No one would describe me as Pentecostal.
Especially as a college student, I pursued a faith that was very logical, very reasoned, very explainable. Everything fit in a tidy faith-box.
So you can imagine my surprise when, in a moment of deep skepticism and eye-rolling-judgement, I first heard the voice of God.
I was in a very early-aughts musical worship chapel (I had, you see, put off attending chapel nearly all semester and was making up chapel credits wherever I could get them!) – fog machine, breathy lead, lots of feels, full-rock-band set up.
Attempting invisibility in the back of the auditorium, I heard the aforementioned breathy lead say, “We’re going to take up an offering.”
Oh no, I thought, just when I figured this couldn’t get worse…
“But we don’t want your money,” he whispered with his eyes closed as he strummed his guitar. Index cards proceeded to be passed through the auditorium and we were told to ask the Lord what he wanted us to offer, to write it down, and place it in the basket as it came by.
I blinked dumbly at my blank card.
Fine, I decided, You want me to ask God what to offer? Sure. Whatever. I can do that.
In the next moment I silently prayed, Lord, what do you want from me?
The answer came as clearly as if the person next to me had spoken it aloud:
I want your voice.
EXCUSE ME, WHAT?
I literally looked around to see if anyone else had heard that. It didn’t appear so. Freaked out but willing to give God my voice if that’s what he really wanted, I hastily scribbled on my card, folded it up, and put it in the plate when it came by.
I pondered this moment in my heart in the months to come, uncertain of what God was asking of me.
It wasn’t until several months after publishing my first Baby Believer book that God called the offering of my voice to mind.
In reflecting upon the many things about my post-college life which just looked different than I ever anticipated, I could see how the Lord had been at work in me: preparing me with practical skills and experiences as well as shaping and softening my heart so that I could do the work he had for me.
On occasion, my kids have asked me how to hear God, how to know that God is speaking to them. I still don’t have a great answer to that question.
I’d like to say that hearing God as clearly as I did in that auditorium is a normative experience, but it’s not. That night, however, started me on a journey of learning to listen for God and to God, however he was speaking.
First and foremost, we start by going to and always returning to the scriptures – God’s word – and to Jesus – the very word of God made flesh. Although the Bible is replete with stories of God speaking audibly and clearly to his people, it’s full of many more stories in which he does not. The scriptures remind us to listen for God in the sounds of his creation, to hear what God is saying through his law and his prophets, to internalize the words and actions of Christ, and to remember and learn from the conversations between God and his people that have been preserved for us.
Secondly, we pray. Prayer is not a message in a bottle sent out in hopes that maybe, one day, our words will wash up on the shores of heaven. It’s a two-way conversation that requires speaking and listening, sharing of our needs and attending to where the Lord is already at work in our hearts and lives. Even as we place ourselves before the Lord with our genuine questions, tender cries, and heartfelt requests, let us also remember to spend some moments in silent companionship, delighting in the presence of our Father and listening for his response.
Finally, we listen by looking for what God is doing in our lives. What doors has he closed? Which ones has he opened? Are there opportunities we’ve been overlooking? What has God given you capacity for in this season? Where do your God-given passions and talents lie?
The clarity of an audible voice is wonderful, but God subtlety and gentleness with us is also a gift. I’ll close with another example of God’s word coming clearly (though far less distinctly) in my own life:
When I was pregnant with my third child, I kept telling my husband that I wanted to hire monthly housecleaners. He insisted that was not necessary.
Then one August day he said: “I’ve been praying for ways to support you and take things off your plate. You keep telling me we need housekeeping help. It hit me today: this is the answer to my prayer – this is how I can help you. Let’s make space in our budget for regular housecleaning.”
And isn’t that so often how God speaks? Through our life circumstance and those around us. May the Lord give us ears to hear!
Danielle Hitchen is the author of God Speaks, the latest release in the Baby Believer series. This vibrant board book introduces little ones to different sounds while also teaching them some of the ways God speaks to his people. Learn more about God Speaks Here.
Baby Believer® primers are designed to grow with children, from early infancy through elementary school. In addition to basic Bible theology, Baby Believer® board books are filled with quotations from the Bible, creeds, hymns, church fathers, and other articles of faith to help reinforce the content and provide intellectual handholds for older children who possess a greater capacity for learning and memorization.