Dallas Willard wrote many awesome books on the spiritual life, but his first was Hearing God. Here is the crowning “formula for living with God’s voice” that he ends with:
This is not a formula for getting God to speak to us on matters that may concern us. It is instead a formula for living with God’s voice, for hearing his word in a life surrendered and brought to maturity by him.
- Foundational steps
- We intend, plan and make provision to do what we know to be morally right. This includes the intention to find out what God commands, and hence to grow in knowledge.
- At the impulse of the Spirit of God, we do service to the good where it may appear. In so doing, we venture into the fullness of the new life in Christ beyond our merely natural powers and rely on God’s upholding power. Above all, we venture in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom.
- Steps to hearing God
- We meditate constantly on God’s principles for life as set forth in the Scriptures, always striving to penetrate more deeply into their meaning and into their application for our own lives (Ps 1:1-3).
- We pay close attention to what is happening in our life for God’s communications in our mind and in our heart. We must purposefully, humbly, and intelligently cultivate the ability to listen and see what is happening in our own souls and to recognize therein the movements of God.
- We pray and speak to God constantly and specifically about all matters that concern us. This is essential to our part of the conversation with God. You cannot carry on a coherent conversation with someone who spoke to you only rarely and on odd occasions. Nothing is too insignificant or too hopeless to bring before God. We ask for his guidance even – or perhaps especially – in those things that we think we already understand.
- We listen, carefully and deliberately for God, paying close attention to what we hear. When God speaks, we pay attention and receive it with thanks. It is a good habit to write it down until we become so adept at the conversational relationship that we no longer need to. When God does not speak to you on the matter concerned, take these steps:
- Ask God if some hindrance is within you, informing you in whatever way he chooses. Be quiet and listen in the inner forum of your mind for any indication that you are blocking his word. But do not endlessly pursue this. In prayer, set a specific length of time for the inquiry about hindrances: normally no more than three days.
- Take counsel from at least two people whose relationship with God you respect, preferably those who are not your buddies.
- Correct any causes for what God’s word could not come. Do this mercilessly. Whatever it is, just do it.
- If you cannot find such a cause, act on what seems best to you.
If we proceed in this way, we will come to know God’s voice as a familiar personal fact, which we can both comfortably live with and effectively introduce others so.
God’s presence with us is much greater than his words to us. But it is turned into companionship only be the actual communications we have between us and him – communications that are frequently confirmed by external events as life moves along. Spiritual people are not those who engage in certain spiritual practices; they are those who draw their life from a conversational relationship with God.