In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.Psalm 5:3

If we want God to speak to us, we must be ready and willing to listen. That should go without saying; unfortunately most of the time our idea of prayer is for us to tell God what we want, need, hope for or are worried about, and then move on to the next thing on our agenda.

Of course, there are times when our prayers have to be brief to meet situations immediately confronting us. But what appears to be largely lost in our spiritual culture is the experience of real conversation with God, whether we’re making major decisions or just deepening our relationship. It doesn’t occur to many of us that such a dialogue is even possible. Not only is it possible – it’s the kind of relationship our Father wants with us, and out of it come not only help and guidance, but an overflowing sense of how much we are cherished. Real conversation with God is the richest and most satisfying we are able to have on this earth.

How do we hear from God? A great way to start is with Scripture, and not just the New Testament. The whole Bible is God’s living Word, and every part of it can and does speak to us today. Read it expecting God to reveal Himself, His character, and His will. He may also reveal something in us that needs addressing, give us timely encouragement, or nudge us into action.

After absorbing Scripture and talking to God, it’s important to quiet ourselves and wait for His response. This is a challenge for most of us, and usually takes time to develop, but it is so worth the effort. Find a place and time when there’s a reasonable chance of uninterrupted quiet. Close the door (put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it if you have to), turn devices off, close your eyes and focus on God.

You may find that a word or part of a phrase may come to mind; perhaps a whole verse of Scripture. You may have a sense of leading about something you’re considering. You may have an impression of a scene or object, even if shadowy, that prompts a response in you. You may experience a sense of comfort and peace.

Write down the impressions or words you received, and any insights they produce. If you do this regularly, a pattern may emerge that provides insight. I find it helpful to write out my prayers along with what I sense is God’s response. Reviewing these at intervals gives me a real picture of my relationship with God and the way He seems to be leading.

Being still, waiting for something to happen or for answers to come is not a strong suit for most in our culture. It’s a discipline that needs to be cultivated. If you don’t get any sense of God responding as you listen, don’t give up. We can be so self-conscious at first that we raise “static.” Perseverence is crucial if you’re making a major decision.

Waiting is the hardest part of trusting,” says Rick Ezell in Joshua: Journey of a Faith-Walker. “Too often we want God’s resources, but we don’t want His timing. We forget that the work God is doing in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for. Waiting reminds us that we are not in charge. Waiting humbles us in ways we need to be humbled.”

While we wait and listen for God’s response, it’s instructive to reflect on Psalm 23 and the benefits of personal communion with God:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Forever.

Next: Testing, Testing