In my last blog post I mentioned that we have a cultural communication bias against hearing God’s “voice”.
Our culture shouts at us and God whispers.
It is not simply that the subtlety of God’s communication occurs because He speaks softly, it is also the ways that He speaks softly.
He does not always speak in perfect sentences when He drops a through into our minds.
- Sometimes He speaks through riddles.
- He may begin a message with a strange question.
- He may not even use a thought at all. He may use a mental image appearing in our mind’s eye.
- Or perhaps a powerful emotion rising up unbidden.
- Or perhaps a Bible reference to a book, chapter and verse.
- Or even through a physical sensation arising without apparent cause.
- And of course, through a dream.
Sounds rather complicated doesn’t it?
Thankfully, recognizing God’s voice is simplified when we know what to look for. Let’s look at some of the ways God communicates with us in more detail.
- Mental images
Many times, I have been praying for someone and my well-crafted, intelligent and very literary prayer was interrupted by some strange unbidden mental image appearing in my mind. In the beginning I dismissed these random images as the probable result of indigestion.
At some point someone told me that God communicates this way and that I should pay attention to these mental pictures and find out if they might be from God. I did, and they were. These mental images were the beginning of my prophetic ministry. Of course, not every random mental image that comes to us during prayer is from God, but the only way to find out is to share it and find out if it means anything to the person receiving the prayer. Risky business.
- Random Thoughts
Have you ever had the experience of praying for someone and a random thought about them comes to your mind? Perhaps it is a thought about their mental or spiritual condition e.g. unforgiveness, fear, anger, sorrow, anxiety, joy, peace, etc. Perhaps it is someone’s name. I was praying for an older lady who came forward for prayer for her arthritis. The name “Frank” came to my mind very clearly. I asked her who Frank was and she said it was her brother who died by being hit by a train. It turned out she had never forgiven God for the death of her brother. Bitterness was her spiritual condition – arthritis was merely it’s physical effect.
- Unbidden Emotions
God can communicate to us about someone by allowing us to feel what they are feeling. It is a strange thing to be in a group of people and suddenly experience a powerful negative emotion which has no connection to the state of your own life – happy one minute and feeling deep sadness the next. We usually dismiss this kind of negative experience as soon as possible, maybe even attributing it to Satan. But what if it is God trying to get our attention to pray for someone? And if it is Him, what do we do with it? Risky business.
- Unbidden Bible Verses
Have you had the experience of thinking of someone and then having a Bible verse come to your mind? Most of us have. What did you do with that verse? Did you;
- Ignore it?
- Pray it for them? Or
- Phone them to give them the verse?
Notice the increasing degree of risk from 1. – 3. Risky business.
- Unbidden physical sensations
What could a sudden pain or unusual physical sensation have to do with a communication from God? Probably nothing most of the time, but what if God is trying to tell you who to pray for? Just as God can share someone’s emotional state with us to facilitate prayer for them, so can He share their physical state. I have had the experience, and witnessed others have the experience, of sharing a sudden specific pain in a meeting, announce it and have someone healed of that specific pain or condition.
A friend of mine used to attend a street church frequented by lots of homeless people. He entered the meeting late and the only seat available was near the front, beside a homeless guy. My friend was a neatness and hygiene freak. When he sat down he noticed the smell coming from his homeless neighbor. It was overwhelmingly bad. He decided to leave but before he stood up to leave God told him [with a very clear thought in his mind] not to leave. He tried to stay but the smell was making him sick. He cried out to God, “Do something, I’m going to be sick!!” Immediately, a wonderful strong scent of flowers overcame him! He could smell nothing but the flowers. He looked around to see who had just brought flowers into the room, but no one had. He said he had never smelt anything like that wonderful smell. It lasted the whole time he was in the meeting. More wonderful still was the love that overcame him for the homeless man he was sitting beside.
The list goes on, but this blog is already too long. If you are intrigued with the subject of the varied ways God speaks to us, then Reluctantly Supernatural in an Age of Reason might be the book for you. Give it a read and join the discussion with a blog post or question of your own.
In the meantime, go out and take some risks listening for God’s momentary guidance in your life! Risky business…