Hearing the voice of God
In a study of a Pentecostal church in north-east London 25 out of 40 Christians reported experiences of hearing God’s voice in answer to their prayers. The voice was clearly distinguished from their own
Communication with the divine was also found to involve a learning process. Those who reported hearing the voice of God recalled having to learn to recognise or discern His voice. Working out whether the voice comes from God, evil spirits, or one’s own thoughts requires careful questioning, testing and a process of elimination. For example, one must ask: Is this the kind of thing that God might be expected to say? Might this simply have been my own thought? And finally, if the voice contradicts scripture, then it should not be believed.
Sometimes the stuff that I hear back, I think, um, I don’t know and you have to kind of test this and think to yourself, would God really say that or is it me, is that my flesh or is it something else that is trying to communicate with me? Scriptures talk about us testing the spirits to see whether they are God or not. I think when we are communicating with God in that sort of way as well as when those thoughts come into our mind we have to test them and say, now this thing which I believe God is saying to me at the moment, does it actually tie up with what the scripture would tell me anyway. Because if it won’t, it is either my flesh or else it is the Devil.
Sometimes you think it is your own voice speaking but there is no doubt when he is speaking to you, you know when he is speaking to you. Just the feeling and the words, it is a completely different sort of thing. You know when you are talking to something else in your head and you know when God is talking to you.
In this community, God may issue commands, but experiences of divine communication are associated with a feeling of comfort, forgiveness or knowledge, rather than distress.
Other studies of charismatic Christian churches in the United States report similar findings. You can find out more about these by exploring the resources below.
Find out more
Simon Dein and Roland Littlewood (2007). The Voice of God. Anthropology and Medicine.
Chris Cook (2017). Learning to Discern. Church Times.
Tanya Luhrmann (2015). When God Talks Back. TEDx Stanford.
Tanya Luhrmann (2017). The Voice of God. Hearing the Voice.