by Beth Anderson, Synod Ministry Coordinator – 3/10/2015
“Mom, what does God’s voice sound like?”
That was the question that came up during bedtime prayers with my daughter this past week. We’d recently read the story of Samuel, where Samuel hears a voice in the night calling his name. He mistakes it for his teacher Eli several times, until Eli finally recognizes it as the voice of God and instructs Samuel to respond, “Speak Lord, you servant is listening.”
It would be so reassuring, wouldn’t it, if we could bring our prayers to God, and a deep voice from the cloud would speak a definitive answer into our lives? But, as many of us know, God’s voice is rarely that clear or distinct.
In college, I took a class on prayer led by our campus pastor. Pastor Steve had studied many different prayer forms, went on silent retreats, spent time on sabbatical working alongside Mother Theresa in Calcutta, served in parish and campus ministries for a number of years. He was a man of deep faith and spirituality. One day in class, he said to us, “I’ve never heard the voice of God.” My first reaction was shock and then disappointment as I thought, ” If he’s never heard God’s voice, how am I going to hear God speaking to me?” But then he taught us to pray, and we discovered God does speak to us in a variety of ways. . .
There are a few instances in scripture where the voice of God is audible. When God speaks the 10 commandments to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20), when God speaks to Moses and the prophets giving them words to share with God’s people, when folks gather to hear Jesus teach and preach. Most often, though, God speaks through the voices of others, through the prophets and apostles, through the scriptures, through Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, and through the community.
I am convinced that there many ways God continues to speaks to us, to our lives and to our situations today when we are attentive, and take time to listen and recognize it.
I hear God’s voice in scripture during my daily reading when something in the passage strikes a chord or draws my thoughts to a new insight. I hear God’s voice through the words of my neighbor as she shares with me what she hears God saying as we read scripture together. God’s voice often sounds like that of the pastors in my congregation when I hear them preach – inviting me into God’s Word each Sunday morning. I hear God’s voice in the questions of my Sunday School class, when they ask God questions that I haven’t thought of before.
God’s voice once sounded like that of my grandfather, when he asked me repeatedly, “So, when are you going to get up there and preach?” God’s voice sounded like my friend Carla, when she said to me, “There’s nothing you have to do, God loves you simply for who you are.” God’s voice sounds a lot like my daughters’, “Mom, I need you . . .” forcing me to put myself aside to love and care for another. God’s voice sounds like my neighbor’s cry when a representative from Lutheran Social Services shares with me the need for feeding ministries in communities in North Dakota. God’s voice sounds like the harmony of the community raising its voice in a song that sooths and inspires my soul.
God’s voice sounds like a whisper in my heart, nudging me in quiet prayer and times of solitude. God’s voice sounds like the quiet wisdom that is not my own that bubbles up when I need to make a decision or advise someone on a decision and I’m not so sure what to say or do.
Indeed, God continues to speak to us through the voices of others, through scripture, and through the still, small voice within. What does God’s voice sound like to you this day? How would you describe God’s voice to someone who isn’t sure if they’ve ever heard it?