When it comes to making important decisions, discerning the voice of God is imperative. However, discerning God’s voice isn’t always as simple or easy as we desire.
For example, when our emotions are closely connected to situations, it can be hard to differentiate between God’s voice and the voice of our strong emotional longings.
This is especially true when it comes to our greatest dreams, romantic relationships, closest loved ones, and circumstances that are dear to our hearts.
Even when we aren’t trying to make life-changing decisions, most of us want to learn to discern the voice of God throughout everyday life.
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The Importance of Discerning the Voice of God
Like Moses, we wish God would speak to us through clear, burning bush experiences. Meanwhile, God often speaks in more subtle ways.
A big part of your spiritual growth journey involves learning to know when God is speaking to you (and when the enemy is).
What does it mean to discern the voice of God? How do you know when God speaks to you?
To discern means to understand. But understanding the meat of God's Word and discerning His voice is set aside for those who love the Lord and follow His will.
Discerning God’s voice is the act of receiving God’s divine guidance for our lives. God speaks in many different ways. Most of us would like God to speak through an audible voice, but very few people ever hear the audible voice of God.
Instead, God often speaks through gentle impressions and life-giving, spontaneous thoughts.
These thoughts and impressions offer wisdom and insight to direct our lives. Thoughts that are from God will always align with God’s Word, wisdom, and common sense.
God also speaks to us through other people, visible signs and wonders, and circumstances. Additionally, he frequently speaks to us by the power of the Holy Spirit when we read our Bibles.
Through the power of his Spirit, God wants to direct our lives and lead us in his perfect will.
How to Discern the Voice of God
The key to learning to discern God's voice is growing closer to him and developing a deeper relationship.
As we come to know him more intimately, God renews our minds so that we begin to think the way he thinks (see Romans 12:1). We become so closely connected to him that hearing his voice becomes natural.
We can strengthen our relationships with God through daily disciplines including Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, soaking in God’s presence, and even spending time enjoying our hobbies while talking to him.
Today, let’s look at nine detailed ways to discern the voice of God.
Discern God’s Voice by Praying Daily
Daily communication with God is essential for a strong spiritual walk. God wants us to pray because prayer helps us grow closer to him. Effective prayer consists of two vital elements: talking and listening.
Many people overlook the importance of listening to God during times of prayer; however, creating space to hear from God daily is vital in learning to discern the will of God.
A good way to practice hearing from God is to daily ask God, “Lord, show me what you want me to know about this day.”
After asking this question, sit in silence and pay attention to any thoughts that come to mind.
Writing them down is a good way to test whether the thoughts are simply coming from our imaginations or God.
When thoughts align with God's Word, common sense, wisdom, and wise counsel—and when these thoughts feel like refreshing and inspiring gifts—they are often from God.
Discern God’s Voice by Reading God’s Word
The daily discipline of daily Bible study renews our minds, teaches us to hear the Shepherd’s voice, and reveals God’s character.
Spending time in the Bible is vital for learning to discern God’s voice for several reasons.
First, God will never direct us in ways that are contrary to the Bible’s teaching.
It’s important to know what the Bible says so that we can discern whether the impressions we are receiving are coming from God.
Second, God often speaks to us by illuminating verses or passages of Scripture as we read our Bibles.
Additionally, as we encounter new stories in Scripture and learn about biblical times, we develop a greater understanding of God’s nature and character.
This overall understanding of God’s character helps us determine whether our thoughts are in line with his character.
Discern God’s Voice by Asking God for Wisdom
In addition to praying and reading the Bible, God wants us to directly ask him for wisdom (see James 1:5).
The Spirit of God is waiting to reveal God’s plan to us. God wants us to know his will so that we can walk in it.
When we earnestly seek God and ask him to reveal his will to us, we can make the best decisions possible and trust that God is guiding us.
Even if we stray away from the best courses for our lives, God is fully capable of nudging us back on track in his perfect timing. He uses all things for the good of those who love him (see Romans 8:28).
Do you need godly counsel or wisdom for a situation you are facing today? Don’t forget to ask God for wisdom and direction. He is waiting to guide you and help you.
Discern God’s Voice by Seeking Godly Counsel
God designed human beings to live in relationships with one another. God often imparts the Spirit of Truth and speaks into our lives through other people.
This can happen in spontaneous and unplanned moments, and it can also happen when we deliberately seek wisdom from other mature believers.
Has someone ever said something that touched your heart immediately and felt like a ray of light and truth? Most likely, God was speaking to you through this person.
We can also seek out wise counsel when it comes to trying to discern the voice of God.
