From time to time a strange peace comes upon me that leads my day in a radically different direction than I woke up expecting. This was one of those days and here I was standing up the front of an auditorium at a conference for a church network that I wasn't even a part of (yet). A friend had mentioned the event earlier in the weekend and though I had no natural reason to go I kept feeling led all morning to go along and that God would have something for me there. Now, here I was up the front praying for someone and asking God to break into his life.
A few moments into putting my hand on his shoulder I saw something strange. I saw him clay pigeon shooting and he was nailing every shot. I've never done clay shooting and never even thought about it so it was an unusual thing for me to see. I proceeded to share the interpretation I felt the Spirit give me, which applied to a specific area of his life and how he should approach it. It seemed to be really moving him as we spoke and prayed and God gave him encouraging words.
After we'd finished praying he turned round to me with a kid in a candy shop kind of surprised look in his eyes. As it turned out earlier that year he'd actually tried clay shooting for the very first time and was bizarrely talented at it. He explained to me that he and his wife were so surprised at how out of the blue accurate he was because it's not at all his area of experience or expertise. It was something random that only they knew about. The result was that he knew that God was speaking directly into his life and the words that followed weren’t just my imagination but God's intimate intention. God had used that stange event to speak very specifically into the way he was to approach this season of his life and his speaking that way helped to bypass his cautious mind and send the word deeper into his heart.
God loved this person so much that he'd gently led me in the direction of that conference, prompted me to pray for him and then gave a word of knowledge to open the doors of his mind. We were both blessed by it and I walked away full of joy.
I've dreamt of hearing God’s voice for others almost my whole life. I remember as a 12 year old at school walking around during lunchtime saying "God, the only thing I want in my life is to hear your voice and to share it with others like the prophets in the bible heard your voice." I've always believed that for God to speak specifically into someone’s life through another breaks open our hearts and cuts straight to the core of humanities deepest desire - to know and to be truly known by God.
What I've come to learn since then is that God doesn't speak to the majority of his people today in the same way he spoke to the prophets of old and that's an exciting thing. He now speaks through every common person in his Son by literally residing and living within us.
Pentecost changed everything.
Jesus himself claimed that it was better for him to leave so the Spirit could come (John 1:7) and boy was he right. Jesus traded his one body for the universally present Holy Spirit who would dwell in every believer at all times communicating God's fatherly heart for every child. This is the promise, that you can know God even more intimately than the Old Testament prophets and you can hear his voice from within his very self. The Spirit eternalized the promise “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27) and brought to pass the great poets word that all people would see visions, dream dreams and prophesy (Acts 2).
The problem is that we can be so caught up in how we expect him to speak that we can miss his voice entirely. We can get so stuck on hearing him audibly, or through the prophecy of another or a miraculous sign. I remember a friend at high school telling me he didn't believe in God because he didn't turn the car on in the exact moment he asked him to as some kind of sign he was there. Of course God still speaks in signs and dramatic visions but for the majority of us for the majority of the time God speaks through the deep swells, pictures and imagination of his Spirit within us.
He can be a faint but real whisper, a quiet brook and a gentle breeze or he can appear to us in a dream or dramatic experience.
It's been 20 years since I prayed that high school prayer and though today I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination I've certainly learnt to open my ears in ways that I had never considered back then.
So, I wanted to write a blog series that could share the few things that I have learnt about every day hearing from God and to help empower you to truly grasp and believe that you can walk with your Father in a way where you can confidently say "God told me." For a lot of you it wont be revolutionary I’m sure but if there’s anything throughout these posts that empowers you in one aspect of your listening then it’s worth it. I’ll be posting about revelation, impressions, visions, pictures, dreams and swells and sharing stories of my own along the way.
Here's to walking with God in the garden again.