“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” –John 10:27
We waited for God to speak. To be honest, I wondered if He would, but I’d already committed Him. He must have chuckled when I did.
The sign said, “Very hungry. Will work for food.” Before I knew what I was saying, I’d already said, “Kids, we are each going to ask God what we should do about this man who needs help.” Then came the next part, “Oh and by the way, if God is telling you to get food, I want you to ask Him what kind of food we should get.”
Did I really believe God was going to download a specific food order for this homeless man?
Apparently, I did.
It was the start of a grand adventure.
As parents, we want our children to hear the voice of the Lord, but how do we practically go about teaching them what His voice sounds like? Here are five practical ways to start the process of helping your child lean in to the voice of God.
1. Teach your child the difference between God’s voice and Satan’s voice.
You can start by making a list together using age appropriate adjectives describing both. Maybe you’ve seen the social media meme that lists God’s voice on one side that stills, leads, reassures, enlightens, encourages, comforts, calms and convicts you vs. Satan’s voice that rushes, pushes, frightens, confuses, discourages, worries, obsesses and condemns you. Make no mistake, God is anxious to speak and so is our enemy. No matter what age your child is, this is a great way to start a conversation about the spiritual battlefield of the mind they will inevitably face.
2. Make space in your family schedule to hear God speak.
Charles Stanley said, “God’s voice is still and quiet and easily buried under an avalanche of clamor.” Unfortunately, our busy lives often cause the avalanche. We set aside a few minutes of silence after our Bible lesson for “Listening Time.” Each family member, even the little ones, takes a corner of the room and gets quiet. When we first started doing this, I confess I was worried God wouldn’t say anything, but as we continued, He began to speak. One day after “Listening Time,” my six-year old who had been struggling with her self-confidence, excitedly told us she wanted to share something. “God told me something amazing,” she beamed. “He said that I am His princess and that I’m beautiful!” Her face glowed long after those minutes were over.
3. Live what you want your child to learn.
God often says things we don’t want to hear. Vulnerability and humility are vital to our relationship with Him and our children need to know that. I remember a time when I sat down to work on a big project for my job. It was as if a thick fog hung between me and my computer. I prayed and waited for the fog to lift. It didn’t until God reminded me of an incident where I’d responded harshly to my four-year old. He said, “Go and make things right with her and then I will speak to you.” I did and though ashamed of my poor example, I wanted my daughter to know that God speaks and no matter the age, He corrects those He loves which makes His voice the sweetest in all world.
4. Teach your child the different ways God speaks.
God created us uniquely and speaks to us personally. I have friends who hear the Lord best through a song, an image, sometimes a dream or when surrounded by nature. The Lord speaks to me in words as I’m very verbal, but He speaks to my seven-year old in word pictures. This is a great opportunity to talk to your child about their unique giftings and discuss some of the ways God may choose to communicate with them. You can also read stories about the ways God specifically spoke to heroes of the faith. My children caught a vision for the power of prayer after reading a biography of George Mueller, an evangelist in the 1800’s who cared for more than 10,000 orphans in his lifetime.
5. Talk about the silence of God.
Let’s face it. If you’ve walked with the Lord for any length of time at all, you know there are faith-shaking times when He is silent. Silence itself can mean many things — a time for reflection and rest, an opportunity to review what’s already been said, the comfortable presence of another, but sometimes it’s just plain frustrating. Talk about the silence of God as well as the unchanging aspects of His character in His Word. You might consider doing a word study on the names of God. Anchoring the spirit in the One who promises to comfort, provide, heal and deliver is hope itself even amid the silence.
Back to the beggar’s signs, the food order from heaven and a minivan full of praying kids. Somewhat timidly, I asked, “Okay guys, what did God tell you?”
My oldest spilled over with eagerness, “God told me we need to get that man some food. God said that man needs something healthy.” My middle kiddo followed up with assurance, “God said we need to get that man iced tea.” So we pulled into a sandwich shop and put in an order for a healthy sandwich and a large iced tea.
The excitement was building as we pulled up to our homeless man.
His eyes widened and crinkled into a smile when he saw the bag. “Wow. Jimmy John’s!” he said surprised and emphatic. “Thank you so much. God bless you.”
God’s order was a good one. Clearly, He had spoken and spoken specifically. It was an adventure in hearing the voice of God that whet our appetites for more.