• Marnie Hammar

How Do I Listen for God?

Updated: May 5



He was relaxing on our mauve hand-me-down couch, watching our fancy new 19” television — a wedding gift we were giddy about. I was standing in the doorway, telling him something or asking him a question. I don’t even know. All I remember is that, without looking at me, he picked up the remote and turned up the volume on the tv.


Rather than be the offended new bride, I was highly amused.


I stepped forward, placing myself in between him and the television. As he looked up at me, still holding the remote angled toward the tv, he grinned, realizing what he’d just done. I started laughing, inviting him to also try to mute me.


All day long, we constantly filter sounds in or out without even realizing. We ignore the coffee grinder as we listen for the baby to wake. We don’t hear the dishwasher while we press start on our playlist. We block the bump of the washer but sense the slightest patter of footsteps in the hallway. And so it was with my man. Even though it didn’t register that I was talking to him, on some level he heard me, as he turned up the volume.

There’s a difference between hearing and listening, isn’t there? We hear all the time, but true listening takes intentionality. We have to choose to listen — that simple decision to listen changes how we connect and interact with our people.


Choosing to listen is choosing to connect.


What I didn’t understand for so many years is that intentional listening also impacts how I meet with God. In the same way my handsome husband chose to shift his focus from the tv to me, I can choose to pause my normal noisy routine to listen for God. I see models of this choice in the pages of scripture. I’m drawn to the close relationships that Abraham and Moses and Job and David had with God. Every story bears witness to the reason they enjoyed deep communion with our God: they chose to listen for Him.

  • God to Abraham: “In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18)

  • Moses to God’s people:Wait, and I will listen to what the LORD will command concerning you.” (Numbers 9:8)

  • Job to God: “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5)

  • David to God: “In the day of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalm 86:7)

They were mighty men of God, not because of super-human faith or pedigree’d training, but because of their willingness to seek Him and their reliance on being with Him.


This same connection is available to each of us today. We don’t need fancy Bibles or pretty journals or church-y resumes — He just wants us to come to Him with expectant hearts.


He wants to meet with us.


How does listening for God even work?


My own faith journey grew from a place of not knowing I could hear God, to a hunger for and longing to hear Him more and louder. I fully admit, I’m still a student, trading my striving for sitting at His feet. At the heart of this commitment to listening is the need to consistently create and hold space to listen.


While listening for God isn’t complicated, it does take intentionality. I’ve learned that I have to make room. In those moments when it feels hard to get quiet and listen, I weigh my options: get quiet and listen for Him, or keep doing things my way. Most of the time, especially when I’m making myself miserable with spiraling and unhealthy thoughts, I am pulled towards sitting with Him like a magnet, propelled by my need for Him.


I’ve learned that not sitting with Him and not listening to hear His voice is far more difficult to walk through than learning the discipline of being still with Him.


So how do we listen for God? How do we interact with Him in prayer? Entire books have been written about hearing God’s whispers and being in His presence and seeking to hear His voice (I’ve listed a few of my favorites below). But at its simplest, I take these same beginning steps each time, knowing that they lead to meeting with God and hearing His voice in prayer:


1 | Make space.

The first step is to make space in two critical places: in our schedules and in our hearts. Start with the practical step of finding an uninterrupted pocket of time and reserve it. Plan ahead. Be creative. If it means hiding in your car while it’s parked in the garage, or sitting on the closet floor behind your hanging clothes, know that you’re not the first to try that. Or maybe it helps to move your body to quiet your heart. If so, plan a walking date with Him.


Once you’ve held the time, make room in your heart by remembering the truth that God wants to talk with you. The first three posts in this series, describing the postures to hear Him louder, are about making room in our hearts. (Links to those posts are included below.)


Be sure to also make room in your heart by offloading whatever you carry into prayer. Share your thoughts and burdens with Him, and think of it as a decluttering of your heart and mind, so that you have more space to receive Him.


2 | Draw near.

Begin your prayer time with gratitude. Pray against distractions and interruptions and doubts that the enemy may try to use. Be honest with your feelings and your struggles and your concerns as you pray — He knows them all anyway. You might choose some Psalms to pray through (examples in this article, 10 Powerful Psalms You Should Pray).


I used to think of drawing near Him as time for confession and then asking God for things. I never knew that drawing near Him could also include pausing to listen. When we draw near, our choice to listen is better than the checklist of prayers I used to bring to Him: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools…” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) It’s not just a one-sided outpouring of our hearts, where we pray and move on. When we listen for Him, prayer is also choosing to receive His faithful pouring out of Him to us.


