In his first book published for a Christian audience, Hearing God, Dallas Willard reminds us that: “God has created us for intimate friendship with himself—both now and forever.1And he goes so far as to suggest that it is for more presumptuous and dangerous to undertake human existence without hearing God. (p. 9) It is the “saint” who has come to realize that personal communication with God is both life changing and daily bread (p. 23).
Arguably, Willard’s greatest contribution to practical discernment in his book Hearing God, is the reminder that the best way to “hear God” is to reorient one’s life in such a way that we are living more and more moments of each day in communion with God. As the saying goes, “if you want to hear the flutes in the orchestra, you’d better sit close to the stage.”
God’s speaking is only one aspect of his presence with us, and his life in us, Willard reminds, “Only when we are in communion with God are we in the proper context for communications between us and him.” (p. 33)
Before suggesting a few simple exercises for hearing God, it will be good to consider the following quotes from the book Hearing God.
… In the purpose of God’s redemptive work communication advances into communion and communion into union. Follow this with a heart-to-heart conversation with God. Talk about whatever comes to your mind, your hopes, fears, doubts and deepest desires. And then for for at least a few moments, listen, hushed and still. What do you “hear” being said to you. When the progression is complete we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) and “For me, living is Christ.” (Phil 1:21)
So our union with God—his presence with us, in which our aloneness is banished and the meaning and full purpose of human existence is realized—consists chiefly in a conversational relationship with God while are each consistently and deeply engaged as his friend and co-laborer in the affairs of the kingdom of the heavens. …the process of having a personal relationship with God becomes a concrete and common sense reality rather than a nervous whistling in the dark. (p. 56)
We must ultimately move beyond the question of hearing God and into a life greater than our own—that of the kingdom of God. Our concern for hearing God’s voice must be overwhelmed by and lost in our worship and adoration of him and in
So, in Hearing God, it becomes clear that Dallas Willard is recommending stepping into a way of living in the manifest presence of God as the best pathway to experience divine guidance in daily life.
With this in mind, we offer the following three exercises.
- Ways to Stay Close to God and Develop our Hearing
- Discerning God’s Voice—Seven Questions to ask Yourself
- Hearing God: Discerning the Two Competing Voices
Ways to Stay Close to God and Develop Our Hearing
- Wake up and greet God with a warm “good morning,” and listen for his response.
- Read favorite portions of Scripture as faded love letters—listening for the voice of the author as you read.
- Recognize the long line at the grocery as an opportunity for a few deep breaths and a time to listen for the voice of God.
- Make sure your day planner has at least one appointment with God that is written in indelible ink. Close the door. Offer him an empty chair. Then…shut up, be patient, and lean in.
- See each person you meet as a new opportunity to show love to the imago dei (the image of God buried inside them). God’s reflection is on every face.
- Hugging your spouse or children can become a sacrament of communicating love to God. May want to add or a good friend for those who are unmarried.
- When you turn the light out, ask God if he enjoyed spending the day together, and listen for his response.
Discerning God’s Voice—Seven Questions to Ask Yourself
- Does it sound like God?2
Does what you heard sound like something God would say? Is it consistent with God, as you know him through Scripture?
- Does it sound like Jesus Christ?
Does it sound like something Jesus would say? Is it consistent with Jesus as you see him revealed in the pages of the New Testament?
- Does it help you be OR in becoming conformed to the image of Christ?
The glory of God is our transformation into Christlikeness. (See 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
- Is it consistent with a previous experience you have had that you now know was from God?
We can take advantage of the 20-20 vision of hindsight.
- Is it consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and does it promote the growth of Christ’s character in us?
The fruit of the Spirit is the character of Christ.
- Is it consistent with the witness of what the saints and devotion masters have had to say about God?
Do I get a witness from those who have won the race?
- Do my closest friends and spiritual mentors believe it was from God?
Do I get a witness from those I trust?
- Is it consistent with the overarching themes of Scripture?
God’s spoken word will not contradict his written word.
HEARING GOD: Discerning Two Competing Voices
CHANEL 1: “WGOD” CHANEL 2: “WSIN”
NATURE OF THE APPROACH
|Leads and Invites—like a shepherd||Driving and Pushing—Like a Cattle Driver|
|Quiet and Deep||Loud and at the Surface|
|Invited (wanted)||Illegal Entrance|
|In line with Scriptural Principles||Proof Texts|
|Offers an Inner Solution||Offers Outer Solution|
|Corrects Actual Behavior||Broad Condemnation|
|Convicts of (specific) Sin||Condemns Worth|
RELEVANCE OF CONTENT
|Now||Future (or Past)|
|Practical/Mundane||Impractical and Sensational|
|Simple and Definite||Complicated and Confused|
EFFECTS OF CONTENT
|Faith Increased||Faith Deflated|
|More Understanding||Despising of Others|