Don’t you love it when you hear God loud and clear?
I can always trust that it’s really him speaking to me when he speaks through a Bible verse. Sometimes when I meet with God in the pages of Scripture, words jump off the page with unmistakable force.
That’s when I know without a doubt that God is speaking to me.
But God also speaks in a number of less obvious ways.
- Through other people.
- Through odd coincidences.
- Through a well-timed song on the radio.
- Through his still small voice—which happens to be the toughest one of all for me to discern.
Ever notice that God’s still small voice sounds an awful lot like your own voice?
What if I think it’s God speaking to me when I actually came up with the thought on my own? Or worse, what if I think it’s God when a false belief bubbles up from my subconscious or a lie is whispered by the Father of Lies and enemy of our souls?
Jesus taught us that we could hear and know and discern his voice. Here’s how The Message records his words in John 10:1-5:
Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.
I know my Shepherd. I trust and believe him. But I often struggle with discerning his still small voice. Mostly because I’ve been wrong more than once. Painfully wrong at least a few times.
So, I signed up for a conference a couple weeks ago that promised to help me not only hear God, but actually tell another person what he was saying. I’ve attended other “prophetic” conferences where they pair you up with a complete stranger and make you tell them what you hear God saying to them. How could I be so bold as to speak for God? I end up shrugging my shoulders and saying something like, “All I’m getting is a picture of a lake. Does that mean anything to you?” Or I will hear—over and over in my head—the last Bible verse I read, and wonder if the verse is really for that person or if it’s simply fresh on my mind.
As the day for the recent conference drew near, I was nervous about being put on the spot to conjure up a “Thus saith the Lord” prophetic word.
Not my wheelhouse!
Determined not to be caught in another awkward situation, I intentionally met with a couple girlfriends right before the conference to pray that I would not be put in an uncomfortable, on-the-spot role. One of my friends gave me the perfect advice.
“Shawna,” she said. “If you are paired with someone and told to prophesy over them, simply pick up your Bible and turn to Psalm 23. As you pray for that person, read through the Psalm. Then pick a verse and say, ‘I believe the Lord wants you to know this,’ and then read them the verse.”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I have Psalm 23 practically memorized, and I knew I could easily quote a verse to a complete stranger that I’d prayed for.
I went to the conference with a good plan (and even better prayer cover), and then God showed up unexpectedly and magnificently with the same plan!
At the appointed time, the conference leaders said they planned to break us up into small groups where we would pair off to pray and prophesy.
They gave us our marching orders and my jaw dropped.
“I know some of you are new at this,” said one leader. “And so, we are going to make it easy for you. We want each of you to open your Bibles to Psalm 23 and read it as you pray for the person you’ve been paired with.”
Relief washed over me. God had clearly been speaking through my friend during our prayer time early that morning!
The leader continued with our instructions, but I already had a pretty good idea of what she was going to say.
“We have no doubt that one verse will pop out at you,” she said. “We want you to read that verse to them. That verse may be all you get, and that’s OK. You may also be prompted to bless them by sharing any thoughts that come to your mind as you were praying for them and reading the verse to them. That’s OK too. Just make sure to avoid giving them directions, advice or opinions. Simply give them encouragement rooted in their verse from Psalm 23.”
That’s when I knew without a doubt God would be speaking through me.
As we paired up, I felt calm assurance that I couldn’t possibly speak a wrong word that would be attributed to God. I spoke the truth from Psalm 23 and shared a few other thoughts that I knew would bless my partner. I learned that day that—even if we’ve never prophesied and don’t think we ever could—God really can speak through us.