You Can Hear from God: Listening Prayer and the Choice to Believe


Last week I wrote about coming to God in prayer with an ask-seek-knock kind of approach—with an expectation that God will speak, so we should listen.

When you try to do this, you will be challenged.

By distractibility. By frailty. Mostly by doubt.

Don’t Doubt

In James 1:5-7, we are told:

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

I think this applies to all forms of hearing from the Lord.

Recently someone told me she was uncomfortable with my talk of “hearing from God,” because in thirty-some years of being a Christian, she couldn’t honestly say she had ever heard from God.

I am deeply sympathetic to this, by the way. My life has not been one unending, blissful string of chatting with the Infinite. I do not judge.

But then she said something fascinating:

“Sometimes I think I’ve heard from God, but then I doubt.”

I realized the difference between us is not that I hear from God and she doesn’t, but that when we both hear from God, I choose to receive and she chooses to doubt.

We always have the option. I have chosen to doubt many, many, many times.

It was making the opposite choice, and then continuing to make it, that turned things around for me.

Can you know with 100% absolute certainty that God has spoken to you? Can you know with ironclad confidence that you hear, see, sense, and receive directly from God?


You can’t.

Even if you had a vision, or were directly lifted into heaven, you couldn’t know with 100% absolute certainty that you weren’t hallucinating.
For that matter, you can’t know with 100% absolute certainty that you exist.

Just ask a philosopher.


You Can Choose to Believe

You can still choose belief over doubt. It is rational and reasonable to do so. I’m not saying you shouldn’t test (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for confirmation. I wouldn’t run out the door and marry the guy down the street because one time, I got an impression that maybe I should do that. We are told to test spirits, we can recognize our own fallibility in hearing, and we are allowed to be wise.

EVEN SO: If I ask God to speak to me, and he tells me he loves me—a statement that lines up 100% with the Scriptures, with God’s nature and character—I am not going to talk myself into believing I just made that up.

(By the way, this is the number-one thing God tells people when they ask him to speak.

“He said he loves me … but I probably just made that up, because everybody knows God loves us.”

Or, he did say that, which is a pretty cool thing—that the God of the universe took time to let you know personally what you already knew from the Bible.)

Not only can we choose to believe, we must do so if we want to grow in faith and genuine relationship with our Father.

Again, our choice to believe is not based on wishful thinking. It is based on the revelation of God given in Scripture: as a God who indwells his people, who teaches, who enlightens, who seeks out open ears, who speaks.

The Spirit of Revelation in the Knowledge of Him

Paul wrote to the new believers in Ephesus:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. (Ephesians 1:17-19)

An ask-seek-knock prayer life is a life that expects the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God to become involved. It’s a life that expects true enlightenment in the perception of our minds as we week God.

It’s a kind of prayer that expects to come away with eyes that see, with ears that hear, and with a heart that understands—not because we have discovered some foolproof way to figure things out, but because God is a God who speaks and who invites us to engage with him.

This is the prayer life I endeavor to have: one in which I listen more than I speak, and as I hear the voice of the Eternal Father, I grow closer to him and see him more clearly.


(This is Part 85 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

I would love to hear from you. Scroll down to leave a comment below!








3 responses to “You Can Hear from God: Listening Prayer and the Choice to Believe”

  1. David Currey Avatar
    David Currey

    Rachel, How much the Father wants us to see and respond to His love. Once I was willing to “hear” the Spirits promptings in my heart and put faith in that—He began to express His love by asking me “Do you love me?” At first I said “yes Lord, you love me.” “Yes, but that is not what I asked you. Do you love me?” My heart and mind ran wild—how could I love God? I crouched. “Yes it is your love in me like the sun and moon illustration” “Yes, but do you love me? Thus began a long journey of discovery. Thanks for all your soul searching and sharing the treasures that the Spirit reveals. Interesting path.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Thanks for sharing that, Uncle Dave! It’s so amazing how God leads us, each one individually, when we listen.

  2. Karen Avatar

    Hi Rachel,
    I enjoy your books and blog. You have a beautiful way of expressing yourself.
    My prayer life started out as a type of begging that God would hear my requests, and then listening for a reply.
    I have read and know the passage in James that tells us doubt is a prayer problem.
    After some years, I realized God does hear my prayers, he was waiting for a change in may heart to believe he would answer me. Thank you for sharing your gifts!

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