day-To-Day Life?
A common Christian prayer time involves scripture study and worship (liberally sprinkled with confession, thanksgiving, intercession, and maybe a Christian book).
Our study tends to be information gathering (which is good) while our worship is an expression of our spirit and heart (which is also good). Sometimes the move from study to worship feels like shifting from first to fourth gear. We need to link scripture study with worship.
Meditation is that bridge.
My Scripture study usually includes an Old Testament passage, a Gospel, and a New Testament letter. (Right now I’m reading Amos, John, and 1 Peter.) As I read the passage (and slow is better than fast), I wait—I remain alert—for a quickening in my heart.
I’m not sure how else to describe it, maybe a stirring in my spirit or just a sense of God. The two on the road to Emmaus said, “Were not our hearts burning within us.” That works.
When stirring begins, I stop reading and meditate on the verses. I ask myself questions like,
- What does this reveal about God? Why would God want to reveal it to me?
- Why does this passage intrigue me? What about it stirs my curiosity?
- What would my life look like if I believed it were true?
- How does my culture twist, distort, or reject it? How has that affected me?
- Why don’t I really believe this truth deep down? What stops me from embracing it?
- How does this truth make me love God more? How does it reveal his beauty?
- What do I need to change in order to realign my heart with this truth?
I begin by analyzing the truth presented; but after a time, I move from analyzing the text to gazing at God. I move from word-ful thinking to word-less admiration. Jordan Aumann wrote, “Contemplation signifies knowledge accompanied by delight that arouses admiration and captivates the soul” (slightly edited).
It doesn’t happen the same way every day, and certainly not with the same intensity. Some days I’m stirred by verses in the first passage, and I skip the other passages. Other days I finish all the passages, I ask myself which stirred me the most, and I return to that. And gaze.
The safest—and smartest—place to learn to discern God’s voice is in scriptural meditation. But once we learn to recognize his voice in Scripture, we begin to hear it everywhere, in a movie, on a billboard, through a friend, from a stranger on a bus. And we meditate with similar questions.
This blog is mostly the expressions of my meditations. I take vague stirrings in my heart, often simple curiosities, meditate, and then express them. Sometimes it leads to confession, sometimes to question the world’s influence on Christians, and sometimes to purer worship.
Though I’ll be sure to let you know if the neigh of my horse starts to sound like Shakespeare.
Sam (the aspiring recluse)
This article includes material from my upcoming book Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere. It will be released in mid-July by Kregel Publications.
I believe it will help you begin to hear God in a new conversational relationship.
Please consider pre-ordering the book now by clicking onone of these links or on the book cover.
- Learning to recognize the sound of God’s voice
- Hearing God in his silence
- How to Brainstorm with God
- Hearing God in Scripture
- Hearing God for guidance
Wayne Jacobson, pastor and author of He Loves Me and Finding Church, said this:
If you want to grow in your ability to recognize how God makes himself known to you, I can’t recommend a better guide than Sam Williamson’s Hearing God in Conversation.