Hearing God: Learning to Recognize His Voice in Meditation

God speaks time and again—in various ways—but nobody notices” (Job 33:14).

Core to the nature of the human race is a desire to hear God. Well, more than mere desire. We crave a connection with the divine, somehow to see the face of God, to touch and be touched. It’s an inborn, inherent ingredient of our humanity.

The cacophony of voices

Scripture says God is always speaking, but we miss it. It’s not that he doesn’t speak to us, it’s just that we don’t recognize it when he does. Oh, sometimes he breaks in through writing on the wall or thorough a speaking donkey, but mostly he speaks in a still, small voice.

We miss his voice because it is drowned out in the sea of other voices. The cacophony of sounds, like an orchestra tuning, obscures that still small voice. Stomachs growl their hunger, bosses bark their orders, and that insult from twenty years ago still shouts its condemnation.

How do we begin to recognize God’s voice? In meditation. Christian meditation trains our ears to distinguish God’s voice—that one instrument—amidst the orchestra of others. And once we learn to recognize God’s voice, we begin to hear it “time and again, in various ways.”

To hear God’s voice, we need to learn to meditate. Unless, like Balaam, you have a talking ass.

Christian Meditation

You and I are already experts. We meditate all the time in everyday matters.

With our first child still fresh in the womb, our mind imagines the new bedroom. We picture fresh paint, where the crib fits best, the changing table and rocker. We envision our future life (nursing, teaching soccer, and Christmas mornings) and it changes us today.

We take a truth—our wife’s bulging belly—and consider with our mind and heart. We let the thoughts of our mind mix with the meditations of our heart. And something inside is stirred.

Christian meditation is like that. Unlike Eastern meditation—which empties its mind—we fill our minds with a truth, examine it, let it examine us, and in that meditative mix, God speaks.

Theophan the Recluse (a household name to be sure) said, “To [meditate] is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever present all seeing, within you.”

How Does This Work in Day-To-Day Life?

A common Christian prayer time involves scripture study and worship (liberally sprinkled with confession, thanksgiving, intercession, and maybe a Christian book).

Our study tends to be information gathering (which is good) while our worship is an expression of our spirit and heart (which is also good). Sometimes the move from study to worship feels like shifting from first to fourth gear. We need to link scripture study with worship.

Meditation is that bridge.

My Scripture study usually includes an Old Testament passage, a Gospel, and a New Testament letter. (Right now I’m reading Amos, John, and 1 Peter.) As I read the passage (and slow is better than fast), I wait—I remain alert—for a quickening in my heart.

I’m not sure how else to describe it, maybe a stirring in my spirit or just a sense of God. The two on the road to Emmaus said, “Were not our hearts burning within us.” That works.

When stirring begins, I stop reading and meditate on the verses. I ask myself questions like,

  • What does this reveal about God? Why would God want to reveal it to me?
  • Why does this passage intrigue me? What about it stirs my curiosity?
  • What would my life look like if I believed it were true?
  • How does my culture twist, distort, or reject it? How has that affected me?
  • Why don’t I really believe this truth deep down? What stops me from embracing it?
  • How does this truth make me love God more? How does it reveal his beauty?
  • What do I need to change in order to realign my heart with this truth?

I begin by analyzing the truth presented; but after a time, I move from analyzing the text to gazing at God. I move from word-ful thinking to word-less admiration. Jordan Aumann wrote, “Contemplation signifies knowledge accompanied by delight that arouses admiration and captivates the soul” (slightly edited).

What Next?

It doesn’t happen the same way every day, and certainly not with the same intensity. Some days I’m stirred by verses in the first passage, and I skip the other passages. Other days I finish all the passages, I ask myself which stirred me the most, and I return to that. And gaze.

The safest—and smartest—place to learn to discern God’s voice is in scriptural meditation. But once we learn to recognize his voice in Scripture, we begin to hear it everywhere, in a movie, on a billboard, through a friend, from a stranger on a bus. And we meditate with similar questions.

My Blog

This blog is mostly the expressions of my meditations. I take vague stirrings in my heart, often simple curiosities, meditate, and then express them. Sometimes it leads to confession, sometimes to question the world’s influence on Christians, and sometimes to purer worship.

Though I’ll be sure to let you know if the neigh of my horse starts to sound like Shakespeare.

Sam (the aspiring recluse)


Would you like a deeper, more conversational relationship with God? Do you wish you knew how to hear Him speak?

This article includes material from my upcoming book Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere, releasing soon from Kregel Publications.

In this book, you’ll Latest March 22 2016learn:

  • How to recognize the sound of God’s voice
  • How to hear God in His silence
  • How to brainstorm with God
  • How to hear His voice in Scripture

And many other ways in which God speaks!

Pre-order now! Just click on any of these links or the book cover, and this guide to hearing God’s voice everywhere will be in your hands as soon as it’s available.

“A remarkable book. . . . It’s filled with humor, insight, practical tips, and sound theology. I can’t recommend a better guide!”

—Gary Wilkerson, pastor, author, son of David Wilkerson

If you want to grow in your ability to recognize how God makes himself known to you, read Sam Williamson’s Hearing God in Conversation.

—Wayne Jacobson, pastor and author of He Loves Me and Finding Church

To pre-order, click here! Hearing God in Conversation


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What do YOU think?

4 thoughts on “Hearing God: Learning to Recognize His Voice in Meditation

  1. A snippet of instruction from an audio tape by either Ralph Martn or Bruce Yocum has stayed with me for 30-35 years. In it, the speaker compared hearing a prophetic word–or some other sense from God–as being like an AM radio, wherein you hear something, not to clearly, but by sorting thru–rotating the dial back and forth–you can get clearer on what God is saying.

    That bit of wisdom has been very helpful to me, especially in my young adult years when my mind would be full of new ideas, even leaning toward the wild and outlandish. Buy trying to hear more clearly, and judging what I sense against the scripture I know, I could be confident that the word I hear is really from God.

    There is a passage in Jeremiah that has always been a comfort in this regard. Jeremiah 32: 6-8. If even Jeremiah had to be reassured, how much more do the rest of us.

    6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

    7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.

    8 So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

  2. I can affirm your process, Sam. Meditation on Scripture and learning to hear God there is slowly what the Spirit has led me to over the years. I am starting your Scripture meditation plan later this summer and am looking forward to digesting your new book. You are an encouragement to me to strive for constant mindfulness of the reality of who I am in Christ and live life from that place and from His strength. Keep on meditating and sharing the insights the Spirit gives you!