How do I know if it is the Lord speaking? This is the biggest question when it comes to learning to listen to the Lord in prayer. When we look in Scripture, everyone seems to know when it is God who is speaking, but, but the prophets and priests who heard from God had to learn how to recognize God’s voice.
When the Lord called Samuel in the middle of the night he did not recognize who was calling to him. He thought it was Eli. Eli did not realize it was the Lord at first. But the Lord was patient and persistent and eventually Eli clued into what was happening and instructed Samuel to respond and say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
Samuel began to learn to listen to the Lord and the Lord continued to reveal himself to Samuel through his Word (1 Samuel 3:21). Samuel learned to recognize the Lord’s voice by studying his Word. So as we spend more time in God’s Word we will grow in discerning whether what we we hear is from the Lord or not. God is not going to give us direction to do something which is contrary to his Word in scripture. So as we read, study and immerse ourselves in Scripture we will grow in being able to say “that sounds like the Lord.” We always need to examine what we hear to determine if its God or not.
We can effectively do that by asking the following questions…
- Is what we are hearing something which will exalt Jesus in the present and future?
- Is what we are hearing consistent with Scripture’s revelation of God’s will and character?
- Do other people affirm what we are hearing?
- Is their fruit? Is there confirmation, through other people or through what happens?
Samuel and Eli talked about what had happened after the Lord had spoken to Samuel. It helped to confirm that it was the Lord speaking and it was further confirmed when what Samuel had heard actually happened. There was fruit.
Even as we become better at recognizing God’s voice, there is always a need to “test the Spirits” (1 John 4:1) and check that it’s not just or desires which we are expressing. These four questions provide a continual check for us so that we can be confident in saying “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”