Sometimes we may struggle with whether or not God hears and can answer the desires of our hearts. Are my prayers just bouncing off of the ceiling? How can I know for sure that I am getting answers from the Lord? Will it be a voice? A feeling? How long must I wait and how will I know that an answer actually is from God and not my own imagination?
These reflections are common among individuals who contemplate any type of spiritual practice. Engaging in a conversation with God is challenging, not because it is necessarily difficult, but because as human beings we tend to think with our minds, expecting God to answer us in a specific way.
As spiritual people we recognize that waiting for answers not only requires patience but that we must learn to listen with our souls rather than our minds. For God to speak to us we need to be spiritually ready to hear and understand Him but also take steps to be in a situation or place that is conducive to hearing His voice.
How does God answer prayers?
A still small voice
"... A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was 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 Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19:11-12, KJV).
When the prophet Elijah prayed the Lord's answer did not come in the wind, nor the earthquake or fire, but in a still small voice. In our modern world hearing any small voice may seem impossible. With all of the noise, social media, business and other distractions we face it is difficult for anything spiritual to penetrate. God does not try to compete with all of the noise. We must disengage, unplug, and spend some time each day in quiet. We must find time each and every day in our spiritual practice for peace, solitude and contemplation. Only then can we hear or feel the still small voice.
Through other people
Accepting and acting upon direction from God that comes through other people can, at times, require the greatest humility. Naaman, a great Syrian military captain suffering from leprosy, sought healing from the prophet Elisha. Naaman was very uncomfortable (quite angry actually) not only with Elisha's answer but also with the way it was delivered.
"So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." (2 Kings 5: 9-10, KJV)
The prophet Elisha, through whom God directed his answer, did not even grace Naaman with his presence. He sent a messenger. Not only that, but the answer was much too simple and plainly dressed, especially from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This great military commander was expecting something grand, something spectacular. But fortunately Naaman had wise servants.
"And [they] ... spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?" (2 Kings 5:13, KJV.)
The other person inspired to speak to you may not even know that he or she is on an errand of the Lord. We may hear a sermon in our church or even online. A friend may deliver words of comfort we have been seeking from the Lord. Or, a stranger that we will never see again will give us aid or bring us information that we have been searching for. We must be in a state of humility, willing to listen with our soul rather than our mind to what God is telling us.
The Holy Ghost
Often, when we are reading scriptures or listening to a sermon, we feel that the message was distinctly meant for us. Robert Hales, a religious scholar, described it this way: "The Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand ... what is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel." The sermon may be about one spiritual topic but we receive ideas or promptings about something that may be altogether different.
Christ taught us, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20, KJV). Where would the Holy Ghost normally be present? In what situations are people gathered together in the name of the Lord? Worship meetings and settings. Family gatherings where scriptures are studied and prayers are offered. Where honest and heartfelt service is provided. Just as the still small voice cannot be heard in tumultuous circumstances, we need to set aside many of our day-to-day business and worldly activities to focus on things "of a better world." This can be done in a religious, spiritual, or family setting but is most likely to occur when we are "gathered together" in the name of Christ.
Find places and situations where the Holy Ghost is comfortable to dwell. Avoid situations and places where contention, anger or strife is present. We can create much of our own atmosphere and have a positive influence over the mood of a group or area if we focus on being receptive to the Holy Spirit.
We can hear Heavenly Father's voice in the messages of the scriptures each and every time we read. The scriptures are to be feasted upon, not casually glanced at on occasion or reviewed only in church. Each and every day find a solitary place and then study, pray about what you have read, and ponder the meaning and message God has for us.
Hearing God's voice is not complicated, but it does take time, patience, and practice to recognize the voice for what it is, a message from a loving Heavenly Father.
Ramona Siddoway writes from Houston, Texas. An avid traveler she has published articles in Angola, Brussels, and the UK as well as the United States. Besides contributing to FamilyShare she writes for Young Adults and Middle Grade. Ramona is married with four children, a dog that is paranoid about the outdoor sprinkler system and an Angolan cat that is incredibly snarky when she is cold.