Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When He Speaks

Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When He Speaks

by Priscilla Shirer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781575679518
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 01/01/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 49,161
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

PRISCILLA SHIRER (Dallas Theological Seminary) is an internationally-recognized Bible teacher who focuses her ministry on the expository teaching of the Word of God to women. She desires to see women both understand the uncompromising truths of Scripture intellectually and experience them practically. Priscilla is the author of A Jewel in His Crown, And We Are Changed, He Speaks to Me, and Discerning the Voice of God. She is also an accomplished vocalist. Priscilla and her husband, Jerry, are the founders of Going Beyond Ministries and live in Dallas, Texas with their three sons.
PRISCILLA SHIRER (Dallas Theological Seminary) is an internationally-recognized Bible teacher who focuses her ministry on the expository teaching of the Word of God to women. She desires to see women both understand the uncompromising truths of Scripture intellectually and experience them practically. Priscilla is the author of A Jewel in His Crown, And We Are Changed, He Speaks to Me, and Discerning the Voice of God. She is also an accomplished vocalist. Priscilla and her husband, Jerry, are the founders of Going Beyond Ministries and live in Dallas, Texas with their three sons.

Read an Excerpt

Discerning the Voice of God

How to Recognize When God is Speaking

By Priscilla Shirer, Pam Pugh

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Priscilla Shirer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57567-951-8



As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut....

After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:1–2 NLT

It started out as a simple lunch with an old friend. That's all it was intended to be. I sat across from Jada, a faithful confidante I'd known since childhood, hashing out every detail of an issue that was weighing heavily on my mind. She's a wise woman, always has been—a very insightful person. So I knew she could give me some good counsel.

We'd managed to clear an hour from our equally crowded calendars one weekday afternoon to visit. I suggested we meet at a nearby restaurant, not so much to dig in as to dig deep. As soon as we had been seated, I immediately began sharing some of the main points of my problem. Before we even sat down at the table, and then through the server introductions, the water glass refills, the entrée deliveries, and the dessert offerings, I barely came up for air, rambling incessantly about every detail and nuance of the situation.

My sweet friend nodded her head sympathetically between bites of salad and sips of iced tea. The occasional "mm-hmm" suggested that she was still following my long, clackety train of thought. Then, as the dishes were being cleared away and the check delivered, I leaned back in my seat and finally took a breath. I saw her glance down at her watch and tug a bit at her purse.

"So ... what do you think I should do?" I asked, a bit impatient with her hesitating response.

"Priscilla," she answered, very kindly, gently, "I did have some things to say to you, but you never stopped talking long enough to listen."


Nothing like those faithful "wounds of a friend" (Proverbs 27:6) to smack you square in the face with the truth. In love.

I drove home that afternoon a bit disappointed. I hadn't gotten the clarity I'd hoped for. Jada hadn't said much. But reflecting on her response to my hour-long rant, the Holy Spirit did say something. With piercing conviction. Hadn't I been approaching Him the same way? Talking, talking, talking, talking—praying (feels better calling it that). But mostly just talking, repeating myself, analyzing, rationalizing. Like Jada, God was reminding me, "I do have some things to say to you, Priscilla, but you never stop talking long enough to listen."

And with that, I'd been schooled. I'd gotten perhaps my most profound lesson to date on hearing the voice of God, and it hit me squarely in the heart.

If I wanted to hear, I had to listen.

Creating time, space, and opportunity to hear God is paramount for those of us who desire to sense His Spirit's conviction, to receive His detailed guidance, and to discern His intimate leading. Before I could even begin to explore further instruction concerning how God speaks—or even why He speaks—I first had to ask myself whether or not I wanted to hear Him enough to stop doing all the talking so that I might listen.

It all starts here: if we want to be able to sense His direction, we must slow down, quiet our hearts, and listen for the way His Spirit communicates.

The more I've continued to contemplate the implications of this concept, the more I've realized that it isn't just specific to my prayer life. Rather, it provides the basis for hearing from God at all times, whether I'm on my knees in prayer or on my feet hurrying through the nuances of my daily demands.

