Knowing the Voice of God


The Christian is to live a life that is led by the Spirit (See Romans 8:13-14 and Galatians 5:25). However, in our day-to-day lives we acknowledge many thoughts in our minds. We always wonder whether the thought originated from God or from ourselves. How can we tell the difference between a God-induced thought and thoughts that come from elsewhere? Unfortunately, I have found that the typical traditional church does not teach us how to hear from God. It does not teach us to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of our own mind. As a matter of fact, many churches lead us in the opposite direction. We learn to hear the voice of the pastor instead of the voice of God. We learn to listen and obey what the minister says instead of seeking God for ourselves and hearing what God says to obey. In effect, we learn to do everything except life according to the Spirit because we are deaf to God’s Spirit. When calamity comes we turn a sensitive ear to God only to be further frustrated because we never learned to hear his voice in the first place.

Living by the Spirit of God is more than just conforming to rules and regulations imposed on us by religion. Yes, some of these rules are good in principle but they still do not get us any closer to God in themselves. Many of us have made wrong decisions because we did not hear God neither could we. Many of us are at a place in our lives where we should not be because we did not hear God when he was directing us. Our present locale in life is directly related to our obedience to God and you can’t obey God if you don’t hear him. Many of us suffer from “own understanding.” We strive to do things based on our own understanding, abilities, and resources. We don’t turn to God for instruction and direction on a normal everyday basis. We learn to turn to God only when we need something.

How many times have you received a thought and wondered if you should act on it or not? How many times did you get what you thought was a great idea but wondered if it was from God? The problem with us is that we just don’t know what God’s voice “sounds” like. Our spirit man knows but when it gets to our head (mind) we become uncertain. This is because we are not aware of the spiritual aspects and component of our lives. We are not in tune with the spirit realm so when we do get a message from God via the spirit we do not recognize it.

It’s time for you to learn to hear God’s voice and therefore enjoy your life with full security. It’s time for you to learn how to distinguish between God thoughts and other thoughts since you want to respond to all God thoughts. It is time that you come from out of the bonds of religion with all of its rules and regulations (that lead you to death) and be liberated to do whatever and go wherever God wants you to go. It’s time to find the path (purpose) that God has preordained for you and move on it. It’s time to live! Listen.

By William R. Cunningham


The Christian must learn to live according to the Spirit of God. How is this done? Many have asked and many are still searching. The answer is not found in most churches nor is it found in books and tapes. The answer can be found from the source: God the Father. Unless we have a revelation of God we will never learn to hear his voice. Knowing God’s voice does not come from the practice of religious formulas. There are no formulas! What must be practiced is very simple-get to know God.

This study will reveal fundamental principles that will assist you in knowing the voice of God. I am not trying to lay steps to hearing God’s voice or formulas to know his voice. I wrote this study to reveal to you what I learned and practice in order to know exactly when God is talking to me and when he is not. Note that all good ideas do not come from God to you. Some good ideas are generated in your own mind or induced by others. Therefore, you have to know absolutely when God speaks to you and not determine when he speaks to you. We have to learn to hear God’s voice and recognize it.

This study will cover the following topics:

  • How to know when a thought is from God or not
  • How God speaks to Christians
  • The difference between God’s will and your will
  • Allowing God to speak to you (relay a message)
  • The importance of speaking in tongues and hearing from God
  • The origin of thought
  • The mind, Body, and spirit of man
  • How to build a fellowship with God so that hearing his voice becomes “second nature.”
  • Making decisions and the voice of God
  • Acting on what you hear from God
  • The importance of prayer and hearing from God
  • The importance of defiance and hearing from God
  • The importance of obedience and hearing from God
  • The importance of faith and hearing from God
  • The power of waiting
  • The consequences of hastiness
  • God and your comfort zone

This is only a study GUIDE. This is not a book of formulas to use. The most important thing that you can do for yourself is to study the bible for yourself and obtain and maintain a personal active relationship (fellowship) with God your heavenly Father.

After completing this study guide, you should have a much better understanding of what is necessary to hear and recognize the voice of God in your life. From that point, you can begin to implement what you have learned (be doers of the word and not hearers only).

God is Spirit

There is one thing that you must realize above all things: GOD IS A SPIRIT! God is not flesh and blood nor is he the embodiment of thought (idea). God is a Spirit. What does this tell you? This tells you by what mode God communicates with us. Since God is a spirit, he communicates spiritually. He does not communicate with us via the flesh. He does not communicate with us via mental thought (we will talk more about this later). For now, just realize that God is Spirit and he communicates spiritually to all people.

