Book Report: Hearing God

Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard

You know those people who have walked with Jesus so much that they seem to belong to a different time zone? As a spiritual formation teacher who moves at the pace of heaven, Dallas is uniquely positioned to shepherd readers toward finding their home in the kingdom. If prayer has always felt a bit one-sided to you, take heart. Hearing God offers a thoughtful framework for crafting a life that both recognizes and welcomes the Lord’s voice—the same voice that flattened plains and stilled seas… and that longs to invade your own reality.

Especially memorable quotes:

There is all the difference in the world between having a fine general view that this is our Father’s world—or even that an arrangement has been made for our eternal redemption—and having confidence, based in experience, that the Father’s face, whether in the dark of the night or the brightness of the day, is turned toward us, shining upon us, and that the Father is speaking to us individually. 

It is possible to talk about hearing God in terms of mysterious feelings, curious circumstances, and special scriptural nuances of meaning to the point where God’s very character is called into question. We must reply to this tendency by stating emphatically that God is not a mumbling trickster.

The sustaining power of the Beloved Presence has through the ages made the sickbed sweet and the graveside triumphant; transformed broken hearts and relations; brought glory to drudgery, poverty, and old age; and turned the martyr’s stake or noose into a place of coronation.

God’s communication with the individual is not for show-and-tell any more than intimate interchanges between two people generally are.

It is much more important to cultivate the quiet, inward space of a constant listening than to always be approaching God for specific direction.

If our gospel does not free the individual up for a unique life of spiritual adventure in living with God daily, we simply have not entered fully into the good news that Jesus brought.

Generally speaking, God will not compete for our attention. Occasionally a Saul gets knocked to the ground and so on, but we should expect that in most cases God will not run over us. We must be open to the possibility of God’s addressing us in whatever way He chooses, or else we may walk right past a burning bush.

As a perfectionistic girl who’s often wrestled with seeking the Lord’s direction, I found one particular point extremely convicting. Dallas writes,

There is also, after all, a neurotic, faithless, and irresponsible seeking of God’s will: a kind of spiritual hypochondria, which is always taking its own spiritual temperature, which is far more concerned with being righteous than with loving God and others and doing and enjoying what is good. One can be over-righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:16). We may insist on having God tell us what to do because we live in fear or are obsessed with being right as a strategy for being safe. But we may also do it because we do not really have a hearty faith in His gracious goodwill toward us. If so, we need to grow up to Christlikeness, and nothing short of that will solve our problem. Certainly more words from God will not!

We may in our heart of hearts suspect that God is mean and tyrannical, and therefore we may be afraid to make a move without dictation from Him … Far from honoring God, such an attitude is blasphemous, idolatrous, and certain to prevent us from ever entering into that conversational relationship with God in which sensible words, clearly revealed and reliably understood, are given as appropriate. How much would you have to do with a person who harbored such low opinions about you?

My drive for flawlessness has caused me to do some ridiculous things over the years (like taking fifteen trips across the classroom to check every answer with my poor teacher, asking, “Did I do this right?”). Math was hard. Life is hard. When I take an honest look at how much of my desire to hear God’s voice might actually be a fear of making the wrong decision, I’m reminded once again of my chasm of need for a Savior. It’s bad news that ushers in good news, an expanding view of the gospel: Jesus died for both my missteps and the pathetic faith that prevents them, and His life is always perfect in my place.

Some prompts for journaling:

  • When has knowing the Word protected me from vulnerability to madness in the name of God?
  • Does my way of living block me from making good use of the Lord’s messages to me?
  • Are there any brutalizing motives, images, or concepts my mind needs to be cleansed of when considering the God I long to speak with?
  • What would change if the Lord’s presence were the most obvious fact of my life?
  • Where do I need to invite God to shine His candle into my heart, directing my attention to things He’d like to straighten, inform, or correct?
  • Am I sensitive to the gentle moving of the Holy Spirit within me?
  • Does the unobtrusiveness of God’s still, small voice get lost in my noisy and chaotic life?
  • Have I settled in my will the question of who I intend to be?
  • Which specific Scriptures might the Lord like to assimilate into my daily living right now?
  • Everything considered, would I really like for God to speak to me?

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