Many people ask how does one hear God? How does He speak? To whom does He speak?
There are a variety of ways that God speaks to us that is often all expressed as “hearing God.” Almost always when one says he has “heard” God, he does not mean that he has audibly heard God speak. He means that God communicated to him in some fashion and he has received that communication to the point where he can articulate what was communicated by God.
A few of the many ways people commonly “hear” God is as follows.
Dreams: A person has a dream that they perceive to be a communication from God about something. It may be vague or specific. My husband had a very specific dream about starting the church we have started years before it was started.
Visions: This can be a daydream of sorts, or an actual seeing something play out before you as if you were truly watching it happen.
Pictures: This is when you see something in your minds eye. If you were to close your eyes and picture an Elephant—it would be like this sort of communication. Where you are thinking about someone or praying for someone and suddenly a picture of something comes to mind out of nowhere. Maybe you see this person crying and you call them up to see if they are okay and you find them troubled and yet very encouraged by your unexpected call.
Feelings/Impressions: This is when you think of someone or something and an unexpected feeling or impression about the person or place or event rises up within you. God might be trying to give you insight on whatever it may be. Ask him for more revelation of what He is showing you.
Words/Thoughts: This is when a thought comes into your mind that shouts out “louder” than the other thoughts and seems to demand attention. Sometimes it is more subtle, but is not knowledge you could have had otherwise. You might suddenly know a stranger’s name or where the person works or what their hobby or passion is. It is some kind of knowledge you could not of known other than by a supernatural mean.
Bible: God speaks through the Scriptures. He can bring a verse to mind for yourself or for another. He can illuminate a passage or a verse while you are reading the Bible and it can speak right to your heart. It is like the words come alive and penetrate you with clarity of meaning.
Manifestations: Sometimes people feel something physically in their body when God is speaking to them about something. They might suddenly feel a shoulder pain that was not previously there and ask if anyone has such a pain. If someone does, pray for them, God may be making you aware of it to bring them healing. I have had this sort of thing happen from time to time.
Audible Voice of God: Very rarely does anyone give testimony of having actually heard the audible voice of God. Those who do give testimony of this speak of an incredible experience of great magnitude. Most speak of it as physically unbearable because of the majestic power of His voice. That it just rocks you so completely you are unsure if you want to hear Him again that way. I have never had such an experience.
These are not the only ways God communicates to people, but other than the audible voice, they are common ways people receive from God. Typically, no matter which way the person “heard” God; they will call it “hearing from God.”
We are fallible and we will make mistakes. The Bible says that each person is responsible to take what is thought to be from God and check it out for ourselves to see if it lines up with His truth. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pastor or prophet telling you they heard God say such and such about you – it is your responsibility to take that and ask God about it yourself and not just take someone else’s word about it. When the Spirit of Truth inhabits you, He leads you in all truth personally and we do not need to depend on another person as a mediator for what God is saying.
We can encourage, comfort, and exhort one another by sharing what God is saying, but each person needs to take that before the Lord and see if they should accept it as true.
God is speaking. It takes time to learn how to hear Him and to learn what is Him and what are our own thoughts or what is some other spiritual force at work. Jesus said the sheep know the voice of the Sheppard. As you get to know the Lord more and more the better you will recognize Him speaking. He wants to reveal Himself to us in greater and greater measure the deeper we go into Him the greater we see how infinitely deep one can go. We can have as much of God as we want to, His door is always open.