The Composition of Humans

Before we can discuss hearing from God and the perception of thought, we must discuss the components of man. Knowing these components will increase your understanding of how God communicates with humans. Man is composed of body, soul, and spirit.

The Body of Humans

The body of a human is the flesh and blood of the human. The body is the physical component of the human being which allows us to communicate or interact with the physical realm on a physical level. The flesh has no power of its own and is incapable of thought. However, because of the desires of the flesh (body), certain thoughts can be induced by it.

The Soul?of Humans

The soul of the human being is the mind, personality, emotions, and will. The soul is where we think, reason, and feel. The mind is a great master database of all the information that we have been feeding it from our birth. The mind is where the intellect resides. It is where we contemplate to make decisions or take action. The soul is the identity of the human being. The soul is what makes you who you are. The soul is where the battle to do “right” or “wrong” takes place

The bible says,

(Genesis 2:7 KJV) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

The body of man was formed from the dust of the earth. Note that the man, who had no life, did have a soul. However, all was lifeless until God breathed the breath of life into man and he then became a living soul. All three components of humans are revealed in this scripture through the soul and body had no life until God put life into them via the spirit. This is why a person’s body is lifeless when he dies (his spirit leaves his body).

The Spirit of Humans

The spirit of humans is the life of the human. However, this life is relative. A person who has been born again is alive toward God (true life). A person that is not born again is alive as far as being conscious and able to function from internal power but on an absolute sense, they are dead because they are not connected to the source of life itself: God.? The bible says of the spirit of man:

(1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV) “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

Our spirit knows our thoughts. Our spirit is connected to God if we are saved. Therefore, our spirit knows the difference between God thoughts and non-God thoughts. Therefore, it is important that we are sensitive to our spirit and thus the spiritual realm. We will talk more about this later. I just want you to see the relationship between the mind and the spirit of man.


The Medium of Communication

How do we communicate with God and how does He communicate with us? We will be no better than the religious fools in many churches and organizations if we don’t know how to communicate with God personally. We said earlier that God is a Spirit. Therefore, we have to communicate with God using the medium of spirit. That is, we must communicate with God in the spiritual realm. We cannot communicate with God on a physical or mental realm, though some try with their religious acts. The Bible, as an example, says:

(John 4:24 NIV) “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.””

“must worship in spirit and in truth” The English word “worship” was originally spelled “worthship” and means to acknowledge the worth of the object worshipped. We should acknowledge God’s worth in spirit (in contrast to material ways) and in truth (in contrast to falsehood).

The medium of communications then is the spirit realm. How do we interact with the spirit realm so that we can interact with God? What is the method or tool used to interact with the spirit realm? The basic tool or method used to interact with the spirit realm is prayer.


The Method of Communications

We communicate with God through prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is the process or activity of talking to God (relaying a message to him whether a request, praise, or worship) and receiving from God (whether instruction, rebuke, or direction). Prayer then is how we communicate with God. The real question is how to pray. Let’s look at some scripture.

(Luke 11:1-4 KJV) “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. {2} And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. {3} Give us day by day our daily bread. {4} And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”

Let’s look at this prayer closely. Note that Jesus is directly giving instruction in response to the question of how to pray. Let’s look at each component of this model prayer of Jesus Christ.

  • Our Father which art in heaven – Recognize or acknowledge God as being your heavenly Father, your source. You come from God and your source for all that you need (including your life) is from God. See Proverbs 3:6.
  • Hallowed by the name – This acknowledges the purity or sacredness of God and his authority (name)
  • Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.. – The acknowledgment of the accompanying realm of God and that His will is accomplished on the earth just as it is in heaven.
  • Give us this day our daily bread – The acknowledgment that God meets our daily needs. Note that this is not a prayer request but a statement of fact.
  • Forgive us our sins.. – An acknowledgment of the spiritual principle of forgiveness. God forgives us when we forgives others. Note also that this is not a request for forgiveness but a statement of how or when God forgives us.
  • Lead us not into temptation – An acknowledgment that God does not lead us into temptation (See James 1:13-14)
  • But deliver us from evil – An acknowledgment that God delivers us from evil and the evil one

Note that all of the above statements are indeed just that – statements. There are no question marks. Jesus was not teaching us to ask God to meet our needs, deliver us from evil, or not to tempt us. Jesus was teaching us to acknowledge that God does these things. This prayer that Jesus uses to instruct his disciples reveal the activities of God to us and how we are to relate to God. God does not do for us because we ask him a certain way of demonstrating our piousness. God does things for us because he loves us. We only need to acknowledge that through prayer. Other examples of prayer can be found at: John 17 (notice how Jesus talks to God his Father), and 1 Kings 8:23-53 (Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the house of God).

