The Bible is full of stories of God speaking to people – through dreams, visions, angelic visitations, even a talking donkey, and a burning bush.
But does it still happen today? Pastor and author Tania Harris says yes – God is the same now as he always was, and wants to speak to us all. In her book God Conversations, she says you can learn to recognise and respond to God’s voice.
The First Time I Heard God Speak
One of the earliest times Tania heard God’s voice was a warning that someone was going to break into her car. A sceptic by nature, she had been praying and asking God what he ‘sounds like’. She got her answer in a very unexpected way.
“One day this thought dropped into my head, ‘someone’s going to break into your car tonight’,” she said. “I wondered, ‘why am I thinking this?’ I looked at my car and thought ‘there’s nothing really to steal except my music’, and I emptied the music out of my glove box, went to bed and forgot about it.
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“Next morning I went to the car, and the lock of my car door was hanging out of the socket. I opened the door and all the contents of the glovebox were spilled out on the floor—except my music, which was safe in my handbag.
“I learnt that the voice of God, the Holy Spirit, was not necessarily out loud, external to myself, but it was a thought that actually came on the landscape of my thoughts, that was different to my own.”
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Discerning Between God’s Voice and Our Own
Tania says there’s two keys to discerning the difference between God’s voice and our own wishful thinking. The first is knowing God’s character.
“Firstly the big question to ask is, ‘Would God say this? Is this the kind of thing he would say?’ People often say to me, ‘I had this experience and it made me feel really bad and guilty and condemned and shameful’. That’s not the voice of God. The voice of God always calls us to hope and joy and peace and freedom. So that’s the bottom line.
“The voice of God speaking is always consistent with the character and nature of God, most perfectly seen in Jesus. Everything God says is good, for our good.”
The other key is getting confirmation from someone else.
“The voice of God speaking is always consistent with the character and nature of God, most perfectly seen in Jesus.” ~ Tania Harris
“I believe clearly that when God speaks, he will confirm that through the mouth of another person,” Tania says. “We see that happening in the early church, in the stories of the Bible. The Holy Spirit speaks to one person, and then confirms it through another.
“And in my own life and in my book, I show how that happens.
“When God spoke to me about starting a new church, which was a risky thing to do, I was sitting in a meeting and felt the Holy Spirit say something, and after the meeting, someone came up to me and said ‘God just spoke to me about you’. And we put the two things together and they were amazing. It was the voice of God.”
Sometimes God Speaks, Sometimes He is Silent
Tania often hears God’s voice when she least expects it, particularly in dreams. But there are times when God is silent too. She believes that in these times we are to simply trust God, or make a decision ourselves.
“I think the default is always that he is speaking and sometimes I haven’t recognised it, or haven’t done what he said,” she said. “But God calls us in partnership, he’s not a dictator. So sometimes he says ‘this is what I’m asking you to do’, and other times he says ‘what do you want to do?’
“It’s a friendship, a two way thing.”
Case in point; Tania recently had to make a difficult decision and heard “absolutely nothing”. So she made the decision herself.
“I think sometimes he says ‘I’ve given you the resources to make your own decision, go ahead and do it.”
For those who struggle to hear God’s voice, Tania gives encouragement:
“Sometimes when you’re going through decisions it’s the hardest time to hear God’s voice. In those times God may seem silent, but he’s always present. And in those times, we look at his character, and his promises are always true. We look at what he’s done in the past, at who he is as a person, that he’s always with us.
“Sometimes he just wants to surround us with comfort. And often that comes in the hands and feet of other people. And when it’s time, he’ll speak.”
God’s Voice is for Everyone
While some people have more of a ‘knack’ for hearing God speak, Tania believes it is for anyone who wants to hear. She bases that on her reading of the Bible, and Jesus’ promise that Holy Spirit was given to everyone. (John 14, Acts 2)
“Even those not following Jesus, if we are crying out to God, ‘Reveal yourself to me’, I think God is wanting to show himself to everyone who’s seeking him,” she said. “And that can certainly come as a voice for many people.”
Read more and find Tania’s book at GodConversations.com.