When you really need God to give you an answer about an important question you have, here are 5 things he wants you to do.
1. God Wants You to Prepare Your Heart to Listen and Submit Before You Speak and Request
One of the main reasons it can be so hard to hear God’s answer is because oftentimes we are too committed to hearing a certain answer. When you have tunnel vision, when you are overly focused on hearing what you want to hear rather than hearing what God wants to say, when your heart is not truly ready to submit to whatever God will tell you – oftentimes the Lord will not say anything at all.
God will wait to speak until your heart is truly ready to listen. A rushed and frantic spirit is not the environment where the Lord most often decides it’s time to speak to us. Rather, it’s when we calm and quiet our hearts for extended periods of time where the Lord most often gives us the answers we are asking him for. Like David said in Psalm 131:2, “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
When you prepare your heart to listen to the voice of God and to submit to the will of God, you will then truly want to hear what God has to say rather than secretly hoping God will tell you what you want to hear. Many people say God is not speaking to them, but in reality they know God has already told them no; but since they are unwilling to hear a no they just pretend God has not spoken. But again, in reality they just keep asking because they are waiting to hear a yes. There’s a big difference between “God is not speaking” compared to “God is not speaking what I want him to say.”
Notice how Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9-11, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread . . . .” Jesus first focuses on God’s glory and God’s will being done. Only after submitting to the will of his Father does he then teach us to make a request.
2. Prayerfully Ask God a Specific Yes or No Question that Is Clear and Concise
If you ask vague questions, it will be much harder to hear a clear answer. While long prayers where we simply pour out our feelings and concerns to the Lord are very good and healthy to do, these types of prayers do not often lead to hearing a specific answer from God.
Rather, to get a clear answer from God, you must ask God a clear and specific question. One practical tip is to ask God this question in a way that would elicit a yes or no answer. This is not done for God’s benefit but for our own. Notice the directness of David’s question to the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” (1 Samuel 23:2). His clear question received a clear answer from God, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah” (1 Samuel 23:2).
We don’t want to make things more complicated than they need to be. If you are listening for a long speech back from God that gives you 20 steps to take next, that will be much harder to receive compared to listening for a specific answer to a yes or no question.
Of course both types of request are still at the mercy of God. He can choose to make you wait for an answer no matter how you ask it, but in a practical sense it will be much easier to hear what God is saying when you ask him a clear yes or no question.
For example, “Lord, do you want me to ask Clair out on a date?” is much different than, “Lord, if I ask Clair out on a date, how will she respond? How should I ask her to get her to say yes to me?” The first question to God is reasonable to ask and likely to be answered. You are not asking God to take all the risk out of life. You are not asking him to make your will happen. You are not asking God to tell you the future. You are simply asking if you should or should not ask Clair out on a date. The second question, however, is phrased in such a way where you are asking God to accomplish your will, asking him to give you a detailed description of what will happen, and asking for a step-by-step playbook.
God does want you to seek his guidance, but he does not want to remove your need for faith by always telling you the future. So if you ask him a reasonable yes or no question, it’s likely he will give you a clear answer.
3. Prayerfully Sit Before the Lord, Listening for a Sense of Direction from the Holy Spirit
This is the part that is the hardest to describe how to do. Sitting before the Lord, listening for his answers, trying to sense the Spirit’s leading in your life – this takes practice and patience. Hearing God’s voice is not a science. Hearing God can’t be turned on and off like a radio. This process is not like flicking a light switch whenever you need it.
Rather, seeking an answer from God is a relational process. There are layers to our relationship with God. He’s always fathering us. He’s always maturing us. He’s always looking ahead into the future to the places we can’t yet factor into the equation. All we can do is make ourselves available to the voice of God. We can’t force God to speak. But through studying the Scripture, we also know God wants to speak. Therefore, when we quiet our hearts to listen, the Lord does often give us answers because he wants to guide us. As Paul said in Philippians 1:9-11, which states:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Gaining knowledge and discernment is a process that happens more and more over the course of time. So sit before the Lord. Turn off all the distractions. Give yourself time with God. If you can help it, don’t try to hear the Lord’s answer when you know you are on a deadline. That rarely works. You need time and freedom to hear God.
4. Prayerfully Seek Confirmation About What You Sense God Saying By Bringing Both the Yeses and the Noes Before Him
In the quiet, try to get a sense of what the Lord is saying by bringing before him the yeses and the noes. Prayerfully ask, “Lord, are saying yes to this question?” And then sit and give it time. Just sit before the Lord with that question and listen. And then do the same with the opposite option, “Lord, are you saying no to this question?” And then give yourself the same amount of freedom and time to discern if the Lord is saying no.
Present each option to the Lord multiple times, trying out what you sense when you bring him the yes option and then the no option. Oftentimes the Lord will give your heart a sense of which way he wants you to go when you use this process patiently in prayer. Let’s go back to 1 Samuel 23:1-5 and see what David did when God’s clear answer became murky again.
Therefore David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ And the Lord said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, ‘Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?’ Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, ‘Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.’ And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.”
At first, David asked a clear question and God gave him a clear answer. But the circumstances of life quickly came in and muddied the waters. When David became confused, what did he do? He went back to God and repeated the process he already went through. He asked the clear question again and God again gave him a clear answer.
When you are doubting what you heard or you need to make a really important decision so you want to make sure you heard God correctly, repeat the steps we talked about just like David did.
5. Actively Seek Biblical Confirmation That Stems from a Clear Rendering of Scripture
I do believe the Spirit is eager to speak personally to us about questions not directly answered in the Bible like, “Should I date Anthony?” “Should I ask Julia to marry me?” “Do you want me to quit my job and start my own company?” “Are you telling me to switch churches?” “Do you want me to break up with my girlfriend?” “Do you want me to confront my boyfriend about the concerns I have about our relationship?”
You will not find a direct answer in the Bible to these types of questions, but these are obviously very important questions, so clearly the Lord will want you to come to him for wisdom and guidance. So it’s right to ask God personal questions, hoping to receive a personal answer from the Lord about your unique situation.
But we must also humbly remember we are imperfect. We can make mistakes in this process of trying to hear God. This is why we must still go to the word of God whenever we want to know the will of God. You must learn to apply biblical truth to your life. While you will not find personal messages in the Bible right to you because the Bible is for all of us, the Holy Spirit does help us apply the general truths in the Bible to our specific questions and concerns in life.
God will never lead you to do something that would contradict his word. He always wants our lives to be guided by his Scriptures. As Hebrews 5:13-14 (NIV) states:
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Don’t bend and twist the obvious meaning of a Bible verse to make it say what you want it to say. Read the Bible daily and saturate your mind with Scripture, and the Spirit will show you how to apply these truths to your life.