Jan Johnson

Wisbit - December 2015

Hearing God through the Year

One of the projects I’ve most most enjoyed has been putting together the book Hearing God through the Year. It includes short excerpts from Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God, to create a years-worth of daily devotions. Picking the most important ideas to excerpt was challenging; editing them slightly for the sleepy reader required creativity; adding themes, follow-up prayers or exercises made me think about what Dallas’s wisdom look like on the every day, “street level” way of life.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas about hearing God:


“the voice of the subconscious argues with you, tries to convince you; but the inner voice of God does not argue, does not try to convince you. It just speaks. It has the feel of the voice of God within it.”  {Hearing God through the Year, p. 262}.

When we start playing the Should I? Shouldn’t I? game and asking agonizing over decisions, we are probably not hearing God but trying to manage outcomes and control situations. Most often God’s ideas come to us quietly and in short simple phrases. For example, when I was riding my bike several years ago, I was praying for our soon-to-be daughter-in-law. I had asked God what I needed to know about being a good MIL to her. Distinctly, this came to me: Remember what you needed (as a daughter-in-law) and found hard to get? Do that. Because God and I had conversed many times about this in my early years of marriage, it was almost like an inside joke between us. I instantly knew not only what to do but how to just be with this important woman in my life.


    The voice of God speaking in our souls also bears a characteristic spirit. It is a spirit of exalted peacefulness and confidence, of joy, of sweet reasonableness and of goodwill. It is, in short, the spirit of Jesus, and by that phrase I refer to the overall tone and internal dynamics of his personal life as a whole. { p. 265}

When people tell me what they believe they’ve heard God, they often characterize God as nagging (You better do XYZ !) or sounding disappointed (Why can’t you just do XYZ?) or even snarky (Just when you thought you knew what was going on, I changed the rules! So there!)

But the “spirit” of God’s voice is for us (goodwill), peaceful and confident (not threatening), and full of joy and sweet reasonableness (understanding and encouraging). It is “wisdom from above” (James 3:17): pure (not sarcastic or disdainful), peaceable (not argumentative), gentle (not scornful), willing to yield (as if to say, “Try it out, Jan. See if it works.”), full of mercy and good fruits (much kinder to me than I am to myself) , without a trace of partiality (helping me love people I don’t easily love) or hypocrisy (never one way one minute and another way the next, but genuine).


    Generally it is much more important to cultivate the quiet, inward space of a constant listening than to always be approaching God for specific direction. { p. 305}

In the past when I’ve taught listening prayer and arranged for my grad students to experiment with it, some would come away disappointed, saying, “But God didn’t say anything.” I learned to explain that it’s best to simply be with God and to stay away from putting God “on the spot” or playing “God-on-demand.” We don’t expect immediate answers, but remain quiet and open to hearing God in God’s time and in the between moments of life (especially when running errands or doing simple chores). The insight comes. I know it’s from God because it doesn’t sound anything like me or like something I would come up with.

Hearing God, then is not about getting answers or even results, but about the back and forth conversation that naturally flows from having an organic relationship with God.

    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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