How to Listen for the Voice of Jesus

Scripture often compares us to animals. Proverbs 28:1 compares "the righteous" to a bold lion. That's exciting! Who doesn't want to be like a lion?

But there are also times when we are compared to something less glorious... like sheep.
"My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me," Jesus says in John 10:27.

Consider the broader context of what Jesus says in John 10:1-16 (CSB)

“Truly I tell you, anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd."

You get the picture. We are the sheep, Jesus is the good shepherd; the same shepherd David speaks of in Psalm 23.

The question is, how we do listen for the voice of Jesus in our lives? Here are a few practical tools that may help you! (Spoiler alert: It is most likely not going to be an audible voice, like Morgan Freeman, speaking to you.)

Find space for silence.

Too much noise and too much hurry can stifle our ability to hear Jesus speaking to us. This looks like muting the external and the internal noise.

Muting external noise.

Finding a quiet calming spot. Light music is okay but get close to silence without distractions. Try to embrace the quiet and see if God starts to put specific words, phrases, or thoughts in your mind. And an idea for Spouses: Serve one another by helping each other have a rhythmic space for this (and away from the kids if you have them!) Even if it is time in a special part of the yard or the house for even 30 minutes a day, it is precious time (not time to just go scroll on Instagram).

Muting internal noise. (This is harder to do!)

The goal is to hear from Jesus, not to continue to hear your own thoughts over and over. You may have to put a pause on the to-do lists. One idea is to have a notepad nearby so you can just jot down that nagging thought so you can release it and move on ("Call the dentist," etc.).

It’ll take time to discern the voice of God in your life because he will speak to you in a way that is also familiar to you. God is fluent in the unique dialect of your soul! He knows how to interact with you. And when we quiet our noisy and hurried souls, we have a greater chance of hearing his distinct but strangely familiar voice of God.

Get Scripture in you.

The Word of God becomes a template that helps us discern the voice of God in our lives. His voice in the present tense will always be congruent with His word. Pete Greig, the author of How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People, says this: “When it comes to hearing God, the Bible is the language of his heart. Nothing he says in any other way in any other context will ever override, undermine, or contradict what he has said in the Scriptures.”

If you can memorize Scripture, do it! If you can’t (no worries!) at least internalize the message of what you read. There is nothing wrong with paraphrasing the profound truths of Scripture in ways you’ll remember. The point is that Scripture becomes the foundation and framework of what God’s character is like and what he has said.

Spend less time on technology and more time outdoors.

What a crazy idea, but what if being outside actually does something to us physiologically that makes us more aware and attentive to God’s voice? It does! There is something about being outside that can help declutter our minds and open up our receptivity to hear from God. Be still or be active but have time to BE outside and away from screens and technology!

man in black jacket sitting on chair

Make "listening" for the voice of God a posture, not a to-do.

This is a way of life, not a religious "to-do." Remember, we are more like sheep than we like to admit. When a sheep is under the care of a new shepherd, they go through a phase of learning his voice. During this time they may get close to starving themselves because they feel more displaced than ever! But eventually, it clicks. They know their shepherd and follow him as he leads them to green pastures. This is like us.

Whether you are new to Jesus or new to trying to hear his voice, it'll take time! Stick with it!

Eventually, the Lord’s voice will become distinct from your thoughts or other voices! All things worthwhile in life take time. This is one of those things. There are no shortcuts in hearing the voice of Jesus: just practice and patience.

You can try dedicating a journal as a prayer journal. Write down what you believe you “hear.” Run it through other Christ-followers who can help you discern it. It'll become more natural in time.

Try these and see if you begin to hear the voice of God anew in your life. Which one of these four stands out to you? Comment yours below! We would love to hear from you.

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