02 July 2010

Question of the Week:
How to Hear the Holy Spirit?

by Anne Lang Bundy

"I still have many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come,
He will guide you into all truth."
~ John 16:12-13 (NKJV)

How does a person know the voice of the Holy Spirit?
~ T. Anne

The same way one knows any voice—by being familiar with it. But of course, the Holy Spirit must also speak to be heard.

My experience and the testimony I’ve heard from other people is that to hear God speak audibly (with the ear) occurs on only the most exceptional occasions. (If that happens, there’s no doubt about Who has spoken.)

My experience and the testimony I’ve heard from other people is that the Holy Spirit speaks words like a breath heard in the heart alone.

Part of prayer is talking, but richest prayer includes hearing. Many people have told me that they don’t hear God speak when they pray. I would offer the following reasons for that:
• we don’t listen quietly enough
• we don’t listen long enough
• we talk too much to listen
• He is silent for a reason
• we confuse His voice with other voices
• we don’t recognize His voice
• He is speaking without words

We live in a loud world. Retreating from noise makes it easier to hear from God. Listening long enough is another. Quieting our own desires (our will) is perhaps most important of all, because until we lay aside the will within us, it usually drowns out hearing God’s will.

Which is one of the reasons God may simply be silent—He knows we’re not ready to truly hear what He wants to say. We might pray for a long time, telling Him what we want, and never reach the place of asking what He wants. But if we do ask what He wants, and are ready to do whatever it is, I’ve never known Him to remain silent or unclear.

If we are in prayer and hear (feel) someone speak but aren’t sure whose voice it is, making assumptions is unwise. It could be the Lord, or our own will—or the voice of the devil, who certainly makes himself heard. If it was the Lord, waiting for Him to confirm Himself is better than assuming He spoke.

We better recognize the Lord’s voice by spending time with Him. The more time we spend in prayer and reading the Bible, the more sensitive we become to His voice and language. The more time we spend listening to the world, the more difficult it is to discern Him.

I have also known the Spirit to sometimes speak without words during prayer. He will gently turn my attention where He wishes it and fill me with such clear understanding that I know it is truth. I think of it as "the light bulb goes on."

Any good relationship is far more than talking to a person. It is talking with a person—talking mingled with listening. In relationship with God, one listens attentively for His voice, knowing He wants to be heard.

When one deeply loves God and sits quietly in His presence, even His silences can be quite pleasant.

"And the sheep follow [the shepherd], for they know his voice... I am the good Shepherd... My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
~ John 10:4,11,27 (NKJV)

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Art image: "Pentecost" (1732) by Jean II Restout
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  1. This is wonderful Anne. Thank you for such an in depth and thoughtful answer. I can honestly say I can hear him although some of the time I've questioned this. My favorite part of a conversation is listening! (I'm odd that way). I'm going to make it a point to spend more time listening during the quiet time I spend with the Lord.

  2. I love this sis. Hearing, and listening to my Father, is the greatest treasure ever. I love you.

  3. I love this Anne, so beautifully done. The voice of the Spirit reminds me of walking through spider webs: you feel it, you know it's there, but when you turn to see, nothing is visible. That it's invisible doesn't make it any less real, however. You're still swiping gossamer off your skin, whether you saw it or not. :)

    God bless you today.

  4. I really appreciate this post, Anne - it is not something I take the time to set down like this. I think I've been so busy lately, I get pulled into the living of it and don't worry about the definitions. Yet it is good to see them, and you are spot on when it comes to describing relationship.

    You've given me reason to slow down today, think through a few things.

  5. Anne, well done. I am reminded to be quiet more and let God get His word in.

  6. It's interesting. USUALLY, when the Lord speaks to me, I hear it in the back of my head, towards the bottom of the right side, just above my neck. There have been other times. Through the Word,the occasional "holler" that floods my head. But the one I mentioned is the normal one for me. In fact, it just happened a couple days ago when I needed to know how to plan my long trip to the Northwest that's coming up... needed a couple important details, and He made it clear. So...He's able to meet us any number of ways, more creative than most of us. Any surprise?

