16 Nov How Does God Speak
When we pray, we speak or think in real, concrete language. How does God reply to us if He doesn’t use an actual voice; how can we be sure a “still small voice” or something similar isn’t just our mind making up what we desperately want God to say?
Communicating with God through prayer is one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us. The ability to come before Him, to engage in relationship with Him in the act of prayer anywhere at anytime is nothing short of miraculous. We are in no way entitled to this; it is just one of the many graces God has bestowed upon us. Unfortunately, this gracious gift often leaves people filled with discouragement and frustration.
We have all experienced times when our prayer life seems one-sided. The problem is often our expectation of it. If we approach prayer with the expectation that God will map everything out for us, we will more often than not find ourselves paralyzed into inaction. He gave us a mind with which to reason. And yet, we wonder, can we really trust our minds or our hearts? How can we be sure that we are not seeking the answers we want rather than seeking God’s will?
Thankfully, in His grace and mercy, God has given us parameters or boundaries within which we can move about freely as we seek to discern His will for our lives.
First, it is important for us to acknowledge that God absolutely can and does speak to us. Scripture gives many accounts of how God has chosen to reveal Himself to His people. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush; He revealed Himself to Elijah in a gentle whisper; He spoke through prophets and angels. These are called direct revelations. In the Old Testament, God did speak and reveal Himself to His people in very clear, direct, and miraculous ways, but even then it was not the norm. Likewise for us today, though God can directly reveal Himself to us, this is not the way He chooses to communicate with us most frequently. So, how does He speak to us?
“Scripture is our highest and best source for truth and the knowledge of God’s will.”
One way God communicates with us is through His Word. Scripture is our highest and best source for truth and the knowledge of God’s will. The psalmist in Psalm 119 spends much time ascribing glory to God’s Word. He describes it as a lamp for his feet and a light for his path (vs. 105), and he stores God’s Word in his heart in hopes that he might not sin against Him (vs. 11). As believers, we need to have the same mindset as the psalmist. God has already given us His Word through the Scriptures. The author of the book of Hebrews said that in the old days God spoke in many ways to many people, but in the last days He has spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). God has spoken to us most clearly, authoritatively, and infallibly through Jesus. As such, Jesus, the Word made flesh, is our best source of truth.
Yet, Scripture doesn’t always address every specific season or circumstance we face, and so we find ourselves wanting something more tangible. Of this, though, John Piper said that if, “you live your life not on the basis of spiritual wisdom, but on the basis of external revelations, you are not compelled to deal so deeply with the corruption of your own heart and mind…God wants conformity to His Son Jesus Christ, not just external compliance with instructions.” In Romans 12:2, Paul exhorts believers to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that “you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As we read and meditate upon the Scriptures and upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are transformed more into the image and likeness of Christ and as such, we will think, live, speak, and act more like Christ.
God also speaks to us through His people. While we are being transformed more into the image and likeness of Christ, we are also still sinners. Scripture may be infallible, but we are not. Everything we do likely has mixed motives. Our desires often color the lens through which we view life; we are biased. Confirmation bias is a technical term used in psychology, meaning that a person often gathers evidence, seeks or favors information, or interprets things in a biased way. Simply put, we seek confirmation of what we already believe or want.
“…it is imperative that we seek wise counsel and work out Scripture’s truths in our lives through strong, biblical community.”
Therefore, as we seek to hear from God — as we read, interpret, and seek to apply Scripture to our lives, it is imperative that we seek wise counsel and work out Scripture’s truths in our lives through strong, biblical community. Each member of the body has been given gifts of the Spirit that are crucial to the body as a whole for the edification of the church. Biblical community provides us with wisdom, direction, confirmation, and shade — allowing us to move forward with confidence.
Finally, as we seek to discern God’s will and direction for our lives, we trust and rest in His sovereignty and in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and acts as our teacher and counselor — guiding us into all truth (John 16:13-15). But we find our greatest hope, perhaps, in the truth that God is sovereign over everything. All things are subject to Him and He works all things according to His will and purpose. He even reigns over our sin and bad choices–redeeming them and using them for our good and the good of His kingdom.
So, as we seek God’s will for our lives, as we seek to hear from Him, as we seek His direction — we pray humbly, read and meditate upon God’s Word, confirm in biblical community, and then proceed boldly.