“Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if He calls you, that you shall say, Speak, Lord; for your servant hears. So Samuel went and lay down in his place” (1 Samuel 3:9).
God speaks in many ways and not necessarily the way we would expect to “hear” God’s voice. Hearing God’s voice is easy to confuse when we think we are hearing from God through people expressing their opinions on how they think God would want you to do this or that. Even more confusing is the fact that sometimes we want to listen to the still small voice of our desires. It is important to recognize God’s voice if we are going to follow His leading.
A great example is found in 1 Samuel chapter 3, verses 1-10. We have all read the story and we can clearly see that God was speaking to Samuel. The story tells us that Samuel heard the audible voice of God. Samuel, thinking that Eli was calling him, quickly ran to Eli’s room thinking he was needed but Eli had not called for him. This happened a few times before Eli, the priest, recognized that it was God trying to get Samuel’s attention. Why didn’t Samuel realize that it was God’s voice? He was very young and had not been used to hearing God speak. On the other hand, Eli, a priest and a man who had lived far longer than Samuel, discerned the voice of God.
Please note that Eli did not take advantage of the situation and tell Samuel what to do or not do. Instead Eli told Samuel to listen for himself and to make himself available should God speak to him again. Samuel returned to bed and “waited” for the voice of God to return.
In 1 Kings 19:11-13, God spoke to Elijah. Elijah had probably heard God’s voice before but God wanted him to fine-tune his spirit so that he knew without a doubt when it was God speaking to him. Elijah “waited” as God told him. At first, God sent a great wind but God’s voice was not in the wind. Then an earthquake but God did not speak through the earthquake; then a fire, but God’s voice was not in the fire. It was the still small voice that followed that was God’s voice. Elijah recognized God’s voice when he heard it because he had fine-tuned his spiritual hearing and waited for the “real” voice of God.
How can we hear God’s voice? In order to hear God’s voice, we must have a conversation with Him through prayer. Many times we think of praying as a one-way conversation and we don’t wait for God to talk to us. If we want to hear and recognize God’s voice, we must make time to pray, making ourselves available, and listen for that still small voice. Just as Samuel and Elijah recognized God’s voice, so will we, and there will be no question about God’s direction for our lives.