On Sunday we were thinking about being Connected to God… but often what stops us from feeling deeply connected to the Lord is our own ability to hear Him speak. One sided conversations lead to one-sided relationships, and none of want that with Jesus! In this blog, I want to share a little bit about how can we learn to hear God speak…
It’s a powerfully beautiful moment.
At the foot of Beartooth Mountains (South Montana), lies a dusty old ranch, looking as old as the dry lands it blends into.
Out front lies a paddock, where a huge horse is frantically charging. A fierce and furious beast, surrounded by an orange cloud of dust as if creating a no go-zone around him; wild neighing roars out his challenge: “I dare you to enter.”
Looking on are the experienced eyes of ranch owner Tom Brooker.
Brooker knows he must climb over the fence and enter into the wild horses domain.
Slowly he swings one leg over the barricade, and then the other. This unwelcome trespasser puts the horse on high alert. More dust. More defiance. More demands.
Calmly Brooker just stands there, knowing full well that one kick from this horse could cost him his life. He waits.
With his head bowed in respect, he moves slowly towards the trashing beast – seeking permission to enter into his madness, his fear, his hurt.
The horse has spotted this, but eventually comes to see there is no threat approaching. Gently and graciously, Brooker painstaking enters into this strange dance that it seems the horse is leading… until eventually he is allowed to lay a hand on the horses mane.
An eerie quiet descends on the ranch, dust clouds and barriers drop, and all that can be heard is Brooker’s persistent yet peaceful whisper.
An Unspoken Understanding…
That scene is from The Horse-Whisperer, a movie starring Robert Redford (who also directed it) and is based on a book by the same name. The book’s author modelled Tom Brooker’s character on several different ‘horse-whisperers’ that he had known.
I don’t know if he coined that phrase for the novel, but now the “ – whisperer” (insert your own animal/interest in the blank) has become a way describing people who have a way of understanding and communicating with things at a deeper level that most of us can conceive.
“He’s a Dog-Whisperer” – we say of the TV vet who seems able to cure the inexplicable anxiety of a concerned canine.
“They’re a Toddler-Whisperer” – the friend or relative that seems somehow able to reason with an irritated infant.
And if further proof were needed about our insatiable need for the supernatural, and the dark places that search can take us; there is even a tv show called the “Ghost-Whisperer”… well, someone’s got to offer counselling to Casper right?
I wonder if, in the church, there are those we consider to be “God-Whisperers” – people who seem to have a connection with God that the rest of us look on with a mixture of confusion and envy.
I remember years ago getting a call from a youth leader looking for someone to lead their Alpha Holy Spirit Weekend. I asked them why they weren’t leading it, and there was a resignation (with just a hint of pain behind it) in their comment: “there are some people who just seem able to do all that stuff but I just can’t…” It was one of those moments of rare honesty – they felt inadequate to do it; unqualified and ill-equipped.
Maybe you’ve had that thought: “I’m not ‘one of those'”…
Maybe you’ve come to accept that with real resignation – but it feels more like rejection… being unworthy, unwanted, unwelcome.
But I want to assure you today that if we haven’t heard God speak to us in a long time (or at all) that’s not because He is ignoring you while He is engaging with others, or that you’re not one of the special few who seem to have inherited an innate ability the rest of us mere mortals can only gape at and grope after…
When Jesus tells us:
My sheep know my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
He wasn’t talking to the shepherds, or the sheep-dogs, or to a special group of special sheep! He’s clear that all of us are welcomed into that intimate and nurturing relationship of being guided and guarded by His voice.
So, in what ways can each of us learn to recognise His voice in our lives?
1. Expect to hear from God
My dad and I went through a period where we’d regularly ask each other: “Any news from heaven?” and although there wasn’t always some cloud-parting, earth-shattering, life-changing revelation to share with each other – the question kind of held us in a place of expectation.
You can trust that God has something to say to you.
You can trust that God is able to speak to you.
You can trust that God wants to talk to you.
So expect it. Intentionally set about creating time and space to just listen for His voice. Think about your schedule for today, for this week, this month, this year – where are the places you can carve out for some quality time with your Heavenly Father? Time to simply be in His presence; to be still, to be listening, to simply be.
2. Ask to hear from God
Throughout the scriptures there are loads and loads of times, when people ask God for guidance through a specific situation. Now they don’t always like or follow the leading they receive but with staggering reliability it is a prayer God always seems willing to answer.
Years ago my daughter Lois came out with me while I was walking the dog. After a while she slipped her hand in mind and said: “So, what do you want to talk about dad?” It still makes me smile to this day!
It’s ok to ask God to speak to you, He loves you and would love you to ask Him that very same question: “What do you want to talk to me about?”
Go for a walk with God – and just allow Him, in whatever way He wants to (remembering not to limit the ways you expect Him to speak to you) to guide you.
3. Hold onto everything that He says to you.
It happens all the time.
A daily verse of scripture really lifts or enlightens us.
A sermon really inspires us to do something.
A friend speaks life or confirmation or correction or encouragement to us.
And then we… forget it.
Our day pans out the way it usually does, our response is the same, our spirit comes tumbling down from the Mountaintop High to trudge through the familiar valleys we so often tread through.
I remember asking God to speak to me, and just feeling reminded of all the things He had been saying to me over that particular season and suddenly realising: “I don’t need a new word from the Lord, I need to trust the one He has already given to me!”
It’s amazing how often we forget what God has said to us. One way to cultivate a heart that is open to God is to truly treasure what He has said to us. Write it down and keep that piece of paper it in your bible. Share it with others and ask them to test it with you. Some of us may want to turn into a song, or a poem, or a painting, or a blogpost(!). Pray into those things until you start to see them coming into fruition. Do whatever you need to remember them and hold everything He says to you as precious in your life.
4. Check your messages
I really love the story of when God calls the boy Samuel to be a prophet… There in the dead of night, in his little bed, in the silence of the tabernacle… Samuel hears a voice calling his name so clearly that he thinks it must be Eli. It takes three times for Eli, the aging priest Samuel served under, to realise that “it was the LORD calling the boy”. (1 Samuel 3.8).
For me to communicate with you like this it takes another medium – thoughts form in my head (sometimes, not often!) and I’m forming them to sentences and typing them so that others can read it too over the wonders of the world wide web. If we were sat talking the ‘medium’ would our voices communicating our thoughts. But since God is spirit (John 4.24) He is able to communicate directly with our spirit, sometimes without the need of any other media.
This is happening for Samuel – but it takes him a while to recognise that “it was the LORD”…
Find some silence… maybe when you go to bed tonight, to look back over your day, and ask the LORD: “Where were you calling my name today?”
Sometimes God speaks through others, sometimes He speaks through His creation, sometimes He speaks through circumstances, sometimes He speaks through His Word, other times the Holy Spirit will speak directly to us and arrest us or compel us or still us. It takes time and practise to recognise this in real time – but it can begin with Samuel’s simple prayer:
Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.
1 SAM 3.10
The God who whispers
There are, of course, those who the Lord calls to a Prophetic Ministry, and the gift of prophecy is a powerful and precious gift, but the Lord is willing, able and ready to speak to any whose hearts are listening.
I don’t know if there are “God-whisperers” but I do know that if we are intentionally listening God is whispering… sometimes through earthquakes, winds and fires, and at other times through His still small voice (1 Kings 19) calling us gently by name, guiding us deeper, leading us on, calming our fears, healing our hurts, and blessing our world in His Name.
So, any news from heaven?
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