God has not provided a cookie-cutter formula for hearing His voice. The starting place is positioning our hearts in order to earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6) and pray (Eph. 6:18, Phil. 4:6). These five simple biblical principles may be helpful.
First, God speaks through the Scriptures. John wrote, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31). When making an important decision, we must seek the Lord through His Word, believing that He will guide us. The Christian music group, Mercy Me, expressed it well in their song “Word of God Speak” (click to listen).
Second, God speaks through circumstances. After graduating from a program several years ago, I sought God related to a job. I sensed the Lord saying, “Try every door.” So I applied for many teaching positions, believing that God would close all doors but one. That is exactly what happened. David’s unexpected circumstance of the Amalekites capturing their women and children drove him to God to know if he would be successful (1 Sam. 30:3-8).
Third, God speaks through the voice and/or the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. When the Apostle Paul wanted to go into Bithynia, the Spirit of God prohibited him from entering but instead directed him in a dream to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:7-9). The Holy Spirit also provides peace in the believer’s heart, something the devil cannot duplicate. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Col. 3:15). That Greek word for peace literally means to function like an umpire. Peace is like an umpire that settles our souls and affirms direction.
Fourth, God speaks through the input of trusted others. God uses human vessels to speak to us. With wisdom, Jethro spoke to Moses about delegating his work to others (Exod. 18:17-23). At the Council at Jerusalem, James wisely recommended minimal stipulations be applied to Gentile believers (Acts 15:19-20). Having godly counsel is important in seeing a decision circumspectly. I’ll never forget the time my father spoke into an important decision I had to make. He provided the wisdom I need to move forward.
Fifth, God speaks through confirmation of any and all of the above. God desires to bring confirmation to encourage us in moving forward. Moses desperately needed an assurance of God’s presence before moving forward. God responded by directing him to the cleft of the rock and causing His glory to pass by (Exod. 33:12-23). Moses received a double confirmation of God’s guidance. In making important decisions, we often need multiple confirmations.