If the voice of the Lord breaks the cedars (Psalm 29:5), why do we struggle to hear it? I suppose there are several things that hinder us. Are we listening for a man’s voice from heaven? That could hold us back. On one hand, God speaks to us in ways we can understand and anticipate. Just the same, though, God whispers in profound ways through unexpected means (1 Kings 19:12).
Of course, we should also look to the stubbornness of our evil will (Jeremiah 7:24). The great Wesleyan hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” helps us pray that God would “take away our bent to sinning. If God doesn’t help us, we’re quick to bend away. Like the people of God who fled Egypt under God’s direction, we get caught up in our own selfish power plays. According to God, that’s why we don’t look forward (Jeremiah 7:24).
And if we aren’t reflecting on scripture, chances are we’ll not recognize God’s voice. Notice I didn’t say read scripture. I spend many breaths encouraging people to read the Bible. But that’s step one. What I want to learn to do more is to reflect. You can read the Bible multiple times and miss God speaking. The joy is not merely getting to say we read the Bible. It’s being able to sense God speaking through it. So, of course, read the Bible. Read it with other Christians. And don’t neglect the time you need to reflect on what you have read.
I suppose one can want to hear from God because that sounds like a righteous thing to do. I wouldn’t do it for that reason. That kind of cart-before-the-horse attitude is dangerous. You may find God does speak to you, but the voice sounds a lot like your own.
At the same time, if we’re not going to try to listen for God, all our religious stuff doesn’t matter. God told the people to do whatever they wanted with their sacrifices because, well, who cares? Throw them all together. The point is, you can pretty up your worship all you want. Just be careful you’re not drowning out what God wants to say.