There is a definite need to know the word of God in order to pray effectively. You must know what God has said and what he is saying know. There are many promises and principles that he has already stated that you need to be aware of in order to affect situations in your life. Though I cannot get into too much detail here since this is not a lesson on prayer, let me say that prayer must come from the heart. Your prayer must radiate from your spirit since it is with your spirit that you are connected and communicate with God. Prayer is more than just words. The words that you say are your best effort to describe what is in your heart passing through your mind. See the study on Effective Prayer for more information.


Praying in the Spirit

There are many teachings about praying in the spirit. Praying in the spirit is simply to pray from your spiritual self to God (remember that God is spirit). Your prayer is directly from the heart to the Lord. Praying in the spirit is many times associated with praying in tongues. However, praying in the spirit does not necessarily mean that you are praying in tongues. God communicates by the spirit and we perceive these spiritual messages in our own native language.

I would dare say that if you really want to hear from God then you should learn and practice regularly praying in the spirit, i.e., praying from within–from your heart. Don’t just bow your head and start saying some words. Express your heart to the Lord. Praying in the spirit is simply to pray directly from the heart to God.

The point here is that if you really want to hear from God then you are going to have to spend some quality time with him in prayer. I’m not talking about saying a few words real quick. I mean reserving time regularly to speak to God from your innermost being, i.e., from your heart. The thing here is that he will talk back and sometimes when you least expect it. By spending time with God and acting on what he tells you then you will begin to learn his voice increasingly.


Distinguishing Thoughts

How do we know when the idea or thought we have comes from God or someone else? This is the fundamental question of many believers. We all want to know when God is speaking to us. We all want to know when we are hearing the voice of God as opposed to someone else’s voice. Let’s look at scripture to begin our journey.

(John 10:4 NIV) “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Read John 10:1-16 to get a more accurate picture of the sheep/voice principle. The teaching of Jesus Christ here is that we know his voice. That’s it. The sheep knows the shepherd’s voice. How do the sheep know the shepherd’s voice? The sheep has been with the shepherd for a long time and they know that this person feeds them, leads them to food, etc. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice by the medium of fellowship and association. We too learn God’s voice by fellowship and association.


From Inside Out

God speaks to us from within. Why? His spirit dwells in us. God is not some great deity way out in heaven (outer space). He is a God who is with us and in us each moment. The spirit of God dwells in us. The bible says:

(Romans 8:9 NIV) “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

Therefore, when you hear a message coming from the inside then you can have good confidence that it is God. Satan does not dwell within the Christian since the Holy Spirit is within. Satan induces thought (logic, own understanding, mental deductions). God prompts you from within and you perceive what he says with your mind as instructions. I often think of it this way. Think of what happens when someone tells you to do something. Let’s say that I say to you, “Pick up that pencil.” You then reach over and pick up the pencil. What happened? Basically, I vibrated air molecules creating a pressure gradient in the air, which you hear and perceive as words. Those words are interpreted and you receive a message and then follow the instructions of the message, namely to pick up the pencil. What if I could give you that same message without vibrating the air with sound. Instead of getting the message through a physical medium, you would get it through a spiritual medium. That is how God communicates with us.


The Origin of the Voice

All things must go to your mind in order for you to act, i.e, you have to understand the message. Whether It is a message from God or a message from Satan. All of these messages must somehow be interpreted (received) by your mind so that you have the understanding and therefore able to act. let’s make one thing very clear about the spirit of a born again Christian. Your spirit has been made new by the Holy Spirit. God communicates directly to your spirit and messages travel to your mind so that you can take action. We must also assume that you have been studying the word of God and praying regularly (building a fellowship with God). If you have been doing these things and are saved (born again) then you have confidence in the fact that any message that comes from your spirit is from God. Any message that does not come from your spirit is not from God. It doesn’t matter how many people say something to you. Do not act unless you have heard it from God.

You must listen to the voice of God and not of man. Too many times we rely on the pastor, minister, evangelist, mother, father, sister, etc. No! Rely on the voice of God. Learn to hear his voice coming up from within you and not from without. Only Satan and others communicate from the outside in. Why? They don’t dwell within you so in order to have you act on THEIR message, they have to present the message to you from outside of your spirit.

The next question is whether or not the voice was God or your own mind. We will get to that later.


