Principles for Hearing God's Voice Part 2 - Bob Sawvelle - forest landscape

Principles for Hearing God’s Voice, Pt. 2

Last week I began a series on how to hear God’s voice. This week I will continue with part two of this series.

From Genesis to Revelation we see God continually communicating and revealing Himself to His people. God never stopped communicating with His people; it’s a foundational principle in both the Old and New Covenants. Consider what the prophet Isaiah said regarding God’s voice to us:

As for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord. My spirit, which is upon you, and my words, which I have placed in your mouth won’t depart from your mouth, nor from the mouths of your descendants, nor from the mouths of your descendants’ children, says the Lord, forever and always.” Isa. 59:21 CEB

What an amazing promise! To follow Christ is to be assured God is continually speaking to us and to our descendants. By the way, this is true for children who have strayed from the Lord. The Holy Spirit continues to speak to them—always! Keep praying; many prodigals are coming back to Jesus in this hour as they respond to the voice and promptings of God.

From a young age, we desire to know and understand God. For the follower of Jesus, learning to hear His voice is an invitation to abundant living. His voice calms the heart, builds courage, and gives faith to move mountains. Here’s a recap of three core principles on how to hear God’s voice that I shared last week.

Principle #1: Expect God’s Voice

Jesus said we hear his voice, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27 NKJV

When you gave your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit came and indwelt you—you hear His voice—tune your spirit to God’s Spirit!

Principle #2: Discern God’s Voice

The more you tune your spirit to the Holy Spirit, hearing His voice will become a normal occurrence. This is accomplished through developing relationship with Him.

There is no formula to hearing God’s voice, but you can learn how to recognize His voice to you—the “language of the Spirit.” God communicates through the bible, thoughts, words, impressions, vision and encounters—all comprise the language of the Spirit.

Principle #3: Obey God’s Voice.

When we hear and obey God, we have success. Remember the story of Elijah hearing the “still small voice of God.” (1 Kings 19:12 NKJVGod revealed to Elijah the next steps for him. As Elijah obeyed God’s voice, he lifted himself out of disillusionment, discouragement, and depression. Elijah went on to fulfil God’s will for his life. Obedience to His voice positions you for breakthrough!

Four Keys To Hearing God’s Voice

I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” Hab. 2:1-4 NKJV

About 15 years ago I heard a teaching from pastor, Dr. Mark Virkler. Mark was a discouraged pastor ready to leave the ministry. He, along with many in his denomination, believed that the gifts of the Spirit that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 12 ceased to operate in the Church after the canon of scripture, the Bible, was completed.

However, Mark discovered that this is untrue, that God still speaks to His people today—He never stopped. He then derived four keys to hearing God’s voice from the above passage in Habakkuk. I’ll cover the first two today, the other two principles in two weeks. I’ve added over the years my own twist to his four principles to enhance the teaching.

Key #1 – God’s voice in our hearts sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts.

Therefore, when we tune to God, we tune to spontaneity.

Hab. 2:2, “the Lord answered me and said…” Habakkuk knew the sound of God’s voice. Elijah described it as a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Many listen for that inner audible voice, and surely God can and does speak that way at times. However, for most of us, most of the time, God’s inner voice comes to us as spontaneous thoughts, visions, feelings, or impressions.

Have you ever experienced driving down the road and having a thought come to mind to pray for a certain person? It is God’s voice inviting you to pray for that person!

The question to you is, “What did God’s voice sound like as you drove in your car? Was it an inner, audible voice, or was it a spontaneous thought that lit upon your mind?” Most of us would say that God’s voice came as a spontaneous thought or impression.

Therefore, when we listen for God’s voice, we should be listening for a flow of spontaneous thoughts and impressions. Most spirit-level communication is received as spontaneous thoughts, impressions, feelings, and visions from the Holy Spirit.

The Hebrew word for intercession is paga and one meaning is “a chance encounter or an accidental intersecting.” It also means “to pressure or urge someone strongly, to assail with urgent petitions.” Paga causes a meeting!

So, when God lays people on our hearts for intercession, He primarily does it through paga, a chance-encounter thought, accidentally intersecting our thought processes. Therefore, when we tune to God, we tune to chance-encounter thoughts or spontaneous thoughts.

Often, when I am giving a prophetic word to someone, it comes as a series of impressions, words and vision.

Once while ministering to about 500 pastors and leaders in India, God gave me a very specific word of knowledge for a pastor. I had just finished teaching the pastors about words of knowledge and wanted to activate them to function in this gift. I started by giving this specific word of knowledge. The word I received from the Lord was that there was a pastor present who pastored over three small churches. He rode his bicycle between the three churches to minister to his congregations. I also saw his wife, afraid, in the doorway of their humble home as he was leaving one day on the bike to minister to the churches.