When reading His Word, it means approaching it with an open mind and heart that's not already bogged down with my own opinions and ideas of what the text is saying. It means coming with time to meditate and to mull over its personal application.

If we're always impatient, we leave little space for God's direction to resonate in our already crowded schedules.

In the regular rhythms of life, it means being willing to wait and watch, to sense where God is moving before I hurry to make a decision. It means not having all the answers I'd like to have but not becoming frazzled by that, staying quiet and patient as He gives me what I do need to know, understanding that this "empty space"—this listening posture that makes me so jumpy and uncomfortable—is exactly the void He can fill with His divine wisdom and direction. It means being attentive to the undercurrent of His ongoing activity beneath the surface of my everyday happenings.

The lesson was becoming more and more clear: creating and allowing margin to hear God is fundamental to discerning His voice. Because in that space, we seek Him, lean into Him, and acknowledge Him in a way we might not otherwise be able to. In doing so, we get the chance to really know who we're dealing with. If we're always impatient, filling in the silent margins during prayer, in our decision making, and in every other aspect of life, we leave little space for God's powerful direction to resonate in our already crowded schedules and hearts.

So as you begin your journey through the pages of this book, and before we explore the details of how you can discern God's leading, I want you to ponder this fundamental issue of listening, upon which hearing God ultimately hinges. What's on your list of questions for God right now?


• marry this person?

• accept this position?

• look into this opportunity?

• participate in this activity?

• consent to this agreement?

• allow this outcome?

• stop this process?

Job questions ... cars ... raising children ... major purchases ... medical decisions ... even whose-family-to-disappoint-by-not-coming-for-Christmas issues. Some of these are temporary; some potentially life-changing. Some involve choices between good and better; others between bad and worse. But they all represent problems to handle, decisions to make. Questions.

This list could go on, couldn't it? Our lives are an ever-changing catalog of intricately woven personal inquiries that we each need divine direction to navigate accurately. So while you're thinking of your list of questions, add one to it, would ya? Those others were for God; this one is for you ...

Have you sincerely taken time to hear, to see, to wait, to watch—to allow for the margins that would give God an opportunity to offer you that which you claim to desire so earnestly? Or have you already filled in every conceivable space with your own opinions, ideas, decisions, and actions—space that God might otherwise fill with His perfectly timed and precisioned and personal insight?

The answer to this one critical question is really where the journey of hearing God begins.

Take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Ezekiel 3:10

Listen Up

I suspect that at least some of the reason you laid eyes on this book in the first place is because you want to get to the bottom of this often hard-to-understand concept of discerning God's voice—maybe for your general, spiritual growth, but maybe also for specific, personal reasons. You need to know some things from God in relation to an important dilemma or decision in your life, and you want to find out how to hear Him more clearly so you can understand what to do.

If what you're grappling with was simply a matter of right and wrong, it might not be so hard to deal with. I pray you already believe in the truth of Scripture and all the directives that are clearly outlined in it, so the validity of these "black and white" commands from God aren't really at issue here (even if you're not always inclined to follow them). What's on your question plate right now is most likely an "either/or" kind of thing.

One of the most common reasons why we don't hear from God is perhaps the most obvious: We're not listening.

And if forced to pick an answer right this minute, you could make just as good an argument for one option as the other. Depends on the time of day. The mood you're in. The kind of meal you just ate.

Sure, you do have the Bible to consult for guidance, but you know you can't just open it at random, taking verses out of context simply to affirm your own choices. You genuinely want to hear from God. You want to know whether the recent circumstances you've noticed around you are more than mere coincidence, or whether the comments you heard someone make to you might truly be a signal of God's will and direction. You want to make sure that this conviction you're feeling is not just of your own creating.

And while there are many reasons why this happens—some because of our own impatience, some because of unconfessed sin in our lives clogging the connection, some because we don't know what we're even looking for when it comes to sensing the Spirit's prompting, and some because of God'ssovereign decision to make us wait a little longer than we'd like (keep reading, we'll get to all these things)—one of the most common reasons why we don't hear from God is perhaps the most obvious. And it's the one I want you to consider right here at the very beginning of our journey together. Could it be that ...

We're not listening?

I believe the most practical way we can begin to discipline ourselves in this area is in our prayer lives. This has been one of the most stunning revelations I've had in my journey with God on the matter of discerning His voice. So simple, yet profound. I've learned it from folks whose walk with the Lord I greatly admire.

When I see men and women whose relationship with God is particularly inspiring, I'm not the least bit afraid to walk right up and ask them what they attribute it to. And without fail, each person I ask—no matter who it is—ultimately tells me the same thing: "I deliberately carve out time in my prayer life to be still and listen for God's voice."

They spend time with Him in prayer, listening in silence for Him to speak. For while God does speak in other venues of life beside the quiet, secret place of prayer, these people suggest that accurately discerning His voice starts here. Divine conversations begin in this place and then blossom from the richness of its soil throughout the rest of their busy day.

Once I ponder the prayer life of these believers, I realize why my own prayers have so often been weak and powerless. I begin to understand why there's a disconnect between the power I want in my prayer life and what I'm experiencing. I can finally put my finger on why I don't always seem to make out what God is saying to me or how He's directing me in a particular situation.

Simple. I haven't been listening.

And if the most godly people I know—people who I'm confident hear from Him on a regular, ongoing basis—if these people are the ones who spend the most time listening quietly for His voice, then I want to be that kind of person too. One who listens to God.

How about you?

Then that's where we begin.

Deliberately listening for God's voice seems to be a lost art these days. Well, let's be honest, listening period is a lost art. We rarely listen to each other, much less the unseen God. Instead we've inserted a lot of noise and activity—some of it well-meaning, even religious, but nonetheless fast-paced. In fact, we think God probably wouldn't be pleased with us unless we were keeping up this level of forward progress. We think all of our bustle and busyness in the pursuit of Christian living somehow makes Him more likely to speak to us once He recognizes how hard we're willing to work for Him.

From that perspective, stopping to listen to Him in order to make room for His guidance sounds bland and ordinary. Too easy. Uneventful. A waste of time for people who can get as much done as we can.

In one case I was too busy to come to God at all. In the other I was too busy (even while I was with Him) for Him to come to me.

Yet all this commotion of ours, far from helping us, only keeps us cloudier and more overcommitted, less able to hear from God. By letting a thousand interruptions barge in, demanding to be accommodated, we only succeed in setting ourselves up for compromise and confusion. The Enemy wins a victory every time we let our jam-packed schedules invade the sanctuary of our quiet time with God. And when we allow it to happen, we set a precedent that the rest of our lives seem to end up following.

See if this sounds familiar ...

In the stillness of the morning, I begin my quiet time—to those moments I purposely set aside for Bible reading, prayer, meditation, listening—and I lean my elbows on heaven's windowsill, eager to commune with the Lord.

But first, to satisfy my curiosity, I check to see if I've gotten any new emails since last night.

When I finally come back, I'm a little more distracted, a little less focused and clearheaded. Suddenly the phone rings. Caller ID beckons my eyes, and I feel compelled to pick up the receiver. The anticipation is too much. I answer it.

Oh, never mind, I'll just have my quiet time before I go to bed tonight.

Ten p.m. The kids are finally in bed, dinner dishes washed, and the bills finally paid online. I've given preference to everything else over my quiet time all day long, one thing after another. Now I'm worn out and exhausted. I plop myself under the covers, my Bible on my lap. Within five minutes I'm asleep. My good intentions go out with my night light.

The Enemy smirks.

So the next morning, I'm at it again, intent on not letting another day start without spending time with God. What happened to me yesterday will not happen to me again. I wake up early enough, grab a cup of tea, and get going. I spend thirty whole minutes—fifteen minutes scouring a few chapters of the Bible, and another fifteen going through the list of prayer needs I keep written in my notebook. When the time is over, I can't believe how fast it's gone. I pop up and get on with my day. I feel proud not having let the opportunity pass me by again.

But have I really done a better job than the day before? Sure, spending time with Him in some way is better than none at all. But neither opportunity allowed margin for God to fill. In one case I was too busy to come to God at all. In the other I was too busy (even while I was with Him) for Him to come to me. In neither instance did I hear from God, sense His presence, or make room for His Spirit's conviction.

Reading a verse, saying a prayer, or singing a song may help you feel better about checking "quiet time" off your to-do list, but these alone won't help you get what you're after—knowing Him more intimately, uniting with His heart, and receiving His direction for your life.

Have we become so addicted to busyness—not merely in our daily lives but while we're actually immersed in our daily devotions—that we've trained ourselves not to hear Him?

Carving out time in prayer to purposefully listen for God's voice—His voice and nothing else—retrains us so we can hear the Spirit's whisper and gain the ability to hear Him clearly. Stopping to listen to Him enables us to become familiar with what a sense of God's presence feels like, while enlarging our understanding of His plans for us, seeing them emerge into the light.

This doesn't mean that during our devotional times we're not allowed to open our mouths and share our hearts with God in prayer. On the contrary, we're not only allowed to do this but we've been instructed to speak up and let our "requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). If we want to hear Him speak, however, we must also learn to pray without words. To listen for His voice. To seek the simplicity of stillness with Him rather than consuming all the time and space ourselves. We can't allow what we're saying to keep us from listening to what He wants to say.

Not if we want to hear the voice of God.

That's why right here in the first chapter of the book, I want us to go ahead and get very practical on this fundamental issue. Again, I believe it will set the precedent for how this plays out in the other dimensions of our walk with God. Over the years I've often heard believers say what I'm saying to you now—that we must "listen" for God if we want to hear Him speak to us. But for some reason it never occurred to me that this was a concrete discipline I could apply in any sort of practical, real-world kind of way. I didn't realize that listening wasn't just some passive, "spiritual" assignment that was part of my progressive sanctification or something.

Listening to God is a purposeful activity that we are supposed to start doing. It is the investment of time we must make in order to yield the spiritual dividends of wisdom we so desperately need. The Bible tells us to "incline" our ears toward Him (Isaiah 55:3), to "draw near to listen" (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Fifteen times in the New Testament, the Lord punctuates His point with these words: "Anyone who has ears must listen ..." (Revelation 2:29 NLT, is one example).

So expect this discipline to require some work. If you want to become an active listener, you need to learn the art of listening as I myself am seeking to. And if you're a person like me who enjoys being up and going and doing, this can prove to be a very difficult challenge. Be ready for the fact that it takes discipline and time and probably won't happen during commercial breaks or while monitoring your friends' Twitter updates.


Excerpted from Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer, Pam Pugh. Copyright © 2012 Priscilla Shirer. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword  / 9
Acknowledgments  / 11
Just Between Us  / 13

Part 1: Hearing God's Voice
    1. Expect to Hear  / 19
    2. Listen to Him  / 31

Part 2: Communicating With God Today
    3. A Marvelous Voice  / 45
    4. A Guiding Voice  / 55
    5. A Verifiable Voice  / 65
    6. A Persistent Voice  / 77

Part 3: Revealing God's Character
    7. A Revealing Voice  / 91
    8. A Peaceful Voice  / 101
    9. A Truthful Voice  / 109
  10. A Powerful Voice  / 119

Part 4: Discovering God's Plan
  11. A Invitational Voice  / 131
  12. A Timely Voice  / 141
  13. A Fatherly Voice  / 151
  14. A Challenging Voice  / 161

Part 5: Responding to God's Voice
  15. The Obedient Response  / 173

The Sound of His Voice  / 183
About the Author  / 187

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Discerning the Voice of God 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is well written and has much encouraging and enlightening informatio especially for one who needs encouragement when going through a challenging season of life. The Scriptural references are appropriate and meaningful. The anecdotes help in providing real-world applications. This will be a permanent part of my library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Plug into god by doing these simple easy chapters daily. spend 20-30 min per day and get god's clear guidance-you do this by prayer, studying certain bible verses, and being receptive to others and your circumstaNCES, GOD WILL BE CRYSTAL CLEAR.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read!! Read it with my mentor from church and it is truly life changing. It makes you look at your daily life and how you can change it to rely more on God, not yourself. He hears everything you ask and pray for, you just have to wait and listen. Happy reading!!
Andrea_Renee_Cox More than 1 year ago
by Andrea Renee Cox Wow. Can Priscilla Shirer deliver a powerful message or what? Loved this book, the message within it. Coincided perfectly with what I'm learning in life right now. One of those times I definitely feel God wanted me to read this book at precisely this time in my life. I highlighted things, underlined, made notes in the margins... and I'll be revisiting this book in times when I feel I cannot hear God's voice very clearly. Discerning the Voice of God is uplifting, encouraging, and a kick in the pants to sharpen those areas in life that trip you up. It's one of those books that you might as well buy two copies: one for yourself and one to give to a friend, because by the end of it, you're probably going to want to share this one -- just not your own copy, if you marked it up like I did! Happy reading!
KyKim More than 1 year ago
God does speak!! Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking by Priscilla Shirer is a fantastic book that shows ways that God does still speak to us today if we will only take time to listen. Ms Shirer does an absolutely amazing job in explaining how we can hear God through his word, how God may use others to confirm what He is trying to tell you. There are interesting chapter challenges at the end of each chapter for us to try that will bring us closer to God and recognizing when He is speaking to us. I personally remember a time when I thought a person was crazy that said that they had heard from God, but He does still speak to us His word his very much alive! I enjoyed this book from start to finish, as it confirmed for me what I was already experiencing. Can't wait to share this book with others who want to learn how to tell when God is speaking. One of my favorite quotes from the book is... "He speaks. God speaks. Your Lord and Savior speaks. To you. So wake up expecting. Arrive expecting. Come expecting. Live expecting. Never stop...Expecting." I received a free copy from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
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Great writing style. Understandable. Biblical. Excellent and relatable examples. Spiritually helpful book
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PatWKirk More than 1 year ago
Too often, Christians fret concerning whether they know the will of God. No trumpets blow. No burning bush stops them in their tracks. No angel knocks on the door with a letter from God. Priscilla Shirer, daughter of Dr. Tony Evans and a minister, tackles the problem of how we may recognize the voice of God with certainty. This version is the eleventh edition of this book (revised and expanded). The first chapter pace moves a little slowly, but it picks up as the reader goes to the later chapters. The author mentions her experiences to illustrate, though often in general language. She mentions “a new ministry” for example. I wanted to know what new ministry. Discerning the Voice of God would work well as a study guide for a group--probably its purpose. The reader will enjoy the book more by reading a chapter at a time which would fit well as a daily addition to devotions. Most Christians will find something new, and feel more secure in making decisions. I received this book from Moody Publisher. It is an honest review.
--Elizabeth More than 1 year ago
Priscilla Shirer develops an admirable rapport with the reader. She leaves out the cheesy "Oh girlfriend, let me tell you" jargon and just sticks with easy-going conversation. Shirer makes it seem as if you're sitting at the breakfast table with her, hot coffee mug in hand, casually chatting about your spiritual lives. She by no means comes across as the "almighty spiritual expert" which some Christian authors have the esteem to portray. Shirer is simply a woman who loves God. And given her personal experience with the Holy Spirit, combined with advice from the people in her life who provide Christian counsel, she felt others might gain from hearing what she's learned so far in her journey. Seeing as there is no exact science to exploring and connecting with the Holy Spirit in one's life, Shirer highlights the fact that every person's relationship with God is unique, as it should be. God has no favorites, no bad apples, just us, His children, who he yearns to have a relationship with. I'm in a bible study group with 3 other women, all of us ranging in age from 30 to 37, and we have each enjoyed reading and benefited from this book. I highly recommend this thought-provoking, yet easy read!
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