How to Really Hear the Voice of God and Know It’s Truly Him

John 10:27

How can you hear God’s voice? When there’s a big decision to make in life, you want nothing more than to simply know for certain what the Lord is actually saying to you.

Hearing God personally speak to you will always have an elements of faith, so we will rarely get words painted in the sky leading us with unmistakable clarity. Peace comes through trusting God no matter what, even when you are uncertain of what’s ahead.

However, while we may not always be able to “see” everything that God has planned for us (thus the need for faith, Hebrews 11:1), there are still usually ways to “know” which way he is leading you.

In fact, I believe there are at least three specific ways in which God speaks. When you know where to look for answers, hearing God’s voice becomes much easier. So here are the top three ways on how to hear God.

Point 1: Hear God Through Studying and Applying His Word

I imagine a thud on the other side of the screen when you just read point 1 on how to hear God. Reading the Bible seems so conservative and modest. When people ask about hearing God’s voice, they are typically looking for something a bit more audible and exciting compared to reading.

But studying the Bible must always be the first piece of advice when it comes to hearing God’s voice and knowing his will because the Bible gives us the guardrails as we travel forward on the road of life (Psalm 119:105). If we don’t start here, we will get off track really fast!

Perhaps so many people find the Bible boring because they don’t really believe God personally speaks through it to them about their unique questions and circumstances (Psalm 119:24). The Bible is exciting to read when you realize God uses it to send you personal messages of truth that directly apply to your life.

Yes, the Bible is full of absolute truth (Psalm 18:30, Psalm 19:7), so I’m not saying each of us gets a unique truth from God. Rather, when we are listening closely to the Holy Spirit’s leading, we will get personal application points (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Spirit gives us the ability to apply God’s absolute truth to our very unique lives and questions.

Point 1a: If Hearing God’s Voice Is Not Guided By the Bible, You Will Always Doubt What You Hear

One of the problems I’ve noticed when it comes to hearing God’s voice is not knowing whether we are making his voice up in our heads or not. How will you know if you are just creating a false voice in your head to say what you want to hear? The first way we can decipher God’s personal leading in our lives is to test it against his general truths outlined in Scripture.

For example, if you ever “hear God” saying he hates you, or that he wants you to commit an act specifically forbidden in Scripture, or that he is revealing a “new truth” that contradicts what is clearly outlined in the Bible, you are definitely not hearing God.

What God says to you personally will never contradict what he has said to everyone through his written, infallible word. We need to read the Scriptures first with the intent of discovering the original message and meaning of the author. But the Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4;12), which means that although it is filled with unchanging, absolute truth, the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to instruct us on personal decisions and issues unique to our individual circumstances.

Related Article: Does God Speak Through the Bible or the Holy Spirit?

Point 1b: How to Hear God’s Voice Through the Bible

God has not just given us his word as a book of rules and instructions we need to learn; rather, it is ultimately a book about a person we need to know. Because of what Jesus has done, we can boldly come into the presence of God, casting all our anxieties on him and receiving personal direction and peace in return (1 Peter 5:7). Hebrews 4:15 states, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

So when it comes to hearing God’s voice through reading the Bible, I’m not saying you replace the intimate leading of the Holy Spirit with the physical pages of Scripture. It’s not Father, Son, and Holy Bible. The Holy Spirit certainly speaks to our hearts personally. But whenever the Holy Spirit speaks, his words will always align with the Bible. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible (through the hands and personality of men), so it makes logical sense that what he spoke then will be consistent with what he is speaking to us now in our personal lives since God is never changing.

Thus, you will hear the personal voice of God to you through the Bible when you prayerfully read it under the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you want to know the will of God, it always starts with knowing the word of God. The voice of God can be heard every time you submit to the Holy Spirit illuminating the Scriptures to your heart and mind (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

Point 2: Hear God Through the Holy Spirit’s Personal Leading in Your Heart

While in one sense, knowing the will of God is equivalent to knowing the word of God, I believe there is another avenue of hearing God that is available. There are sometimes morally neutral choices that get set before us. Often times either choice is biblical but the decision is still weighty and important, deserving of much prayer and contemplation.

It’s in these situations where I believe you especially need the Holy Spirit to give you specific directions through speaking to your heart (John 16:13). When following the Spirit in this personal way, I believe there are two easy errors to make.

The first error would be total dismissal of hearing God’s voice personally and replacing it with sole reliance on biblical principles. Of course relying on biblical wisdom is always right, but to replace the Holy Spirit with the Bible is a huge mistake. If you never slow down to listen to God’s personal words to you, you are missing out.

The second error is to ignore the Bible and wisdom and equate faith with no planning, no wisdom, and total moment-to-moment reliance on the Holy Spirit’s voice for every decision, from when to brush your teeth to who you should marry.

Thus, we need a balance here. You must live by principles and laws clearly taught in the Bible; but you must also listen to the Holy Spirit’s personal leading in your life so you know what to do in situations not specifically mentioned in the Bible.

So how can you do this in a practical way?

Point 2a: Hear the Voice of God By “Trying On” Each Option

One of the most helpful and practical pieces of advice I’ve learned on “how to hear the voice of God” was from John Eldredge in his book, Walking with God. I would not recommend going to John Eldredge for baseline theology, but I believe there is much to learn from his relationship with Jesus and his understanding of human identity.

In the book he talks about how to hear God and get direction when you have real choices to make, “Should you go this way or that way?” He suggests you sit before the Lord in prayer and “try on” each option. To “try on” the options in a given situation means to sit before the Lord with one option and then do that again with the other option, listening to his leading as you do so. Usually you can sense which way God is leading you when you try out each option in prayerful contemplation.