“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

3 | Ask questions.

Do you need to talk with God about something specific? Is there something that you’re struggling with? After you tell God your fears and concerns, ask Him questions:


How do you feel about me?

Where are you in this, God?

What would you have me do here?


I find it helpful to write down each question as I pray. The visual of an actual question and blank space below it helps me to stop talking. That question mark reminds me to pause and listen.


“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.” (Psalm 17:6)


4 | Get quiet.

After you ask God a question, clear your mind. Give yourself the freedom to write down anything you sense as you sit in prayer. Don’t stop to analyze or worry about it being wrong — just keep writing down what you sense as you pray. You can compare it with scripture when you’re done, and with how it aligns with God’s character.


What you hear from God will never contradict scripture. Often, hearing from God will also bring a feeling of peace and comfort, which can be a confirmation that we’ve heard Him. If you’re unsure if what you’ve heard is from Him, pray again at another time. Continue seeking Him until you feel confirmation from Him in your spirit. You can also share what you’ve heard with a trusted friend who also knows the Lord’s voice. I will often pray with my husband or ask him to pray on his own, and then compare what he hears with what I’ve heard.


“Moses therefore said to them, ‘Wait, and I will listen to what the LORD will command concerning you.’ ” (Numbers 9:8)


Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints…” (Psalm 85:8)


These four steps are a beginning. He will honor our efforts to draw near, because He knows that when we choose to listen for Him, we are choosing connection with Him. The more time we invest in this practice, the clearer His voice becomes. We will learn to recognize the Spirit speaking to our hearts more and more. We will know Him deeper through that connection and intimacy.


Choosing to listen for Him is what moves us toward hearing Him louder.

This post is the fourth in a series describing five different postures to hear God louder. This fourth posture of belief, that we create space to listen for Him, is a building block for knowing Him deeper and hearing Him louder. To know more about drawing closer to Him, watch for the last post in the series.


The five postures:

1 | Seek: I believe that when I seek Him, I will find Him.

2 | Know: I know that God still speaks to us.

3 | Expect: I expect that I will hear Him.

4 | Listen: I commit to creating time and space to listen for His voice.

5 | Connect: I believe that when I listen for Him, I will connect with Him.


If you are interested in spending more time learning more about these five postures, I've compiled a FREE five-day devotional and guided journal called, "Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder." Subscribe here to receive a link to your FREE copy -- and you'll also receive notifications of future posts.


Read the other posts in this series:

Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?

Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?

Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?


For Reflection


Posture Four | Listen: I commit to creating time and space to listen for His voice.


Promises:

  • “Moses therefore said to them, ‘Wait, and I will listen to what the LORD will command concerning you.’ ” (Numbers 9:8)

  • “He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction.” (Job 33:16)

  • “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:4-5)

  • “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.” (Psalm 17:6)

  • “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints…” (Psalm 85:8)

  • “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools…” (Ecclesiastes 5:1)

Prayerful Practice:

  • Look up the promises above. Read what comes before and after each verse.

  • Make space in your day and in your heart to listen. Draw near to Him, ask Him questions, and then get quiet. Approach your prayer time as a dialogue: Ask God questions, and be prepared to allow space to be still and listen.

  • Sometimes I need to move my body to quiet my mind — try taking a walk and asking God questions, pausing to listen as you walk. Try different ways to make space to listen.

  • As you listen, don’t overanalyze what you sense. Give yourself freedom to keep listening and wait to process what you’ve heard until after you’re finished praying.

  • God may not speak right away. While we cannot demand that He speak to us, we should still expect that we will. Remember, we are promised that He speaks to us.

Ponder:

  • As a practice, do you hold time during your prayer to listen? If not, are you ready to commit time for that step?

  • If you do not routinely listen for God, consider the reasons that keep you from doing that?

  • Have you ever thought about comparing the results of trying to listen for God versus not trying to listen for Him? Have you ever considered what the “cost” of not choosing to listen for Him might be? What might you miss in not creating that time and space? What might you gain in trying?

  • What reasons can you think of to add this practice to your prayer life? When do you plan to try it?

To read more about listening to God and hearing His voice, here are a few of my own favorite resources:


Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson

Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby

A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer by Rusty Rustenbach

He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear From God by Priscilla Shirer

Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks by Priscilla Shirer


To read more here about meeting with God:

Five Ways to Combat Christian Complacency

Discerning the Voice of God: A Journey of Discovering that He Speaks

Hear Him Louder Essay Series


Photo credit: Frank McKenna, Unsplash.

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