How does God answer prayers? I know—you already know the answer to that question, “He can say yes, no, something better or wait.” That’s what we have all been taught right? Okay, let’s change the question a little: “What does God’s voice sound like to YOU?”
As I was doing my devotions this morning, I wondered how each of us hears God’s voice and direction in our lives. I mean – does it always sound like a ‘quiet and still voice?’ Does it maybe sound loud like a gong? Here are some ways that God spoke to people in the Bible.
Job – After many great losses, defeat and personal health problems, God finally spoke to Job in Job chapters 38-42. God’s answers to Job’s prayers was to ask Job questions. At first glance, it seems that God is saying, ‘I am God and can do what I want without you understanding.” However, I think God was reminding Job of why Job had always trusted God. There is no direct command from God to Job saying to trust him, instead God allows Job to think it through and decide if he would trust God again.
This is my style of communication with God – most of my prayers are answered as questions where I can think through the problem. Maybe this is God’s communication when he is saying, “Look, I already gave you the answer. You need to use what I have given you and answer your own questions.” I know for myself, like Job, if God tells me an answer, I don’t follow through. But if the Holy Spirit gives me a question in response to my fears/struggles, then I will follow what I already know about God’s direction.
David – I tried to think of a passage in the Bible where David wrote that “The Lord spoke to me,” but I couldn’t think of one. I do remember God speaking through the prophet Nathan to David using a friend’s wisdom to help him hear God’s directions. I have a friend who was a young adult leader for our division of churches who would constantly tell me he never heard or felt God talking to him. It bugged him so much, that it kept him on his knees seeking God. But let me tell you, everything this man did was touched and blessed by God. Everything.
Maybe this is why David’s faith and reputation was so strong. Even with his mess-ups and his family problems that he created, God still called him a man after God’s own heart. I think that for this personality, God’s voice is seen in the peace you have as you move forward. It may not be loud or a clear answer, but when you follow that peace, you find you are walking in God’s walk.
Balaam – No, not that God is talking to you through donkeys, but that it takes hearing a hard “no” through bad circumstances before you listen to God. This would be the one you probably don’t want God to have to use. This is for the stubborn person, who can’t seem to listen to the easier methods of God talking. Or maybe it is for the person who gets themselves into a big mess and only calls for help when they need out of their mess. Or it’s for the Davids who aren’t listening to what they know they should be doing and are choosing not to do it.
Psalms 107, a chapter about faith and prayer personalities, states that some people rebel against God, and they wait until they are ‘broke and in gloom’ before they cry out to God for help. As soon as they call out, God is there and answering their prayers (Psalm 107:10-16). Don’t be this person; it is a painful and hard way to live life! Don’t be a Balaam; listen first and follow what you know God is calling you to do.
Samson’s Parents – Sometimes God speaks so clearly, we doubt that it is actually God. Sometimes He works a miracle that should be so simple to understand, that we doubt it can be God. For instance, Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife, had been praying for a child and to get out of the Philistine oppression for so many years. An angel came and said her prayers were answered and gave specific instructions on what Samson would need during the pregnancy. When she went and told Manoah that an angel had spoken to her, he didn’t really believe her (see Judges 13:8), so the angel came back. Even when he saw the angel and spoke with him, Manoah JUST DIDN’T GET IT! He kept treating the angel like he was a mere man. It was the type of disbelief we all have when we are afraid God spoke too clearly to us.
Maybe this is why God doesn’t use this method very often—He tries to give a clear, easy answer, and we don’t understand and can’t you just see the God of the Universe shaking his head at us? Sometimes the simple, easy to understand answer IS God clearly speaking to us. Don’t allow doubt and fear to be the reason you can’t hear God’s clear instructions.
As you read through these examples of how God speaks to us, I hope you see yourself in one of them. Cultivate it! Work with it! So often, we try to be someone we aren’t created to be; we go against our own fiber to try to be the person we feel we should be. The Davids want to be Samson’s parents, and Samson’s parents end up becoming Baalam. But when you get back to a centered, focused relationship with God, you will again see your ‘real prayer personality’ come out.
I truly believe that if you focus on keeping that in your faith and prayers, you will see more answered prayers and you will see God more and more active in your life. After all, He does promises that “if we seek him with our whole heart, we will be found of him.”