Hearing from God personally is something Christians seek to do whenever they need the Lord's direction regarding something that isn't specifically covered in the Bible. Which job should I choose? Is this the man God wants me to marry? Should we pick up and move to that new area? It's very difficult sometimes to distinguish the Lord's voice from my own desires. How can we really know that we're being guided by God and not our own wants and wishes?
Welcome to the world of living by faith!
Here are some things to keep in mind:
God wants to speak to you on a spiritual level
One of the reasons hearing from the Lord is so challenging is that it involves tuning our hearts to God's Spirit. That means we shouldn't be expecting to hear an audible voice from heaven. I mean, sure, God can speak audibly if He wants to, but frankly, spiritual communication is so much better. But that's also where the challenge comes in because while we're born with all of our 5 senses turned on, our spiritual sense needs to be developed over time.
Jesus told us that "God is spirit" (John 4:24) and that means pursuing the ability to hear His voice is a spiritual quest. Before you get discouraged thinking all this is just too hard, let me quickly assure you that every believer in Christ has been given everything they need to hear God's voice. When you came to faith in Christ, He gave you His Holy Spirit and the Apostle Paul reminds us that every child of God has "the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16)
"So, why then is hearing God's voice so hard?"
There are several things we can point to that make it hard to hear God's voice, but here are just a few:
The life of the flesh has hijacked our attention
Our hearts are so busy and so "loud" that they drown out God's voice
We become impatient because God's doesn't respond on our timetable
Our faith muscles are flabby and out-of-shape
Our Bibles have been closed much too often
So based on these common issues, let me share the following tips:
Change your focus
We know Jesus told us to "Seek first the Kingdom of God" but often our attention gets re-directed to fleshly pursuits and interests. Then suddenly, we develop a need to seek God's will and we find it incredibly hard to change our focus. The Apostle Paul warned us that "...those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh..." (Romans 8:5) I really believe this is where we need to come clean to the Lord and just confess that our focus has been on all the wrong things and we're in need of a spiritual course-correction. You'll find the Lord responding quickly to your request to "set your minds on things above" and, as a result, hearing His voice will come that much easier.
Learn to quiet your heart
Learning to hear God's voice means learning to quiet all the other voices that are clamoring for your attention — including your own!
David said to the Lord: "I have calmed and quieted my soul" (Psalm 131:2). Remember, your soul is the seat of your intellect and your emotions, and over time it's possible to become so over-stimulated that the noise within our hearts and minds grows to a deafening level. Learning to quiet the noise is essential to hearing from God, so when you come for prayer be sure you're taking the time to just sit in His presence and wait on Him. Don't talk...just sit quietly and focus on Him and Him alone. Ask Him to quiet your soul and just breathe.
Our modern approach to life with express lanes and fast food drive-throughs can be counterproductive to hearing from God because they tend to foster an expectation that life ought to move quickly. But I've learned over the years that God is never in a hurry, and if I want to hear His heart on a matter, I'm the one who needs to adjust my expectations to His timeline, not the other way around.
God has promised that He will give us the wisdom and direction we seek (James 1:5) but the real question is: how long are we willing to wait for the answer? Learning to be patient in prayer is essential. David gives this perfect exhortation: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:14) We need that reminder every single day.
Exercise your faith
Christians forget that it also takes FAITH to hear from God, but faith is like a muscle. If you don't use it regularly it becomes flabby and weak. Then when a need arises that demands some real faith we often find ourselves struggling just to stay in the race. Once again, James reminds us that when we ask of God, we are to "...ask in faith, with no doubting..." (James 1:6) God responds to our faith, so if you're weak in that area the chances are good you will also struggle hearing from God. Thankfully, when we come humbly before God and confess our weaknesses and shortcomings we know that God understands and is ready to give us whatever we need. Ask God to help you to have a strong faith.
Let the Word transform your mind
Paul wrote: ...be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern...the will of God... (Romans 12:2)
Knowing God's will comes so much easier when our hearts and minds are being transformed by God. This happens as we continue to expose ourselves to the wisdom and insight found only in God's powerful Word. We can then take that knowledge and insight and use it "test" situations to determine whether they are from God or not.
Remember, knowing the Word is the same as learning to know the heart of God. Once you know God's heart you find yourself more able to anticipate the things that please Him as well the things that grieve Him.
For more on this topic check out Pastor Paul's teaching: Why We Struggle Getting Close to God