Hearing God. It’s vital!

by K.W. Leslie, 10 May

Prayer is of course talking with God: We talk to him and he talks back. It’s not a complicated idea—though Christians obviously overcomplicate it all sorts of ways.

And because it’s talking with God—’cause he talks back—prayer is therefore the most common, usual way God communicates with people.

Yep, even more common than bible. I know; I’m fully aware plenty of Christians claim bible is the only way God communicates with people. They believe this because it’s what they’ve been taught: “God doesn’t talk to people anymore, so stop trying to hear him and read your bible.” And hey, if you shut your ears to everything God tells you in prayer, in dreams, through prophets, or even full-on personal appearances, of course you’re gonna claim he only communicates through bible. It’s like someone who throws out their phone and computer, burns their mail, refuses to interact with anyone in person, and only communicates by carrier pigeon: Okay, guess we’d better get some carrier pigeons. God’s frequently willing to work around our ridiculous arbitrary rules. But for normal people, we pray and he talks back.

I’m also aware there are Christians who insist they don’t hear anything. They’ve tried hearing God, but they got nothing. So they gave up and presume prayer is unidirectional: We talk, he hears, but he says nothing—’cause he doesn’t need to say anything, ’cause he said everything he cares to say in the scriptures. Such people are easily swayed into believing God only talks through bible. You can find whole churches full of people who claim they never, ever hear God in their prayers.

But you’ll also find that’s what they tell you when other people from their church are around. In private, they’ll confess they did hear God once. Or twice. Or all the time.

And hearing God is confirmed by the scriptures. All over the scriptures. ’Cause the guys who wrote the scriptures heard God, and they’re writing about other people who likewise heard God. The whole reason there are scriptures in the first place is because people hear God. Yeah, certain cessationists are gonna claim prophecy doesn’t work that way; that prophets opened their mouths, God took ’em over like a ventriloquist manhandles a puppet, and his voice came out of ’em. Or his words flowed from their pens. Whichever. But that’s more like the mumbo-jumbo we find among Spiritualists and pagan religions; it’s not at all how God works. The prophets came to God with questions—

Habakkuk 1.2-4 GNT
2 O LORD, how long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us from violence? 3 Why do you make me see such trouble? How can you stand to look on such wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are all around me, and there is fighting and quarreling everywhere. 4 The law is weak and useless, and justice is never done. Evil people get the better of the righteous, and so justice is perverted.

—and God responds with answers.

Habakkuk 1.5 GNT
Then the LORD said to his people, “Keep watching the nations around you, and you will be astonished at what you see. I am going to do something that you will not believe when you hear about it.”

(Followed by an answer they probably didn’t like at all—if you keep reading Habakkuk.)

This is why prayer and prophecy is so closely connected: It’s how God gives prophets his messages for other people. We’ll ask God questions; he’ll give answers, and add, “Tell this to others.” ’Cause other Christians have the same questions, and God’s answer applies to them too.

But of course if you don’t pray—or you think all your prayers are unidirectional—you’re not gonna get prophecies like this. Or have any prophecies in your church at all. Or you’ll have what your preachers claim are “prophecies,” but they’re all angry, political, fruitless, and otherwise inconsistent with God’s character.

Why we gotta hear God.

I described how we hear God in my first article on prayer, but I’ll recap: God is spirit. Jn 4.24 In part so are we. Whenever we communicate with God, we do so through our spiritual parts. He communicates back the same way.

Will it be a physical voice, a “still small voice” like that one passage? Nah. More like he’ll drop ideas in your head. How do you know whether these ideas are God-ideas… or our own minds, or worse, some evil spirit? We confirm it through the scriptures, and through fellow Christians who also hear God. He doesn’t only talk to you, y’know! He talks to everybody—whether we listen or not.

Hearing God, and acting upon what he tells us, is the fastest way to grow our relationship with him. He likes to reward obedience. Our obedience is an act of faith, which means our faith’s gonna grow. Frequently God’s instructions have to do with growing the Spirit’s fruit, which means our character is gonna change to become Jesus’s. Sometimes it’s gonna provoke us to prophesy or perform miracles. More often it’ll just produce goodness: Good works and good Christians.

Hearing God also makes dark Christians nervous. These’d be the people who fixate on evil, and because they’re so afraid of it, they worry God’s voice might actually be Satan playing God again. These folks encourage us to be so rigorous about confirming it’s God’s voice, we wind up dismissing nearly everything God says. Or they just straight-up promote cessationism: They claim God stopped talking back in bible times, so stop trying to listen and just read your bible.

As y’might notice from their dark fruit, dark Christians don’t know God as well as they imagine. Most of the reason they discourage listening to God, is because God’s instructions so often have us do what they’re not doing, think how they’re not thinking, love whom they refuse to love, and be gracious where they deny grace. God tells us to fear nothing and no one but God. Lk 12.4-5 To worry about nothing, but hand those worries off to God as well. Pp 4.6 To resist evil, instead of letting the fear of it stop us from dong good. Ro 12.21 To resist all the legalism, all the civic idolatry, and all the cultlike behavior which pervades dark Christian churches.

Stands to reason these people get so warped: They refuse to listen to God! They tightly control how the bible’s to be interpreted, and which of God’s activities are permitted or denounced as devilish. Sometimes they even try to control how nature’s interpreted, which is why there are so many Christians who won’t believe in science. It’s a narrow, fearful religion… and it can’t abide the actual voice of God correcting it. So it pretends to hear nothing.

Yikes. Anyway, don’t repeat their mistake. Do listen.

Interact with God.

Of the Christians who won’t listen to God, one of their bigger debates is over whether our prayers even get God to do things. Since he’s God and already knows the future, they wonder whether he doesn’t already have his mind made up… so our requests won’t do bupkis ’cause God has a plan.

To these folks, the point of prayer isn’t really to ask God for stuff, isn’t really to try to change his mind about how things are going. It’s entirely to receive his revelation: To learn what God’s plan is, and get with the program instead of trying to contribute. To tell God, “Your will be done,” Mt 6.10 then shut up and let him do his thing.

Okay yes, God knows best, and sometimes his answers are no. We gotta learn to be okay with it when he does that. Sometimes he does have a the best idea in mind. More often we’ve asked for something we’ve no business asking. Jm 4.3

But don’t get the false idea God won’t allow us to sway him. Scriptures definitely reveal otherwise. God welcomes our prayer requests. Jn 16.23-24 He welcomes our interaction. Yes, he’s mighty enough to run the universe without any feedback from his kids… but that’s not the relationship he wants! He doesn’t wanna simply bark orders to his followers, and run things like a despot. He’s our Father. He wants us to be curious about what he’s up to, ask him how things work, and desire to be useful parts of his process. He wants to share with us.

If he didn’t want our interaction, he wouldn’t bother to reveal a thing. He’d save us without our input or knowledge, and that’d be that. Any bible in such a universe (assuming there was one) would be pamphlet-sized; or simply say, “I got this.” But God wants to take time out to explain his process to his confused, frustrated kids. And unconfuse us, unfrustrate us—even include us in his kingdom.

That’s what prayer—and really, all of revelation—is about. Make more sense now?