How do we hear the voice of God? Or perhaps better put, how does God communicate with us in an immediate and personal way? God is capable of communicating to us through all of our senses, but most of the time He communicates to us through our minds and our emotions. He places thoughts and images in our minds, which do not originate with us, likewise, with our emotions.
Ironically, we have heard people say that God cannot plant a thought in someone’s mind. We say ironically because these are the same people that tell us that Satan tempts them regularly. What is temptation, but a thought that arises in our mind, which comes from the enemy? God has promised us the “mind of Christ” through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Surely God is capable of dropping His thoughts into our minds. So how do they come?
In Mark’s words: “When I first experienced the gift of prophecy it was mostly through mental images. By mental images I am referring to images seen through your mind’s eye when your eyes are closed. We all know what it is to have someone tell us to “picture” something. This is what I am talking about except that the mental image is placed within our mind by the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that when we are waiting to hear from God with our eyes closed we do not try to “conjure up” an image. We do not need to prime the pump. In fact, trying hard to see something will usually impede the process. If God is going to place an image in our mind, He does not need our help to do so. Quiet trust is the best posture whenever we listen to God. Here are a few of my favorite examples.
I was teaching on hearing the “voice” of God. The subject for the evening was “mental images.” After teaching on how they come, we went into a time of waiting on God to give mental images to us. Everyone was reminded that risk is essential to growth and so everyone should share whatever they “saw” even if it made no sense to them. The goal was to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how to pray for one another. Then we waited…
After a few minutes, someone shared an unusual image. It was of a very nice large desk with a huge leather bag tied with a chord around the top and having the $ sign on the side of the bag. The way he described it was like the money bags you see in cartoon shows. The bag was just sitting on the desk. I asked the group if this image meant anything to anyone in the room. A man at the back of the room, who was a world class effluence engineer with a very large engineering firm, spoke out. He said that on Tuesday his firm was going to a meeting with their bank to ask to borrow a very large sum of money. He said that if they did not get it, many of their engineers would be out of work. I asked the person who got the money bag image to link up in prayer with the engineer and off they went to pray.
The next person to share was a woman named Lucy. With some measure of embarrassment, she said she saw a cat sitting. I asked if this image meant anything to anyone in the room and no surprise, no one claimed it. A minute later a woman named Joy, who was sitting two rows behind Lucy said, with great reluctance, that she saw a large bear standing upright on its hind legs. She said she wasn’t going to share it, but since Lucy mentioned the cat, she would risk mentioning the bear. Again, no one claimed it.
The evening went on with more images being claimed by more people until only a few remained seated in their chairs [the rest had gone off to other parts of the room to pray]. Remaining seated were; the cat lady, the bear lady and between them a new lady I had never seen before. I asked her if she had come to our meeting wanting prayer and she said yes.
I asked the cat and the bear ladies if they would pray with our visitor. They said yes and off they went. About 40 minutes later Joy came back and said, “You will never guess what happened, it was amazing!” She said, “The lady we prayed for is Russian and her last name in Russian is “bear” and the nickname her parents gave her is “Cat!””
Imagine being this lady who hears about a church that prays powerful prayers for people. You come to the meeting not knowing whether or not God knows your name. You come hoping to encounter God. You are surrounded by strangers. God gives your name to two total strangers who end up praying powerful prayers for you! Do you suppose she was encouraged? Do you think she will ever forget that night?”
This story illustrates a very important point having to do with mental images and prophetic words in general. Often the message that comes to us may seem nonsensical or even irrational; after all, seeing a bear or a cat is not much of a message from God.
The temptation with such a cryptic word is either not to give it or to try to add some sort of meaning or interpretation to it, e.g. “God says you are like a little kitten resting in His lap” or “With God’s help you are as strong as a bear!”
We have great admiration for both Joy and Lucy because they risked looking foolish by simply giving exactly what they saw without attempting to interpret it.