I asked the group of pastors “Is there a pastor present that this applies to?” Two pastors came forward, but the first misunderstood and the word did not apply to him. But the second pastor who came forward looked shocked. He pastored three churches, rode his bike to them, and his wife was fearful he could be martyred. I then began to prophesy as the Spirit continued to give me impressions, words, and visions for him. The Lord led me to prophesy growth to his churches, a motorized vehicle being provided to him, and his wife being freed of fear as God strengthened her with courage and faith. He was powerfully impacted by the word, and the pastors present were energized and ready to move in revelatory gifts! Activation with them was easy that day!

Key #2 I must learn to still my own thoughts and emotions, so that I can sense God’s flow of thoughts, impressions and visions within me.

Hab. 2:1 “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart…” Habakkuk knew that in order to hear and see God’s spontaneous thoughts and visions, he had to first go to a quiet place and still his own thoughts and emotions.

Jesus went to quiet places to hear from the Father,

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Mark 1:35 NKJV

So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Luke 5:16 NKJV

He was alone praying…” Luke 9:18 NKJV

Psalm 46:10 encourages us to “be still, and know that I am God…” NKJV The English word know is from the Hebrew word yada, and is the same word used in describing Adam knowing Eve intimately. To yada with God is to commune with Him in close fashion. To yada with God is to have heart to heart communication with Him. When we quiet our flesh and our minds, we position our spirit to tune to Holy Spirit’s spontaneous flow—God’s thoughts, impressions, and visions.

Here are several ways to quiet oneself to pick up God’s spontaneous flow.

Elisha called for a musician before he sought the Lord for a prophetic word for the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom.

Now bring me a musician.” 2 Kings 3:15 NKJV

While the musician played, the Lord’s power came over Elisha. Worship helps tune our spirit to God. As you become still, your thoughts, will, and emotions are poised before God and the divine flow begins. So, after I worship and become still, I open myself to spontaneous flow.

I personally like to worship with a couple of songs that magnify the glory and majesty of Jesus. I then play light instrumental music and begin to pray quietly in tongues. I begin to focus my thoughts, not my prayer requests, on Jesus. I ask the Lord, “Is there anything You want to speak to me today?” Then I quietly wait upon Him to see or hear what He might reveal to me.

In fact, this past Sunday morning, I worshipped, prayed and waited on God. I had some things on my mind I wanted to petition God for, but first I asked the Lord, “Is there anything you want to speak to me about today before the service?” He simply said to me, not in an audible voice, but that quiet inner voice, “Read Psalm 100:3.” Here’s what that verse says:

Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3 NKJV

Remember my discussion above of Psalm 46:10, “be still and know that I am God.” The English word know is from the Hebrew yada in both Psalm 46:10 and Psalm 100:3.

Understand to “know that the Lord, He is God…” can only happen as we learn of Him, in the quiet intimate place of communion and prayer with God. When that revelation becomes alive in our hearts, a confidence builds that God is God—period! He is our Shepherd, He is watching over us, and He is God Almighty for us! So, this past Sunday, God wanted me to understand this truth from Psalm 100:3, since I was teaching on Psalm 46:10!

So while I’m waiting on the Lord, if “To Do’s” come to mind, I write them down and return to prayer. If the Holy Spirit recalls areas of sin, wrong attitude, offense, etc., I confess it and see myself washed in the blood of Christ. I receive His forgiveness and cleansing by faith. I see myself clothed in His righteousness (see 1 John 1:9; Isa. 61:10).

By the way, if there is offense, unforgiveness or judgment toward others in your heart, your ability to hear God is hindered or shut down. Seek God with an undivided heart, a heart that is tender to the Lord and others. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13 NKJV

It’s very important that you fix your gaze and attention upon Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says, “…Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus…,” AMPCE Become quiet in His presence, and share with Him what is on your heart, then the two-way dialogue begins to flow.

It is very important that you become still and properly focused to receive a pure word of God. If you are not still and focused on Jesus, you will simply be receiving your own thoughts. If we are “looking” through a soulish desire in our hearts, we may be led astray. Also, what you hear and see from the Lord will align with God’s nature and written Word.

Consider the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt. 5:8 NKJV


Purity of heart yields clarity of vision!


Have a wonderful week and press into God to hear His voice and what He may want to reveal to you. Expect to hear His voice, He never stopped speaking to His people!

For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Principles to Hearing God’s Voice, Part 2”

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