Two of our CRM leaders, Dr. Myra Perrine and Patty Metcalf, had a conversation about how we can learn to hear God’s voice. The recording of that discussion was made into a podcast, which you can listen to here. Or read along to learn the wisdom these two women have to share about developing a conversational (listening) relationship with God. This is part 2 of 3. (Start reading from the beginning.)
Key Question #2: What heart attitudes help us hear from God?
Patty: There are a couple of things that are important to know about our heart attitude when we come to listen to God. The most important one for me has been to learn to be brutally honest with God, rather than trying to be spiritual, or say something in a certain way so that it sounds right. To just tell him exactly what I’m thinking or feeling. I find that I most often hear back from him when I’m like that. Let me share something from my own life. Sometimes I’ve been really upset with God for something, but I wouldn’t admit it because I knew I shouldn’t be upset with him. So I’d just try to get over it. And then what happened was I was just wasting all of this time, kind of hiding from God until my attitude got straightened out. And I began to realize that he knows it anyhow. You look at Psalm 139, and he knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we speak them! Who did I think I was hiding from him?
David and the Psalms is such a great example of this kind of honesty. He didn't hide his feelings from God. If we go back and read the Psalms we see this through and through. He lets all his feelings out. And usually as he does this, perspective returns. He may be angry, he may be discouraged, he may be upset. But he talks to God about it. And then as the Psalm progresses, you see this perspective starting to come back to David. And what does God say about David? God doesn’t say, “He’s such a creep, I wish he didn’t talk to me this way.” God says, “He’s a man after my own heart.” And God shares how much he loves David. I encourage everyone to go back through the Psalms and look at how honest David was with God. It is so safe to be authentic with God, and I feel like it really is a prerequisite for an intimate relationship. After I’ve poured out my heart to God, I try to be still and listen for what he might want to say in response. Sometimes he speaks right at that moment, and sometimes he takes some time to respond to what we've said. He may know that we’re going to be in a better context to receive something at another time. So it’s important to develop this kind of openness and receptivity to him.
The second thing that’s helped me hear from God is to be humble when I come to this place of listening, and to recognize that I’m fully reliant on him to speak, and even to enable me to hear. God can speak when and how he desires—words, or images, thoughts or songs—this is his doing and his communication.
Myra: I know for myself that coming with an expectant heart is important. It took me awhile to realize that God speaks to all of his children and not just to the favored few. It says in John 10, “My sheep hear my voice.” So it’s a promise that we are going to hear God, and that the God who spoke creation is still speaking today. He’s a speaking God; he wants to communicate. We don’t have to overcome his reluctance.
The very first church I went to as a new Christian was a wonderful church, but they taught that when the Bible was canonized, God stopped speaking to his people, and that everything God wanted to say could be found in the pages of scripture. So I never expected God to speak to me. It seemed wrong to even expect that. And then I moved to another city and went to another church, which was equally as good, only the pastor there used to say that we come to church not only to learn about God but to meet God, and to hear him speak to us. And that was really a paradigm shift—that the possibility of actually experiencing God’s presence and hearing him speak was something available to me. I noticed that when my expectation changed, so did my ability to personally hear God’s voice.
In the years that have followed, I sometimes record my conversations with God in my journals. When I’m praying I will color-code our dialogue. I will write my prayers in blue ink. And then I will wait, and if God speaks to me, I will put his words in red. It’s really helpful for me to go back through my journal and look for what God has said to me, and I can find it really easily because it’s in red. That's a really helpful practice that's come out of having a spirit of expectancy.
Patty: Another thing that has been really important for me is to evaluate if I’m really willing to act on what God says to me. Is my heart open and receptive? If God speaks, am I really willing to obey? When we hear from him, we need to begin to step out and do something about it. Sometimes there’s some experimentation involved as we learn how to do this, and that's ok. I think it’s important that we learn to give ourselves grace in this process of hearing from him. Acting on what God has said is not necessarily an action like writing a letter, or going and confessing to somebody, or going and doing things like that; instead of an activity, it could be an internal attitude. This is the area God most speaks to me. For example, when I’ve been worried about health issues, God has said, “I will take care of you.” If I start to worry again, I’m not believing what he said and living in that truth. When that happens, I have to go back to that promise and choose to believe it. If God speaks to me in these ways and I really try to be responsive to him, he moves me into greater trust and faith one decision at a time.
It may not be exactly what I want to hear. I remember one time I was going to be having surgery, and I heard “I will take care of you.” What I really wanted to hear was, “This is going to be a piece of cake, and you’re not going to have any pain.” He just said, “I will take care of you,” because that’s what he wanted me to hang on to. He brought me to a totally different place of peace and rest because of that word, and the response he wanted from me was just to trust him.
Continue on to part 3. Or listen to the whole podcast now.
Dr. Myra Perrine and her husband, Dan, live in Redding, CA. With a passion for intimacy with God, Myra holds a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation. She has worked with Church Resource Ministries (CRM) since 1996 coaching leaders around the world, and is the author of several books: What’s Your God Language? Connecting with God Through Your Unique Spiritual Temperament (Tyndale, 2008), What’s Your God Language? Coaching Guide, A Companion Workbook of Spiritual Exercises for What’s Your God Language? and Becoming One: Nurturing Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage.
Patty Metcalf and her husband, Sam, were one of four families that began CRM in 1980. Sam has served as president of CRM since 1985, and Patty is equally involved in ministry with a particular focus on healing prayer and intercession. They live in Southern California and have two children and four grandchildren.
Date of recording: August 1, 2013