  7. Anne, great pointers you've shared.

  8. T ~ It was a good question. I don't feel I could completely do it justice.

    Denise ~ And I love when He speaks through others, too—like you, dear.

    Gwen ~ Leave it to you to speak of this so poetically—so accurately. I'm in awe. And I'm grateful for your beautiful words.

    Kelly ~ One of the things I personally enjoy about doing the Q&A is pushing myself to articulate what I might not otherwise try to pin down. If anything defies being completely pinned down, it would be the fire and breath and water of the Holy Spirit.

    Patty ~ Thank you. I'm blessed to know I might help you hear His precious voice with the reminder.

    Jason ~ One more :D

    Wanda ~ I pray that the Lord will ever increase your ability to hear Him, as you seek Him.

  9. carryjo ~

    What I neglected to mention is that the Holy Spirit can speak in other ways. Certainly the ways I've listed are not an exhaustive list, and I should have included that in the post.

    I think that's an incredible testimony you have. I'll be tuning in to others as they speak of hearing from God. I'm quite curious if others have a physical sensation, or a sensation of locale, when the Spirit speaks to them.

    Thank you very much for sharing this. I find it very enlightening.

  10. Have to laugh. Today I was finalizing the upcoming road trip, and planning the motel stop in Wyoming on I-80. I had planned to stop in Rawlins or Rock Springs... pushing toward 700 miles for the day. Felt He was telling me to stop in Larimore, which is about 125 miles less than I was hoping to cram in. Decided to do an "in between" place, off I-80 by a number of miles, but between Larimore and Rawlins. Was picking up the phone to call a motel, and I heard a very solid "NO! Larimore." So, I made a reservation there. Makes me wonder why He wants me to be there... someone to meet/pray for/share the gospel with at the motel, a restaurant, mall? A piece of history I need for my spiritual mapping ministry to connect some dots? Don't know... but I sure heard it solidly, and whether anything happens or not, that I see, I sure know I'm doing what He said to do. I'll try to remember to email you with anything that comes my way. I've discovered before that sometimes when He shifts me to a different town or different highway, I have avoided a weather or traffic issue. So, need to obey! I ain't perfect, but usually DO hear that particular tone of voice when I'm being told to go "right or left" on a path.

    Sorry to write so much...

  11. caryjo ~

    I don't think Russell minds me speaking for him and saying your long comment is most welcome.

    I have to laugh, because I've driven that stretch so many times. (I absolutely LOVE Wyoming. If not for the blacktop itself, there's sections of two-lane where you'd SWEAR you've left civilization.)

    And if you've discovered the why, by all means share it. Though I know the Lord doesn't always give us the 'why' when He gives us the 'what.' : )

  12. BTW, don't know where my brain has been, but Laramie is in WY, not Larimore... knew I'd typed something wrong, but it just didn't quite connect.

    Personally, that I-80 drive is one of the worst stretches of the trip. AM going to take a side trip north of Little America and cut into Idaho that way, spending the night in Blackfoot with friends. So, some new scenery. I like other parts of WY besides I-80, but gotta hit the road and get where I need to be...

    Bless your head.

  13. carryjo ~

    LOL! Of course I knew you meant Laramie, and since you were describing what the Lord said, not words on a map, I figured maybe "Laramie" comes out "Larimore" when the Lord says it. I'm teased in Michigan for my western accent, and in Colorado for my Midwest accent, so I don't make fun of accents, least of all the Lord's.

    I-80 is a bad stretch? So don't stay on I-80. Two lanes are the only real way to see the West, when they exist. Of course the last time I was on I-15 (I think it's I-15) thru Idaho, part of the interstate was still two lane.

    "God bless Wyoming, and keep it wild." ~ Helen Mettler

    May the Lord bless your own head with more of His directions, in any accent. :D