Step 3 – Escape the Crowds and Noise
My best chance of hearing God speak to me is to be alone with Him, one-on-One, away from the noise of a crowd. I encourage you to make a regular practice of sitting still in a quiet place, shutting out the world’s noise, and listening attentively to the voice of God.
Jesus served as a great role model for how to have a relationship with the Father. As He became better known in His ministry, multitudes of people followed Him. In order to hear instructions and receive refreshment from God, Jesus escaped the crowds and found quiet places to be alone with His heavenly Father. Jesus had the Spirit of the Lord within Him, just as we do, but He still preferred to listen to the voice of God the Father away from the noise of the multitudes. He even separated Himself from His closest companions, His disciples, in order to pray and to hear God’s voice: “Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray’” (Matthew 26:36).
There’s not just one right way, one right time, or one right place to meet with Him. He will meet with you anywhere you are, any time of the day or night. He will speak to you wherever and whenever He has your attention. Seek out a quiet place next time you desire to hear God speak.
1 Samuel 3 provides many examples of how to listen to God, and adopting a childlike attitude is one of the most important. Samuel’s mother dedicated him to serving and worshipping the Lord. Even in his younger years, God spoke to him. This happened during a time when God rarely spoke to anyone, yet He chose to speak to a child. The idea that God holds a special place in His heart for children should cause us to wonder, Why?
Listed below are seven traits God loves in children:
- An infant completely depends on his caregiver. Likewise, God wants us to depend on Him for everything. A child trusts wholeheartedly. God asks us to trust in Him with all our hearts.
- A child’s mind is open, receptive to new ideas.
- A child’s faith has not been tarnished by life’s trials and disappointments.
- A child waits with excitement and anticipation to see what will happen next.
- A child comes before God with a pure heart, unburdened by responsibilities, regrets, fears, and doubts.
- A child believes easily and expects to experience the goodness of God.
- A child’s mind remains in its own little world, not distracted by crowds and noise.
When did God choose to speak to Samuel? What posture did Samuel assume? God spoke to Samuel when he lay down at night. Samuel stilled himself before the Lord; he heard the voice of God because he remained in a quiet place with no noise or distractions. Also note Samuel and even Eli, the priest of God, did not recognize or realize right away it was God speaking to Samuel. God did not give up after the first try, however. He pursued Samuel again. In fact, He called Samuel three times before Eli understood. Our God does not give up on us if we don’t hear Him the first time He speaks to us. Persistently, He speaks until we hear Him. Shouldn’t we give God as much in return by waiting expectantly to hear His voice? Shouldn’t we give Him our full attention, away from people and commotion?
When Samuel did realize God spoke, he positioned himself to hear God again; he returned to a quiet place and remained still. He waited patiently. Then God called him again, and Samuel humbly said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God spoke to him then, and He continued to appear at Shiloh and speak to him for many years, not letting His words fall to the ground or go unheard. He revealed Himself to Samuel through His word and His voice, and Samuel spread God’s message to all of Israel.
We can take lessons from the boy Samuel on how to position ourselves to hear from God. Do you practice being still, in quiet solitude, expectantly and patiently waiting to hear God speak? When you do, you will hear the voice of God.
As I decided to know God better and develop an intimacy with Christ, I eagerly got up early every morning to enjoy a quiet time with God. I used this time to journal my thoughts and prayers to Christ. I poured out my heart to Him. I shared my emotions, my fears, my joys, my anger, my desires—my most intimate feelings—with God. Then I tried to “be still, and know that He is God” (see Psalm 46:10).
I pictured Jesus sitting in my living room with me. He became a brother, a husband, a friend, and a counselor all wrapped up into one. He knew my every need, even before I asked. I listened for His voice and direction in my life. When I spent time alone with God and heard His voice, I hungered for more time in conversation with Him. In Luke 6:21, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” Only God can satisfy the hunger in my soul; only He can fill that need.
Early morning offers me the quietest time and the best chance of hearing God’s voice. My mind is clearest first thing in the morning before I start thinking about all I have to do that day. I have made it my practice to get out of bed thirty to sixty minutes early to enjoy time with God away from the crowds and noise, even in the privacy of my own home. I completely relate to Psalm 5:3: “Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
When I first began my early morning practice of meeting with God, I felt unproductive. As I’ve said, often I fell asleep in the silence. Do you recall Jesus’ frustration with His best friends who fell asleep when He had asked them to keep watch while He prayed? I don’t want to be the one to fall asleep while meeting with the King of kings, do you? If not, do whatever it takes to stay awake and hear what God has to say to you.
Frequently, I found my mind wandering to the other noises in my head. When I became aware these things kept me from my purpose, I dealt with the distractions by writing them down. On a piece of paper, separate from my journal, I wrote down the busy thoughts that took up space in my mind and set them aside so I wouldn’t forget about them later. Then I resumed my still, expectant state of waiting on God.
If you’re not already in the practice of listening to God’s voice, you may not know how to begin. I like variety, so I start my time with God in different ways each day. In my book, 7 Simple Steps to Hearing God’s Voice, I share a few with you. If you have your own way already, don’t change it. But if you are looking for new ways to spend time with God, try one of my “7 Ways to Start Your Time with God.”
If you are not in an intimate relationship with Christ right now, I encourage you to set aside at least one thing on your busy schedule to make time for God and escape the crowds and the noise. Take a few minutes every day to be still and know God more intimately. Listen to His voice, hear what He says to you, and write it down. You’ll be really glad you did!