When we aren’t sure what God might be saying—or which decision to make—talking with other wise and mature believers often helps us discern the voice of God.
This simple step is essential, especially when our emotions are strongly pulling us in one direction.
Discern God’s Voice by Putting on the Armor of God Daily
To live the abundant life and walk in the will of God, it's important to put on the armor of God daily.
This means that we spend time with God daily and make sure that we are grounded in his Truth (and not our emotions). We are prepared to put out the flaming attacks of the enemy by lifting the shield of faith and declaring our trust in Jesus.
And we are fighting back against Satan by speaking God's Word to fear, doubt, and every attack of the enemy.
Before walking out your door in the morning, be sure that you are clothed in the armor of God. This practice will help you discern the voice of God from the voice of the enemy.
Discern God’s Voice by Falling More Deeply in Love With Jesus
As believers, we are God’s children. We are his beloved people, and he is calling each of his children into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
The more deeply we fall in love with Jesus, the easier it becomes to discern God’s voice.
We fall in love with Jesus by learning to turn to him first when our hearts our broken, when we need strength, and when we face all sorts of difficult circumstances.
We also fall more deeply in love with him by spending time with him throughout our days.
This includes beginning each day by talking to him, worshiping him, or resting with him.
It also consists of reading his Word, staying connected with other believers, and falling in love with him by serving others. As we fall more deeply in love with Jesus, discerning God’s voice becomes second nature.
Discern God’s Voice by Applying Common Sense
God seldom advises his followers to act in ways that don’t align with basic common sense. There are exceptions, but these exceptions are not the norm.
God has given each of his children an invisible spirit of wisdom and basic common sense, and he expects us to use this common sense to guide our lives.
When discerning God’s voice, it’s important to ask, “Does this impression align with common sense?” If not, then it is most likely not from God.
Discern God’s Voice by Taking Your Time
Whenever possible, giving ourselves time to discern God’s voice is crucial.
For example, launching a new ministry, relocating to a new city, or getting married to someone you’ve been dating for two weeks might seem like a good idea when you are excited and the idea is new.
Meanwhile, God’s direction stands the test of time.
Whenever possible, give yourself at least several months before making life-changing decisions such as large financial investments, job changes, relocations, and new endeavors of all sorts.
Give yourself time to get to know someone before committing to a lifetime together under the covenant of marriage.
Truth comes to the surface with time, and God’s voice becomes clear with the passage of time.
Giving our emotions time to settle down—and offering space for excitement to wear off—can help us discern whether we are hearing from God or being led by our emotions.
Discern God’s Voice by Walking in Humble Obedience
Shortly before he was crucified, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23, ESV).
These words remind us that those who love God obey him. God will not tell you what to do next until you obey what he already asked you to do.
Has God been asking you to change a certain behavior, forgive someone, or take a step of faith?
If you have been putting off this humble step of obedience, remember that God often remains silent until we take the steps of obedience he has already asked from us.
Do what God has already asked of you, and afterward, he will show you what is next.
A Prayer to Discern God's Voice
My most dear, and wonderful Heavenly Father. I praise your Holy name. I humbly come to your throne of grace, begging forgiveness for my many sins and shortcomings.
Thank you Lord, for your love, grace and mercy. Thank you for your Word, your Truth, your precious Son and for the salvation of my soul.
Lord, please open our hearts and minds to you, to have a better understanding of your Word. Help us to lean not unto our own understanding, but seek your truth and follow your will for our lives.
Help us to hear you Lord, even when you talk to us in whispers. Regardless of the noise and false direction that continually surrounds us, help us to focus on hearing the Only voice that matters. Your voice!
Thank you Lord, for your guidance, light and love. In Jesus' Holy Name, Amen.
Like a good Shepherd leading his flock, God wants to lead and direct our lives. Often, we fail to discern his voice because we neglect the discipline of creating space to listen to him.
At other times, our emotions and desires get in the way of hearing his voice, or we don’t take the time to consider whether the impressions we are receiving align with the Word of God.
These are important steps to consider when it comes to hearing from God and walking in his ways.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that miscommunication happens in even the healthiest human relationships. We fail to understand one another and sometimes get it wrong.
Nevertheless, we don’t give up on these relationships—or communication—because we realize that miscommunication is a part of life.
Similarly, even the most discerning followers of Christ “get it wrong” at times. They incorrectly discern God's voice and miss the mark.
When this happens, we don't need to fear or become discouraged; God is pleased when we make an effort to hear from him.
God is also fully able to pick us up and redirect us onto the right paths for our lives when we miss the mark. He is a gentle Shepherd and loving Guide.