This is the fourth installment in a series on developing a conversational relationship with our God by His Holy Spirit. The previous posts were published February 6, April 16, and April 23.
Quote above from Della Reese.
The first step in learning to have conversational communion with my God was realizing that He indeed speaks to His children. As I began listen more intently, He rewarded my efforts with an increasing awareness of His speaking and revelation. Over time, speaking and revelation became daily experiences. The next step for me was to begin to pray conversationally. By praying conversationally, I mean inviting Him to speak in my prayer times and giving Him space to do so. This way of praying, which is much like having a conversation with a good friend, was novel at first. The difficulties in allowing time for give-and-take was difficult. My mind is always active and busy. Slowing it down to allow for two-way conversation was new. It required greater discipline on my part. Yet by struggling through the conversational disciplines, I realized what a poor listener I was. It is clear that work is needed in the area of human conversations as well.
Isaiah 30:19-21 gives us a description of what hearing the voice of the Spirit is like: “People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” This passage helped to define the listening process needed to hear the Spirit reliably.
First, I must believe He will answer when I call to Him. We have often limited the concept of “answered prayer” to seeing action. Prayer in the Bible is often conversational, with many instances of verbal answers given to the people praying. David, prophets, common people, apostles, and the nascent church all experienced verbal responses from God to their prayers. Prayer is not meant to be a monologue. Some answers are given voice before action.
Second, His voice will be “like a voice behind us,” spoken into our spirits. Does our God speak to us emphatically at times? Yes, and I will give an example in the next post. For the most part, however, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in a quiet voice.
Third, I began to realize that the voice of the Spirit is often tied to movement on my part – “This is the way; walk in it.” The Spirit tends toward actionable information when He speaks.
Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, that they would receive from God a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. Revelation is a part of the Christian experience, and how difficult the Christian life would be without it. Our God is in the business of revealing truth to us, a promise He made to us and the work of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:26 and John 16:5-15).
Some would say that opening up our relationship to the Holy Spirit speaking to us directly will lead to all manner of excesses and errors. I disagree. If the true disciple of Jesus is humbly yielded to the Holy Spirit, there will be no disagreement between the word of the Spirit and words of the Scriptures. In our fear of excess or our primary focus on gifts of the Spirit, we have missed the power and strength of a deep conversational relationship with our God. We do not turn to God the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, as Jesus said He would do.
It is my experience and the experience of countless saints over the centuries that our God indeed speaks to His children who will listen for Him. He not only speaks, but engages them in conversation, guidance, revelation, remembering, and directing, just as Jesus promised would happen. The Holy Spirit’s conversations with us do not require a special tongue or prayer language. His conversations require an open-hearted, willing listener who will give significant time and close attention from us. We need to be willing to engage with Him and then open ourselves up to conversational communion with Him.
The next post in this series will give a real-life example of the Holy Spirit’s urgent and verbal intervention in a situation. The series post after that will dig into this open-hearted response to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives.