God knows my need for a conversation with him better then I do. It also seems that the more I trust God, the less often he speaks to me. Is that how prayer is supposed to work?
I've found that listening to God is more about waiting and willingness, and timing. When God's ready to speak to me, will I be ready?
But what happens when I want God to speak to me, and I don't hear anything? If timing is everything, and my waiting is turning to anxiety, I'm making it less and less likely that I will be prepared for a helpful conversation with Him.
Maybe, before God says anything new to me, maybe I should review what he's already told me in the past. If I disregarded the prior conversation, maybe God's not too eager for another one. Yet.
I can be listening too hard, and then find myself muddled by so many voices - in my head, or from the conversations and sounds around me. I have to trust that when God speaks, I will know it is him. I just need to put myself in situations where I know that I want to hear God, and that I'm at peace with how and when and what He says. His timing is more important then mine. My anticipation for his words to me are just as important as the reception of them.
God can speak to us while we are in the middle of chores around the house or wrapping up work at the office. Listening to God can come in the darkness of night or in the midst of a grey shrouded day. Our posture to God, our attitude of readiness and willingness counts for much. God is full of surprises, so when He does speak, it could be in an unexpected, unlooked for way.
God is also concerned with six billion other people besides me, so that whatever it is he is telling me isn't just for my own sake, but is intertwined with what he is telling other people at the same time around the world. My need for God is very personal, but his conversation with me is very missional. I maybe the apple of God's eye, but so is everyone else.
For me, there are three ways that I have found that are fruitful in the work of listening to God.
The first is regular and thoughtful reading of God's Word. In discovering and discerning how God has spoken in the past, it will prepare me well to listen in the present. Sometimes through the stories, the teachings, the poems, the laws, the prophets God speaks, sometimes he doesn't.
Second, in conversation with close friends between whom much honesty exists - it is in this raw space that I find myself able to listen to God, to hear what he wants me to be and do. Mostly by reminding me of what he has already told me, or convicting me of mistrust and disobedience, which is fueling the deafness in my ears and heart.
And thirdly, silence - silence on a walk or run, a hike, sitting in the sun, in front of a fire, even mowing the yard. Solitude and silence, intentionally making space in my soul and schedule to listen is a rewarding and rich experience.
How do you know if you've heard from God? If you've been listening for him, how do you know if it's His voice? Well, if you really want to hear him, you'll know whether it's him or not. Especially if you've been reading God's Word or spent time with wise Christian women and men.
Listening to God requires a desire to hear Him. That may sound so obvious. If you want an answer from God, you have to decide if you really do want to hear what He has to say. And if you aren't very familiar with God's Word, you may difficulty understanding what he is saying to you, or you may have unhelpful expectations of what God's response may be like.
All of this to say: if you find yourself wanting to listen to God, that is an act of God at work in your life. It is a gift of grace that you desire to listen to God. Listening to God, bottom line, is about submitting to Him. If you want to listen to him, you will follow the prompts of God's Spirit to prepare yourself to hear Him.
Being a God who likes to use the element of surprise, he also reserves the right to make himself heard and understood in spite of our selves. Which is a very good gift indeed.