by Cara McLauchlan
God speaks to us all the time, but we’re often too busy or distracted to hear His voice. Like birdwatching, which requires patience, quiet, and stillness, listening to our heavenly Father is not something we can rush or force. But if we take the time to slow down and wait for Him to speak, we may find we hear the voice of God a lot more than we expect to.
A silent longing cloaked my heart. I knew something was missing in my relationship with God. I was doing all the ‘right’ things—praying, reading my Bible, and attending church—but still I felt dissatisfied. My faith felt stale and lacked the freshness of the vibrant relationship I once knew. I sensed a soul-stirring hunger to go deeper with God, yet was lost on how to do it. With a heart full of desire, I began to start actively listening for His voice in the only practical way I knew—birdwatching.
Birdwatching was a fun summer pastime our family treasured. We would fill the bird feeder, gather bird guides and binoculars, and then wait. Sometimes we would wait in a secluded spot outdoors, other times from a window perch. As my son aged up in years, he eventually opted out. Yet for me, it became a calming meditation to settle into my environment, notice the beauty, and relax into the rhythm of nature.
In the beginning days of birdwatching, I saw nothing; heard nothing. All I could focus on was the mental chatter in my head. My to-do list wouldn’t stop as I considered the mountain of tasks I had yet to complete. I would run through all the reasons why it was pointless to sit here as I was simply wasting my time.
Then, as my breathing slowed and I surrendered to the moment, I heard the sweet chirps serenading me with beauty. I heard the vibrant staccato of the Cardinal, the tweetsie sounds of the Tufted Titmouse, and the friendly “dee-dee-dee” of the Chickadees. When I finally settled down and quieted my soul, I noticed the diversity of lovely melodies. In fact, there was a full bird symphony, practically a riot of sounds happening in my own backyard. I only needed to be still enough to hear it.
Experience has taught me the only way to get better at birdwatching is to actually do more birdwatching. Similarly, if I wanted to hear more from God, I needed to position myself to actually hear Him. This meant I needed to spend time simply hanging out with Christ—just me and Jesus time with no expectations, no demands, and no requirements. Simply sitting still with God and letting it be about whatever He wanted it to be. Inspired by this idea, I began to practice listening for God’s voice in a more intentional way.
GET AWAY WITH GOD
“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by” (Isaiah 26:20).
Before I became intentional about listening for God, I attempted to pray and listen anywhere. While this was practical, I found I was distracted or got sidetracked easily. For me to clearly hear Him, I needed to be somewhere I could literally and figuratively shut out all things—light, sound, and other humans. So, I headed to my closet and lay down. I covered up with a cozy blanket and rested. I found this renewing practice the best way to set myself up for dedicated God-listening time.
MAKE ROOM FOR GOD
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Hearing from God is truly about surrender. I needed to surrender my thoughts, my heart, and my day. I intentionally decided I wouldn’t make prayer requests the focus of this time, though sometimes I would spend a few minutes praying over situations or things burdening me.
Still, some days it was hard to quiet my thoughts and hear Him clearly. I know Christ understands we have those days, too. To help quiet myself, I imagined a mental picture of myself approaching the throne of God. I concentrated on my breath to release anything troubling or distracting me. I invited God into this precious, sacred space to speak to me in whatever way He wanted. I made every effort to be quiet enough to truly listen for Him, and I let the time be whatever God wanted it to be.
EXPECT TO HEAR FROM GOD
“Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4:36).
When I was limiting my time with God to specific spiritual practices, I was missing out on the best part: a deep relationship with Him. He longs to speak into our hearts and lives in a profound way, and one of the most important things we can do is learn to listen for Him with an expectant heart.
If we remain quiet long enough to hear His words, we will receive His vital encouragement and truth—and, perhaps, more deeply understand that He desires to speak to each one of us, no matter how unworthy we might feel.
What I found surprising is God did speak to me. Me. Average, ordinary, broken and bruised, mistake-laden me. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would hear Him.
But God, in His faithful way, fulfills His promise that if we actively seek Him, we will find Him. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
I encourage you to find your own style of listening for God. Perhaps your God hangout time doesn’t look like mine—lying down in a dark closet or listening for birds. Perhaps you need to design your own method, one that allows you to tap into a renewing time of connection with Him.
When you show up and keep showing up with a faithful, expectant heart, He will show up too and reward you with more than you thought possible.
When we personally approach His throne, we create an opportunity for God to stir our hearts and minds in vibrant ways. Why not try it today? If you already have a rich life of connection, invite Him to show you more.
If you are beginning your journey in faith, invite Him to show you how and where to begin. Whatever your current relationship is with Christ, invite Him to reveal Himself to you in deeper ways. He speaks to us all day long and in so many ways, we need only be available to hear His voice.