Have you ever felt like you’re talking to yourself when you pray? Does it feel like you’re speaking to the air? Do you wish God would just speak back with a clear and audible voice?
You’re not alone. We have all felt that way at some point when praying.
[Although beware. The clearer God speaks, the more specific we will be required to be in obeying what He says. Whereas, the less clear the answer, the greater freedom or flexibility He is giving us in applying what is spoken.]
Part of the problem with our ability to hear God speak begins with our general lack of expectation that God will speak back or that He even cares to. He does! He is always speaking. The problem is not that God isn’t speaking, the problem is that we do not know how to hear His voice. We get distracted, we lack listening skills, we ignore what He says, or simply lack faith that He is speaking at all. If our listening skills are poor in our relationship with God, it is very likely the case that our listening skills are also poor in every other relationship too.
So how can we improve our listening skills with God and others? What practical steps can we take to begin to hear God speak more clearly?
First, recognize that God is always speaking. The heavens declare the glory of God every day. His miracles and favors are with us in every season, but we must learn to recognize, acknowledge, and listen to His messages so that we can know what He is speaking directly to us for our lives today. Without this vital listening skill, we will lack the power and authority to minister to others effectively, because such power and authority is only obtained and accessible to us through our close, intimate contact with and deep, abiding, intimate fellowship with the Lord Himself.
However, how the Lord speaks is as diverse as the diversity of people and languages He created. The Bible affirms that God speaks to mankind through dreams and visions, but He also speaks through circumstances, through various ways in Scripture, through repetition, through symbol and metaphor, through other people, through a still small voice, and through many other and diverse ways. Recognizing when God speaks and how God primarily speaks to us each individually is the first and most important step in walking in greater victory in our lives.
Dreams are one of the easiest ways to begin to tap into a dialogue with God if you otherwise struggle to hear God speak in other ways. Job 33:14–18 states,
14 “Indeed God speaks once, Or twice, yet no one notices it.
15 “In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men, While they slumber in their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction,
17 That He may turn man aside from his conduct, And keep man from pride;
18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, And his life from passing over into Sheol.
If you want to improve your listening skills overall, but struggle to hear God’s voice, start by paying attention to and tracking your dreams.
First, pray that God will begin to speak to you through your dreams and ask Him to help you remember your dreams when you wake up. Next, honor His voice when He speaks by ensuring that you write down any and all dreams that God gives you immediately when you wake up. If you delay writing them down, you will inevitably forget key details. Therefore, keep a listening (or dream) journal and begin to track your progress as you push in to hear God speak.
Interpreting your dreams is like interpreting a parable. The symbols in the dream represent different things God is speaking and it really isn’t as hard to learn to interpret them than you think. God desires that you understand what He is saying and learning to understand and hear His voice is possible for all believers with the help of our Helper, the Holy Spirit. Dream interpretation is very much like interpreting a regular parable, only these are night parables, so they are fully symbolic in their symbolism (unless of course you are shown a literal vision of something the future). Remember, we can’t put God in a box. He gave us the Comforter, because He plans on making us uncomfortable at times, pushing us out of our comfort zone.
He will normally do this by offending our mind to reveal our heart.
I will write more about how to interpret your dreams down the road, but for now, it is important to write down any dreams you have and seek the Lord to help you understand their message.
In the meantime, here are some questions to ask yourself and review daily to improve your overall listening skills:
- How did I hear God’s voice today?
- What patterns did I observe in my own heart that might get in the way or have gotten in the way of being an effective listener?
- What questions did I ask, or could I have asked the Lord, to help me better understand what God was trying to say or communicate?
- What can I do better or do differently next time to help me listen more effectively?
- What action do I need to take to follow up on a conversation with the Lord from this week (perhaps via a circumstance, Scripture reading, dream, vision, or other pattern that developed throughout the day or week)?
- If God spoke today, did I respond immediately? Did I hesitate at all? Did I procrastinate or ignore the urge to act according to whatever was spoken to me or commanded of me?
- How can I respond more quickly and immediately in the future?
9 Tips to improve your general listening skills:
- Raise your self-awareness
- Honor another’s story
- Silence your inner “fixer”
- Ask great questions?
- Offer empathy and validate or honor sincere feelings
- Monitor your nonverbal signals
- Seek to understand first, whenever there is a conflict
- Let go of distractions
- Be available
As we press in to listen to God, we will also improve and should seek to improve our listening skills toward others. As we learn to hear others better, it is amazing how this will also help us hear God more effectively too.