How does the Holy Spirit speak to us?

holy spirit prayer

I’m grateful for the new life I have through faith in Jesus Christ.  Scripture teaches us that through faith in Jesus, we are reconciled to God (Col. 1:20).  We no longer need to live at a distance from Him.

And since we don’t need to live at a distance from God, I’m grateful that we get to talk to Him.  He gives us the privilege to approach Him through prayer with confidence because we know that based on the blood Jesus shed on our behalf, we are welcomed into the Father’s presence.

 Does that seem special to you?  Are you grateful for the privilege to literally talk with God?  He created us to enjoy this kind of fellowship with Him.  It has been His desire for all time to enjoy healthy friendship and fellowship with His children, and much of that relationship is expressed through healthy communication.

 Not long ago, my two sons joined me for dinner at a local restaurant.  It was on a night that we all had free, so we decided to meet up for food.  When they were growing up I always looked forward to the day when we would begin interacting more like peers, swapping stories, telling each other about our day, and making each other laugh.  I’m grateful to see that season emerging in our relationship because that’s what my relationship with my father is like.

 Multiple times each week, particularly on Sundays as I drive home from church, I give my father a call.  I ask about how the worship service at his church went and he asks about mine.  Then we fill the rest of the call with talking about things we’ve talked about a million times before, but I enjoy it.

 God wants us to enjoy that kind of relationship with Him.  He delights to listen to His children as they approach Him in prayer, and He most certainly wants us to listen to Him and pay close attention to His words when He speaks to us.

 But how does God speak to us?  Scripture reveals six primary ways the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and we would do well to heed His voice.


The Holy Spirit speaks to us through Scripture

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The Holy Spirit inspired the words that are penned in the Bible, and He also makes a point to illuminate the meaning of those words to our hearts and minds as we read them, pray over them, and dwell on them.  He wants us to understand what He’s communicated, and I’m grateful for the providential ways He has given us access to His Word.

 We are so blessed to live in an era of history where we can carry a printed Bible or a digital Bible with us wherever we go.  We can read it with our own eyes, or listen to it being read through recorded media.  Accessibility to the Word of God is at an all time high.

 God’s Word is also the standard by which our decisions should be measured.  The Holy Spirit will never communicate something to our hearts that conflicts with what He has inspired in the Bible.  If you’re unsure about what you think you’re hearing from Him, you can always look to the Scriptures to confirm if what you believe is correct.


The Holy Spirit speaks to us through prayer

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  (Acts 13:2)

Prayer is a spiritual discipline that we learn to value as our faith matures.  The early church was known for being committed to prayer.  They would often gather together to seek the Lord’s guidance and direction in the midst of a culture that was frequently hostile to their faith.

 In Acts 13, we’re told of one such instance when the church was gathered together to worship the Lord.  During their time of worship, the Holy Spirit revealed that He had called Barnabas and Saul to a ministry of evangelism and church planting.  In response, the church prayed for these men, laid hands on them to commission them, and sent them off to do the work they were being called to do.

 If you desire to gain more clarity on God’s calling on your life, let me encourage you to come before Him in prayer and ask Him to direct your steps.  I have done this many times and have received answers and confirmation in the Lord’s timing.  When it was time for me to know His answers, the Holy Spirit has always made His will for me known.  I believe He will do the same for you.


The Holy Spirit speaks to your conscience

“For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”  (1 Corinthians 2:11-12)

The moment you placed your faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you.  He indwells and lives inside you.  He speaks to your conscience in a way that this world doesn’t understand because it doesn’t have a relationship with Him.  The Holy Spirit makes our conscience sensitive to His leading.

 Sometimes you may sense He’s speaking to you through a gentle conviction.  Other times He will prompt you in a specific way to take action, say something, or accept the truth He’s revealing.

 The Spirit often gives us a deep sense of peace about our circumstances, decisions, or courses of action.  If we aren’t living in rebellion against Him and we aren’t attempting to sear our consciences, we’re more likely to hear His voice as He speaks to us within and nudges us to move in a specific direction.


The Holy Spirit speaks with a still small voice

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-12)

It’s clear that the Holy Spirit is speaking to believers, but if someone asked you how you might typically expect God to speak, how would you answer?  Do you primarily expect Him to speak in dramatic fashion with a great demonstration of His power?  Does He require a strong wind, an earthquake, or a severe fire to get our attention and communicate His will?

 Elijah was a prophet who had witnessed God do miraculous and dramatic things.  He had seen God send fire from the heavens when the prophets of Baal were being confronted.  But following that dramatic event, the Lord demonstrated to Elijah that He didn’t require dramatic demonstrations of might to communicate His will.  Sometimes He spoke in less dramatic ways.  In fact, it was in a low whisper or a “still small voice” that the Holy Spirit spoke to Elijah when he was in Horeb.  

 The Holy Spirit doesn’t require a dramatic display to give us guidance.  He can provide encouragement, correction, or direct teaching that has the force of a mighty wind even though His words are being delivered in a low whisper.


The Holy Spirit speaks in dreams and visions

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;”  (Acts 2:16-17)

 This portion of Scripture from the prophetic book of Joel was quoted by the apostle Peter when he delivered his sermon on the day of Pentecost, soon after Christ’s ascension to Heaven.  During the Old Testament era, the Holy Spirit would sometimes speak to people through dreams and visions, and Peter expressed that He would do something similar in the last days.

 The Holy Spirit will never give someone a dream or vision that contradicts that clear teaching of Scripture, so this is an area where we need to use discernment.  I have heard people who made claims that the Holy Spirit spoke to them in dreams, but the messages they claimed He gave them conflicted with the Word of God.  That’s clear evidence that the dream or vision they claimed to have was not inspired by the Spirit.

 In recent days, there have been many testimonies of people in parts of the world that are shut off to the open proclamation of the gospel having dreams and visions of Jesus.  That seems well within the real of possibility to me, but every dream needs to be held to the standard of Scripture to prevent foolish decisions or doctrinal errors from being made.


The Holy Spirit speaks through other people

“And the Lord sent Nathan to David.” (2 Samuel 12:1)

Have you ever experienced a moment in your life where you could tell God was speaking to you through the words of someone else?  Maybe you heard a teacher or a preacher explain something and it convicted your heart.  Maybe a friend, mentor, or spiritual leader said something to you that was oddly specific and demonstrated that God was at work in that conversation.

 In 2 Samuel 12, we’re shown that the Holy Spirit spoke to David through the prophet Nathan who was led to confront David about his sin and invite him to repent of it.

 Quite regularly, the Holy Spirit will grant us wise counsel, advice, or words of encouragement that are delivered to our ears by our brothers or sisters in Christ.  Sometimes our Christian family will comfort us.  Other times they’ll teach us, counsel us, or lovingly confront us.  The Holy Spirit makes great use of these conversations, and I believe this is one of the reasons He encourages us in His Word not to forsake assembling together.

 Do you desire to hear from the Holy Spirit?  Do you want Him to regularly speak to you?  If so, let me encourage you to spend time in prayer, in the Scriptures, and with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Keep your heart from evil and your ears open to what the Spirit has to say, and I believe you’ll hear His voice as He teaches you, enlightens you, confronts you, directs you, and comforts you.

©  John Stange, 2023


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