So let’s say you are trying to hear if God is giving you a “No” or a “Yes” on a certain decision you need to make. You have already tested both options against the Scriptures and you know neither choice would violate God’s written word. So in prayer you try both options out as you sit before the Lord, being sensitive to what direction he’s leading your tender, responsive, new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).

First you sit before the Lord with the “no” and you try to get a sense for what God might be saying. And then you sit before the Lord with the “yes” and again you quiet your heart so you can hear God’s leading. When you go through this process, you can usually get a sense of which option God is leading you to take.

Point 2b: To Trust What You Hear, You Must Be Willing to Hear a Yes or a No from God

One key point when trying to hear God is that you must be genuinely ready to obey any answer he gives you (Luke 22:42). If you know you are not willing to accept a “No,” you will not be able to fully trust that God is giving you a “Yes.” You will constantly worry you are simply making his voice up to get the answer you want because you know you want that answer so bad. But if you are ready to do what he says even if you don’t like it, this adds to the confidence you are actually hearing God rather than your own preferences.

Point 2c: God’s Word Is Perfect, But Humans Will Make Mistakes When Hearing God’s Voice

It’s wise to remember that hearing God through the impressions the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart is highly subjective and has great room for error. It is very easy to trick yourself into hearing what you want from God. So again, never make a decision without first prayerfully considering what God has already communicated in his written word.

With that said, millions of morally neutral choices will come at us throughout life. Do we really think God has nothing to say about these choices? Why would God tell us in his word to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6) if God doesn’t care about the things we are praying about? Surely God speaks to us personally through the intimate presence of his Holy Spirit.

As Paul experienced in Acts 20:22-23, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”

This Bible passage gives us great balance. We will not always be able to know the answer to every decision we make. But we do know that the Holy Spirit is speaking words of warning and counsel to us. Paul didn’t know what would happen; he just knew what he had to do. Likewise, we should focus more on what God has shown us rather than worrying about what he has not yet revealed.

Point 2d: Do Not Treat God’s Personal Leading to You as Authoritative as Scripture

You should do what you feel God is leading you to do (Romans 14:23). However, just be careful that you also leave room for error, meaning that you must remember that you can hear God wrong sometimes; so be flexible and willing to change your understanding of what God is saying to you personally.

This is why I prefer to stay away from language like “God told me” or “God said to me” because this feels too close to the language of the false prophets God had rebuked because they were claiming to hear from God when in actuality they had not (Jeremiah 23:16). The personal “words” or “leading” of the Holy Spirit are not authoritative like the Bible.

So while I do believe Scripture supports the general principle of the Holy Spirit personally leading us in our lives, we are not infallible and therefore I believe it is wiser to say things like “I feel like God is saying to me” or “I felt like in that moment God had told me” or “I know I could be wrong, but I really feel led by the Lord to” as these phrases give room for God to bring greater clarity to you and for you as a human to make mistakes on hearing God.

Point 3: Hear God’s Voice Through the Circumstances that Occur in Your Life

Our present circumstances provide us with a treasure chest of information about God’s will for our lives. In other words, whenever you have a question about the present, you can always hear God’s answer through your present reality (Matthew 10:11-14).

Your reality is not what you believe it to be. Your truth and my truth can’t both be right if they are different. God really is in control and things in our reality are true whether you believe them or not. For example:

  • If you are hearing God say “date Laura” but Laura has rejected your last ten invitations and told you she will call the police next time you call her, you are not hearing God correctly.
  • If you hear God say, “Quit your job because that book you wrote is about to be a bestseller in one week” but you’ve been trying to pitch it to publishers for years and no one has even seemed remotely interested, God is probably not telling you to quit your job.
  • If you are wondering if you should buy that house but then someone else buys it, you don’t have to sit around wondering if you should still put an offer in. God has spoken.

All of these examples are limited to the present (Acts 16:6-7). Maybe Laura will change her mind one day. Maybe the book deal will come. And maybe the house will come back on the market in a year or two. But right now, in each of those situations, God has spoken because God speaks through our circumstances.

In the Bible God warns his people not to put up with false prophets. But how are the people to know what prophets are true and which are false? In Deuteronomy 18:21-22 God gave the people some very practical counsel on how to decipher between true prophecy and the false:

You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”

God makes it real simple for the people: If reality matches the prophesy, the prophesy was in alignment with God’s will. If the prophesy doesn’t happen, that prophet did not here God’s voice.

Related Article: How Does God Speak Through the Circumstances of Your Life

Point 3a: How to Hear the Voice of God Through Your Circumstances

If you want to hear the voice of God, sometimes all you need to do is look around. He is speaking through the events in our lives all the time. To be balanced, only looking at the circumstances of your life is not sufficient because most of our questions have to do with the future. As we all know, our present can change in a moment.

Additionally, you can’t interpret “good” circumstances with “God loves me” and bad circumstances with “God hates me” (Matthew 5:45, Luke 16:19-31). Your subjective feelings about God’s feelings towards you should be guided by the objective facts God has revealed in Scripture.

When we fail to submit to God’s word first, we will misinterpret what God is saying through the circumstances. Without the Bible, we can interpret out lives however we want; and since we are flawed through sin, we will certainly interpret things wrong.

This why to hear the voice of God clearly, we must combine all three of the ways God speaks. When the word of God, the Holy Spirit’s personal leading in your heart, and the circumstances in your life all point in the same direction, you can be sure you are hearing God accurately.

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Mark Ballenger is the writing ministry of Mark Ballenger. To reach Mark, send him an email anytime: