Learning to Hear from God (By Listening to Other People)

I've been reading through the Old Testament and just started 1 Samuel this week.  Even as a kid, the story of Samuel was interesting to me.  As a small boy, he was brought to live and serve at the temple of God, with the priest Eli as his guardian.  Samuel became the prophet that anointed and represented God to the first kings of Israel, but first he had to learn to hear the voice of God.  The following verses tell about the first time God spoke to him.  I apologize for the length, but I believe it's all important.

"Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli.  And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.

It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was, that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, "Here I am."  Then he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me."  But he said, "I did not call, lie down again."  So he went and lay down.  The Lord called yet again, "Samuel!"  So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me."  But he answered, "I did not call, my son, lie down again."  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.  So the Lord called Samuel again for the third time.  And he arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me."  Then Eli discerned that the Lord was calling the boy.  And Eli said to Samuel, "Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel!  Samuel!"  And Samuel said, "Speak, for Your servant is listening."  The Lord said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.  In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.  Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever." 

1 Samuel 3:1-14 (NASB)

The most intriguing thing I find in this story is that Samuel did not immediately recognize the voice of God when he heard it for the first, second, or even third time.  

Instead, it took the guidance of an old man to reveal the source of the voice to him, opening up a lifetime of listening to and communicating with the Father.

Whether this or any other gifting, all of us in the body of Christ have gifts that come easily to us.  One woman is a wonderful and willing hostess but cannot fathom speaking in front of large groups.  Another woman speaks to full stadiums with only the slightest anxiety but is uncomfortable having anyone but her closest friends and family in her home.

The hostess can help her friend host an enjoyable dinner party, and the speaker help her friend share her testimony in front of their church.

Hearing the voice of God is the same way.  Even though many people are especially gifted in this way, we can all learn how to hear this voice of God.

If you long to hear the voice of God more clearly and more often, find someone in your life who is more practiced than you and ask for help.  Read books by people such as John Eldredgeto learn from their experience.  

My husband is one of those people who has an easier time hearing God.  He doesn't always like what he hears (such as when we learned we were moving to Texas), but he hears with more regularity than most people I know.  

I asked him to give me three tips for those of us who are trying to hear God better.  Here is what he had to offer:

1.  Most importantly, in order to hear God, you must believe that He does speak.

2.  Be willing to forget yourself.  If you have an agenda, you won't be able to hear properly.  If all you hear from God is what you want to hear, you probably need to reevaluate your openness to hearing what He has to say.

3.  You have to do something.  Hearing God requires a response.  Sometimes it is an intellectual response, a changing of your mind.  Sometimes it requires an action, such as delivering a message or going a new direction in your life.

Finally, I want to turn back to Samuel for just a moment.  The very first message that God gave Samuel was negative.  We must be prepared for that.  Not everything we hear from God will be pleasant, but all of it, if it is truly from God, will be purposeful.  If you want to hear more about hearing negative messages from God, please check out this earlier blog post, Can Prophecy Be Negative?

And now, I'd like to hear from you.  What is the most important lesson you've learned about hearing God, whether from your own experiences or from the teaching of someone else?

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