9 ways to recognise God’s voice

Christine Leow // April 26, 2024, 12:08 pm


One way to hear God speaking is to recognise the nature of His voice. God is always gentle, loving and peaceable. When He speaks, it will never be contrary to His Word or His character. Photo by Paul Pastourmatzis on Unsplash.

One of the toughest things about listening to God is learning how to recognise God’s voice.

Our attempts to listen to God often end in one of two ways: We either think we cannot hear Him, or assume every impression is God speaking.

So how can we know if it is God who is speaking to us, or if it’s just a figment of our own imagination?

9 ways to help you recognise God’s voice

We can rely on a mix of external and internal guides to help us discern if what we’re hearing is God’s voice.

External guides

1. It aligns with God’s Word

God speaks through the Bible. That is His primary way of speaking. So when He speaks personally to us or about our specific situations, what He says will always be in harmony with the Bible.

Recognise God's Voice 1

When God speaks, what He says will always align with principles in the Bible. Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash.

But here’s the thing: We need to make the distinction between biblical principles and incidentals.

When Jesus told the rich young man in Mark 10:17-31 to sell all that he had and give to the poor, that was incidental. Jesus wasn’t asking everyone to do the same. So the passage is not a sign from God that you should sell all your possessions and donate the proceeds to the poor.

The principle behind this, however, is applicable to all: Wealth must never supersede God in our priorities. 

Being able to distinguish the principles from the incidentals will prevent us from using the Bible superstitiously, as if it were a Magic 8 Ball.

2. It aligns with our circumstance

While God can speak supernaturally, He can also speak naturally through our circumstances. Be sensitive to what God wants to say to you daily, or how He wants to use you in your day-to-day life.

How to recognise God's voice

Our circumstances can be used to confirm God’s voice. Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.

Jesus lived like that. As He went about His day, He remained sensitive to God’s leading.

When He walked by the sycamore tree, He looked up and saw Zaccheus, which led Him to invite Himself to Zaccheus’ house (Luke 19:1-10).

At the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus singled out the man with an infirmity for 38 years and healed him (John 5:1-15).

He didn’t do this all the time. He let Himself be led by God in the circumstance He was in.

Be sensitive to what God wants to say to you daily, or how He wants to use you in your day-to-day life.

When the Bible, impressions in our spirit and our circumstance converge, we can be confident that we have heard God’s voice. Our circumstances should then be the confirmation rather than the starting point of deciding if it is God speaking.

Crisis circumstances demand a special mention, though. When bad things happen to us:

  • Don’t assume it is God speaking

It is natural for us to look at crisis circumstances and accuse God of being unfair or not loving us. Neither of these are true. How do we know that? Because that is not God’s character as revealed in the Bible. Our God is both loving and just.

When we attempt to look for God’s voice in the midst of our pain, we may come up with a wrong conclusion of God and what He is trying to say to us.

  • Remember God’s perspective may be different from ours

When Moses, in obedience to God, asked Pharaoh for the Israelite’s release from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 8:1-25), things did not go well. Instead of setting the people free, Pharaoh multiplied their hardship. The Israelites ended up blaming Moses.

If you looked at the circumstances alone, you would have assumed that Moses had heard wrongly. But he hadn’t. God had to explain His perspective in Exodus 10: He wanted Pharaoh to resist so that the people could see God’s mighty hand of deliverance.

In times of crisis, focus on God’s truth and allow Him to transform you through the circumstances.

Internal indicators

God speaks to our spirit through the Holy Spirit in a still small voice (Romans 8:16). If we know the nature of that internal voice, we would be better able to recognise God’s voice when He speaks to us.

3. It has the weight of authority

When it comes to learning how to recognise God’s voice, we begin by knowing that there is a certain weight to His Words. When God’s voice hits our soul, it is steady, calm, yet forceful.

In our innermost being, we recognise the power of His voice.

4. It is gentle, yet persuasive

God is gentle (Matthew 11:28-30), so His voice is also gentle. He persuades rather than forces. He leads rather than drives.

American minister and evangelist G D Watson said: “You can detect the devil by one or two things. The devil always talks loud. Jesus always talks low and tender.

“When a spirit makes an impression on my mind, that impression can be made in a loud, boisterous, rushing sort of way, or that conviction can come quietly and gently and sweetly.”

If the voice is gentle, it is likely to be God’s. 

5. It is unhurried and calm

God is not pushy and He will not rush us. He always gives time for us to test the impressions we receive. This is part of learning how to recognise God’s voice.

Said G D Watson: “The devil wants you to be in a hurry and rush and not wait for anything; whereas Jesus is always quiet. He is calm and always takes His time.

“Sometimes … the devil makes us think we have got to rush … without taking time to pray. But when you take things to God in prayer and you wait, if God makes an impression on the mind, it always comes gently, tenderly.

“You wait on and it will come again gently, tenderly.”

6. It welcomes the light

Impressions from God are not afraid of being scrutinised, tested and questioned.

In 1 John 4:1, we are encouraged not to be taken by every spirit but to “test the spirits” to see if they are from God or not.

7. It brings peace to the soul

God’s voice carries a spirit of peacefulness. When you receive an impression from God, there is joy and a sweetness in your soul.

James 3:17 provides a good gauge: When a voice is from God, it is first “pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy”.

8. It becomes a conviction

Over time, if it is God speaking, the conviction will deepen. It will come to a point where you will know that you know.

9. It gets easier to recognise with experience

Jesus says that His sheep know His voice (John 10:14, John 10:27). As we listen to God, we will become more and more familiar with His voice.

What we need to clear out to listen better

1. Our feelings

Discerning our own voice from God’s voice is tougher if our feelings are involved.

Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). It is a sober reminder that feelings have a way of clouding not just our judgement but our ability to hear God speaking clearly.

2. Our imagination

Our imagination can make us feel that it is God speaking, or move us to seeming conviction.

When Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer and die, Peter rebuked Him (Matthew 16:22-28). That rebuke did not come from God.

Peter was right to believe that Jesus would establish God’s Kingdom, but wrong to think that He would be a political king, victorious over His enemies as the kings of old. Peter allowed Satan to come and fill him with ungodly imaginations.

3. Our passions 

Saul was a prime example of someone driven by his passions when he persecuted the followers of Jesus, believing that he was doing God’s will (Acts 8).

Passion can lead us to be aggressive, dogmatic, and unwilling to listen to the opinions of others. This leads to disunity, as well as unloving actions and attitudes.

This does not mean that spiritual passions do not provoke. But those are always accompanied by love, joy and peace.


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told. This led to a career in MediaCorp News scripting and producing news, current affairs programmes and documentaries. Christine is now a Senior Writer at Salt&Light. Her idea of a perfect day has to do with a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.