Corrupting the Message

Know for a fact that Satan does not want you to excel in the things of God because you will only cause other people to be liberated. Imagine how free you will be if you totally trusted God and knew when you heard him speak all of the time. Therefore, when you do get a message, Satan will try to corrupt it by inducing thought in you. He cannot read your mind so his corruption will come after you have confessed what you are doing, For example,?let’s say that God tells you to start a church. You act on that message and you confess that you will start a church. You tell others and you pray about starting a church (for direction). Satan, once he realizes what you are going to do, begins to induce thought of inferiority, inadequacies, and uncertainties. All this is designed to keep you from starting the church. Though the message does not originate from Satan, rather from God, he will still try to keep you from acting on God’s word to you. Therefore, watch as well as pray. See Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23.

Another thing that could corrupt the messages from God is fear, doubt, and unbelief. You may be afraid of what God tells you to do and therefore doubt that it was God. That could lead you into not doing what the Lord said to do. So the message of God was corrupted by your own fear and unbelief. The message from God can also be corrupted by your own carnal desires. By carnal I mean things pertaining to the flesh or physical realm. These include pride, selfishness, etc. Therefore, it is expedient that the child of God maintain a personal relationship with the Lord through prayer, meditation, fellowship, and studying the word of God so that you would be built up in your faith and increasingly recognize when God is instructing you.


Communication Protocol

How does God talk to you? Some people say they hear a voice while others talk about promptings and the like. Remember what we discussed earlier. You will receive a message about whether the message was collected via a physical medium or spiritual medium. I often wondered what really happened when the Bible reveals situations where God spoke to someone. Consider the following passage as an example.

(1 Samuel 3:3-11 NIV) “The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. {4} Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” {5} And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. {6} Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” {7} Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. {8} The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. {9} So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. {10} The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” {11} And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.”

Look closely at what happened here. God called Samuel because he wanted to tell him something. However, God did not relay his message to Samuel until Samuel acknowledged God’s call. We even communicate with other people this way. First, we call their name, the person responds by saying ‘what’ or something like that and then we give them our message. It appears here that God does the same thing. With Moses, he used the burning bush to call him. Somehow God will get your attention (interrupts you) so that you are prepared to listen. I believe that many times we do not hear from God because we do not answer his call. He is not going to blab on about something to you if you are not listening.

God may speak to you in dreams or promptings as well. See Genesis 28:12 and Genesis 37 for references to dreams as messages from God. That is not to say that every dream has a spiritual meaning since the bible says that dreams come from much activity (Ecclesiastes 5:3). However, the Bible does reveal that God may speak to us via a dream. Consider the following passage for example.

Matthew 1:20 (NKJV) {20} But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ?Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Somehow Joseph knew that it was God telling him what to do even in his dream. The key is to recognize whether or not it was from God, i.e., the message. This is where the relationship comes into play. The more we get to know God and his kingdom in life experiences (not just in the mind) the more we will recognize his voice. We will just know that it is God in the same way we know someone else’s voice because we have become familiar with the sound of it or the “way” of that person.

Confirming the Voice

Sometimes you are simply not sure if God was speaking to you or not. I once asked a person that I respect with regards to godly things this very question. He was telling me that God told him to do this and that and the whole time I was wondering how he could be sure it was God. He basically said the following in summary.

  1. Experience taught him to recognize God’s voice so he was accustomed to hearing Him
  2. Ask God to confirm his word. Somehow God will confirm that what he said to you really came from him.

I discovered many years ago that God also confirms his word after the fact. In other words, if you want to know if God told you to do something then do it. If what God says happens then you know it was God. I first discovered this in the Old Testament.

Exodus 3:12 (NKJV) {12} So He said, ?I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.?

Notice what the Lord told Moses. He said the sign will be apparent after he did what the Lord told him to do. That was amazing to me! The key was that Moses had to believe that he heard from God, which apparently wasn’t much of a problem since it appears he heard an audible voice. Remember also that Moses was raised Egyptian and was probably not familiar with the Hebrew God. So he was first convinced that God was talking to him and the question was whether he was really sending him to free the Hebrews from Egypt.

We too can come to that place where our experience with God is so great that we just know when he talks to us.


The Opportunity to Call

When does God call us? God can call you at any time – even in your sleep (Ex: Joseph’s dream to flee Egypt)! God can call you while you are driving to warn you of impending danger. He can call you while you are about to make a decision to warn you of the consequences of the decision you make. He can call you at any moment so that you can assist someone in need. The point is that God has the right and exercises the right to call you at any time.

