One of the primary ways that God speaks to us is through His Word, the Bible. Unless we are listening though we will miss the treasures that He wants to impart to us. How can we ensure that we are listening and have the open hearts to be receptive to what God wants to say to us every day? Psalm 119 suggests that if we have an expectant eagerness for God to speak to us we will hear Him. Learning to read the Bible with this attitude can be a discipline but has the rewards of knowing God intimately and hearing His voice daily in our lives.
Do you ever feel like someone isn’t listening to you? I have to say that I really struggle with not being listened to properly. It homes in on my lack of confidence and makes me feel small when I know someone isn’t listening to what I’m saying. You know the thing when you suddenly realise you’ve lost them and slowly your voice fades away to nothing… and they still don’t refocus even when you’ve stopped talking!
I find that this happens most often when I’m with my children. I’m not talking here about the times when they interrupt and you have to either deal with their interruption or explain to them about how they shouldn’t interrupt grown-ups when they are talking – whichever that you deem to be most appropriate at the time. Either way this can often be a disruption to conversation.
But no the cause for not being listened to is a different thing altogether. This is about being upstaged by my children! It amazes me how often I have been deep in conversation with someone and realised that they are not listening to me because they have been completely entranced by whatever my little darlings might be doing. I do find my kids adorable, don’t get me wrong, but it astounds me how often people can completely tune whatever I am saying out to watch them do something pretty ordinary!
Listening can be hard to do. I mean really listening. In the age of multitasking how often do we only give someone half our attention. How often do you find yourself just nodding to something your child has just said and you realise you have no idea what you’ve just agreed to? How often do you recall a conversation you had with a friend, neighbour or colleague from earlier in the day and recognise that maybe you didn’t give them a proper chance to say what they really had on their mind?
We are so often distracted by other things: urgent tasks that need our attention, mobile phones and social media, things that we have in our own minds. All of these things hinder our ability to listen to others and to listen to God. Yet, the psalmist exhorts us to have an altogether different attitude to prepare ourselves to listen to God.
I cried with all my heart; answer me, O LORD!
I will observe Your statutes.
I cried to You; save me
And I shall keep Your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.
My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
The psalmist is desperate to hear from God. He is absolutely dependent on God’s commands and cries out to God, waiting for His words. He drinks in God’s Word, even at the expense of sleep to hear God’s voice. What an amazing listening attitude!
I think that there are two main hindrances for us to hear God’s voice speaking to us when we read God’s Word.
I’ve already talked about this a bit and described how it can affect us from really being able to listen properly (despite our sometimes prideful opinions that we are able to handle multitasking and manage to do it all!). If we approach God’s Word when our heads are full of distractions we will struggle to hear God’s voice. In His grace God does still speak and break through our distractions from time to time. But often we will miss the wisdom we can hear from the Bible and how God wants to speak directly to us through it because we are too preoccupied with other stuff.
2. We read the Bible the wrong way
Sometimes, we fail to hear God speaking to us through the Bible because we read it in the wrong way. We read it as we would any other book and miss the living, breathing Word that it is. If we approach the Bible as we would a good novel, self-help book or practical handbook then we miss the treasures that the Bible contains. When we allow God’s Spirit to aid us in our Bible reading and we read with the expectant prayerful heart the psalmist describes we then hear God’s voice.
3. We fail to recognise God’s voice
Sometimes we project our own expectations too much about what we are wanting to hear and therefore filter out what God is truly wishing to say to us. When God called to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, Samuel didn’t recognise His voice. He thought it was Eli, his mentor calling to him. Samuel didn’t know God’s voice and therefore didn’t recognise it at first when he heard Him call. We have to know God to be able to recognise His voice. The more we take time to grow and develop our relationship with God the more we will recognise when we hear Him speak to us. This will challenge us at times, especially when we have our own preconceived ideas about what we think God is going to say and He says something entirely different. However, if we don’t know Him well, we won’t recognise His voice and we will miss the times when He surprises us or defies our expectations.
How have you heard God speak through the Bible? I would love to hear your comments – please share!
Photo used with permission by Andrea Kratzenberg courtesy of Stock.Xchng