Learning to listen to the Spirit is critical if you want guidance in your life. And who doesn't want help figuring things out?? The Spirit will give you direction that is personal and tailored exactly for you and your life. Instead of looking to others for answers, learn to listen to the Spirit.
Have you ever tried to get direction from God, only to feel like your plea has fallen on deaf ears? If so, you’re not alone. It’s extremely common to feel like God doesn’t answer your prayers. However, once you learn how the Spirit communicates with you, you’ll start to see that the answers are all around.
Start with the basics
Before you can get the answers you seek from God, there are two important thing to understand.
First, God wants to communicate with you.
You are a child of God, and He loves you very much. He wants to talk with you. He wants to hear your voice, and for you to share your struggles and desires. In return, He also wants to give you answers, guidance, and direction that you need!
Second, answers come when we are following Christ and humbly seeking to do the Lord’s will.
If your home and relationships are full of contention, jealousy, anger, fear, or any other emotions or behaviors that cause separation, you won’t get consistent answers.
That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want to help you. He does! However, the first steps in the process are faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance. When we have faith in Christ, we repent of the things that pull us away from him. As we repent, we become more and more righteous and pure, and more full of love.
If you feel like you’re not getting answers, first look at your life and honestly assess what you need to do to become a better disciple. It’s not about your mean relatives, or the boss who is always picking on you. It’s about you and your behavior. The only person you can change is yourself.
"And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?" (Matt 7:3, New Living Translation).
As you become more consistent in following Christ, keeping the commandments, praying regularly, studying the scriptures, and being kind - notice there is no mention of perfection! - you'll receive more and more from the Spirit.
Learning to hear the "still, small voice"
So, how does the Spirit actually communicate with you? There are many possibilities, including dreams, visions, feelings, thoughts, unexpected & "chance" events, and even hearing a voice.
However, today we’ll focus on what is probably the most common: the “still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)
When the Lord communicates with us, it isn’t loud. He doesn’t need to be loud. His voice is powerful. When we learn how to hear the Spirit, it’s clear.
When I ask others how the Spirit speaks to them, the vast majority report that they get impressions or thoughts that come to mind.
This is the “still small voice.”
Here’s a story that shows how this works, from my own experience.
Last summer, we helped my dad move from Georgia to Wisconsin. On one trip, he drove up to our place in Iowa. A few hours before he was supposed to arrive, I had an impression that he was in a city a few hours away, and that the police called to let me know he’d been taken to the hospital because he was sick.
It was an odd thought, and I figured I was just being fearful and worried about the long drive he was making. It was interesting timing, because he actually was in a city just a few hours away when I had that thought.
He arrived, and I never got that call from the police. However, just two hours after he arrived, we took him to the emergency room because he was sick. He ended up spending two days in the hospital.
Here’s another example, and I’m sure this has happened to you….
A friend had been on my mind all morning. I knew that it meant I needed to call her. About 30 minutes later, she called me.
Something similar happens with my husband and his appliance repair work. He’ll think of a customer he’s had, or he will drive by their house. Within two days, they’re calling to set up an appointment.
How many similar examples can you think of from your own life? I bet there are many.
I also know that you dismiss these thoughts often.
Is it really the Spirit, or is it me?
See, the trick isn’t really in learning to hear the voice of the Spirit. The trick is learning to listen to that voice. (Your kids hear you all the time....but how often do they actually listen to you?)
We need to recognize that those simple thoughts or impressions are actually from the Spirit. And, to learn to trust what we've received.
How do you know that those impressions and thoughts are from the Spirit?
- They are quiet and subtle.
- They prompt you to act.
- They warn you about something to prepare for or to avoid.
- They move you to do good, most often for someone else.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if the thought is from the Spirit or from you, because “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17, King James Bible)
It’s also helpful to understand when those thoughts are NOT from the Spirit. Here’s how to tell:
- They make you feel afraid, angry, jealous, or some other negative type emotion.
- The action would cause harm to another.
- The action would somehow put you above others (pride).
Essentially, anything that will be a blessing comes from the Spirit. Anything that would be hurtful in any way is not from the Spirit.
You will often hear people talk about intuition. Intuition is knowing something without the use of reason (Websters 1828 dictionary). When people talk about intuition, I substitute the Spirit.
When the Spirit speaks to us, it’s a knowing or an understanding. It’s not something you can logically explain.
As I mentioned, the trick is to trust those impressions from the Spirit – to trust your intuition!
Practice listening to the Spirit
Like all other things, it takes practice to hear and recognize the voice of the Spirit.
Here are some things you can do to become better at listening to the Spirit.
- Act on the impressions you receive, however faint or small they seem.
Pay attention to the impressions you have, and act on those things. Your actions are showing that you trust what you’ve received. As you act, you’ll continue to receive more, and your confidence will grow.
- Ask for what you want.
You don’t have to wait to receive something from the Spirit. Remember, we need to ask for what we want. The process is to ask in faith, and then to receive. When there are things you want to understand, ask, and then listen.
- Study your scriptures.
When you put yourself in God's word, you invite the Spirit. Pray before you read, and ask a specific question, or simply ask to be taught what will bless you, or what you can do to help someone else. Then, as you read, notice any impressions that come to you.
- Listen to hymns.
Listening to hymns is another way to invite the Spirit. If you have questions you've been pondering, play some hymns and see if you get your answer then.
- Allow quiet in your day.
This can be difficult, especially if you have small children....or any children who like to talk a lot. 🙂 However, when we allow quiet, there's space for the Spirit to speak to us. If you have music or other noise constantly in your home, it's much more difficult for the Spirit to speak to you.
- Record your impressions
We tend to forget easily. I've found that writing my impressions and what I did to act on it is immensely helpful. Periodically, I go back and review those journal entries. This strengthens my faith, as I remember the ways the Spirit has guided and directed me.
When I ask a question in prayer, I’ll sit silently and wait. Sometimes the answer comes immediately, and sometimes it takes a few minutes. When it takes longer, it usually means that I’m not quite ready to hear what the Lord has to say. Occasionally, nothing will come. That just means it’s time to move on. Either the answer will come later, or I just don't need it right now.
Final thoughts on listening to the Spirit
Eventually, it will become easier and easier to hear the Spirit. You'll learn how he speaks to you. Each of us receives inspiration slightly differently. If you want to speed up the process, ask a lot of questions! God wants to answer you, so this is a great way to get better faster.
I know that your Heavenly Father loves you. Through the voice of his Spirit, I've come to know for myself that Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. It is through him that all peace and safety comes. Seek after him, and you will find.