However, I believe that the greatest opportunity that God has to call you in order to give you a message is during your personal prayer time. God at that point has your full attention and you are very much more likely to hear him call you. You are also more likely to clearly hear the message that follows. Though your personal prayer time is probably the best time for you to hear God call you, be aware of his presence at all times. The bible tells us that if we acknowledge God in all of our ways that He would direct our paths (See Proverbs 3:5,6). That word “acknowledge indicates a state of awareness of God in all situations and endeavors (ways).


Beginning Your Quest to Know God’s Voice

You must build your awareness of God in order to be sensitive to his voice. In the beginning, you can use the following tests to help you know if God has spoken to you or not. Note, however, that these are only a guide. There are no formulas for knowing God’s voice. You have to learn by experience. These few things will only assist you in the beginning as you sift through all of the voices that you hear to know God’s voice.

God will never tell you anything that is contrary to his word. Therefore, if you weigh what you have heard against the bible then you can better tell if God told you or not. You must look at the motive or underlying principle of what you have heard and not concentrate on the action or activity. For example, if you think God has told you to start a nursery school then you need to seek the motive for such an act. Does God want you to help children or are you looking for a way to make money? You must be honest with yourself in this.

You will not always be in agreement with others. Don’t expect to hear God tell you something that is in agreement or in the same direction as others. You may be called as a pioneer. You may be called to lead people off of the wrong path. Realize that what God tells you to do may not be the direction of the majority.

Do not consider yourself or your resources when God instructs you to do something. God will provide you with whatever you need to accomplish whatever he has told you. Trust him.


God Intends For Us to Hear Him

(1 Corinthians 2:9-11 NIV) “However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– {10} but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. {11} For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

God is not trying to keep us in the dark. He freely reveals things to us. As a matter of fact, I believe that the only thing that he conceals from us are things that don’t concern us or things we don’t need to know (none of our business).


Develop a Sensitivity and Awareness of God

In order to hear from God, you must be capable, in practice, to respond to his voice. You cannot respond to his voice if you do not hear him. What you must do is first heighten your awareness of God. Begin to purposely listen to him. Begin to talk to him at any odd time. Say to yourself that he is with you and try to feel him (though you probably won’t). Note this is just an exercise.

Start to act on what you hear inside. Yes, you probably will miss it sometimes. However, don’t let that stop you in your quest to recognize God’s voice. Also, remember that God wants you to recognize God’s voice. Try to get God involved in all aspects of your life. While you in the store say within yourself (or out loud) “Is there anything you want me to know before I buy this thing?” Whether you hear something or not you have at least given God a chance to speak and you have helped to build your sensitivity to him.

The more aware you are of God the more likely you will hear him. Of course, hearing alone is not enough. To truly build sensitivity and awareness to God you must obey him. If he says to do something then just do it. Don’t ask questions. Questions will only induce doubt and unbelief which will, in turn, cause you to move in a direction contrary to where God wanted you to go. The point I am trying to make here is that you must build a conscious awareness of God so that your antenna is up at all times.


Don’t Condemn Yourself

Don’t condemn yourself when you begin to question whether the voice you have heard is God’s or not. This is OK. You are in the development stages. Before long you will hear God’s voice and simply respond to it without any questions whatsoever. See that day and by faith, you will get to it. All of the ministers that you see on television and hear on the radio have gone through these stages. I read many of their stories of the things that had to endure and the mistakes that they have made. However, despite the mistakes and trials, they have matured greatly concerning spiritual things.


Time to Mature

Please realize that you will mature in these things. You won’t wake up one hearing all of the heavenly voices. You will grow to recognize God’s voice. You will grow in faith. Your whole spiritual makeup will grow and mature but it takes time to give yourself time. Each day you will get closer and closer. Each day you will have more revelations of God and the reality of him.

The greatest thing that you can do to develop in hearing God is to spend as much time with him as you can. Schedule your personal prayer times and fellowship times. Talk to him while you walk in the park. Talk to him while you are at your desk on your job. Talk to him while you are taking that final or mid-term exam. Always talk to God. This will gradually build your revelation of the reality of God. Soon God will be as real to you as the counselor you would talk to or any other person. Your whole system will be conditioned to accept messages coming from your spirit because you are more sensitive in that area. Don’t try to figure out how. Don’t try to analyze the path. Just take one moment at a time and allow each of those moments to be a growing experience. God bless you.


Knowing the Voice of God
A study on developing sensitivity to the Spirit
By William R. Cunningham
1996 All rights reserved
Updated October 2011



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