Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is the most essential part. –Andrew Murray, pastor and author
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lordwas not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lordwas not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13 (ESV, emphases added)
We walk in the house; on goes the TV. We close the car door; on goes the radio. We sit on the park bench; up comes the smartphone. Like couch potatoes stuffing our mouths with junk food, so we fill our ears with noise, noise, noise.
Of course, it is not just any noise—sometimes we’re very particular about what we listen to. Still, whether pleasant or obnoxious, quiet or loud, wanted or unwanted, all of our background noise has the cumulative effect of drowning out The Still Small Voice of God (1 Kings 19:12).
Why Don’t We Listen?
Ironically, one of the most asked questions by Christians is how to hear God’s voice. And yet, by our very actions, we crowd out our Father’s efforts to communicate with His beloved children. Why do we do this?
Perhaps we don’t understand how He speaks. Maybe it’s because we don’t like some of the things we hear—or think we hear—Him saying. Sadly, some Christians don’t even believe that God speaks to His children apart from the Bible. That doesn’t sound like much of a relationship to me!
Confusion abounds as we try to delineate between God’s voice and our own human thoughts. Many of us can’t bear what surfaces in our hearts and minds when the world grows quiet. Much better not to go there!
All too frequently, we mistake the voice of conscience for the voice of God. The conscience, which is motivated by law, speaks more loudly, more often, and with a relentless force of condemnation that leaves us feeling beat up and miserable. Equating the voice of conscience with God’s voice paints a negative image of our heavenly Father, leaving us hesitant—or even afraid—to hear what He has to say.
The Quiet Voice of God
The Holy Spirit, who is always motivated by love, can communicate with us through a variety of means: through the Scriptures, by using circumstances, via other people, or directly to our hearts and minds. On a very rare occasion, our Lord will speak to His children in an audible voice. At other times, clear sentences mystically enter our minds. Most often, it seems that God speaks to our regenerated spirits through impressions in the heart; the subtle nature of which require listening ears.
Like the little boy ignoring his mother’s call for bedtime, we can easily master the art of avoiding God’s quiet call. We need only to focus our attention on a convenient distraction or harden our hearts just a bit. The time will soon come when all sensitivity to the quiet voice is lost and we are free to follow our own paths—and to be entrapped by our own devices.
The combination of these factors—and perhaps others as well—leads us to a narrow, hopeless place. While the quiet voice of God is the only effective answer to our ills, we often extend the length and intensity of our wilderness experiences because we fail to take the time to listen. But how can we listen when silence equals pain or confusion?
Faith in God is the answer! Elijah ran to God and not away from Him. Although in deep pain and despair of soul, Elijah believed his future to be safe and bright in his heavenly Father’s capable hands. He could tune in to the voice of heaven’s gentle breeze because he was confident it would carry a message of hope—not one of condemnation. Even living under the strict standards of the Mosaic Law, Elijah understood the kind, merciful nature of our heavenly Father.
When we come to the end of ourselves, condemnation is the last thing needed, and thankfully, it is the last thing our loving Savior would heap onto our shoulders. If we hear the familiar ring of a condemning voice, we can rest assured that it is not the sound of our Savior speaking.
The conviction of the Holy Spirit may hurt for a short while, but it always carries with it a sense of hope for the future. May we learn to block out the voices that are loud, distracting, and condemning as we tune our hearts to the quiet call of our loving Lord. His every word drips with true and lasting life!
This post is drawn from Chapter Eleven of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Over