The first Christian book that I kicked off my 2018 by reading was Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson. Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in D.C., the church affiliated with Ebenezers Coffee House (which I am now intrigued to visit the next time I’m in D.C.). Interestingly, one of the spots where Mark says he often hears God speak to him is the rooftop of the coffee house.
I believe this book is ideal for someone who is sincere about seeking God, someone who believes God still speaks to his people today. Mark says scripture is always our touchstone for communication with God, and the other ways that He communicates with us will line up with the Bible as well. The ways that God actively communicates are through scriptures, desires, doors (opportunities or lack of them in different areas), dreams, people, promptings, and pain. A prayer that could change your life right now is found in 1 Samuel 3:9, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Mark asserts that God can communicate to believers in a whisper that they can discern, even though it is not within our normal range of human hearing (the book explains it in much more scientific and spiritual depth than I can here, but stay with me!). A whisper is the use of breath without vocal chords, which is significant because God used his own breath to create Adam. God’s spoken word is what first brought the entire universe into being. God spoke the universe into existence when He said, “Let there be light.” Mark writes, “What we see today, He once said. His voice is around us all the time” (page 26).
“Some Hebrew scholars believe that the name of God, Yahweh – or without the vowels, YHWH — is synonymous with the sound of breath. On one hand, the name is too sacred to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s whispered with each and every breath we take.” (page 32)
You have to get quiet to hear the whisper. You have to slow down and allow room for God’s presence. If you want your words to have power, spend time in God’s presence through prayer.
Mark also asserts that there might be certain places where it seems like we hear from God more, and I agree with that. I have two specific places in my own life where I hear from God; in both locations, I am usually being quiet, and at times, I ask him questions in prayer that I wait to hear Him respond to. I do not always hear, but many times I do. Usually, I will hear a sentence or two, but other times it’s just a single word or even a person’s name.
When I decided to sponsor a child in Mexico earlier this summer, I was prompted because I kept hearing Him repeat the child’s name to me in the type of whisper that Mark writes about. After I sponsored the child, God confirmed that I understood with another whisper that included some other information for me. Since then, He has spoken to me about other situations and given me people’s names for different reasons. I am pretty sure that not every Christian necessarily experiences this type of whisper because I was in my 30s before I started experiencing it myself, even though I grew up in church and asked Christ into my heart at a young age. I also will say I am not perfect by any means; I mess up constantly, but I am willing to seek Him. I am quiet by nature, so that probably helps. I am someone who loves to read and think, so He speaks to me in a way that I can hear. Of course, there are times when I think, “Did I really hear that?” In that case, I just ask if it was Him. One time, an answer He gave me made so little sense to me (with my limited understanding) that I thought I was hearing wrong – but then a week later, what He communicated was affirmed with a text message from someone.
“But our ability to acquire language by speaking and listening is unique among God’s creation. As such, I believe it’s one dimension of the image of God. So to grow in the likeness of God is to steward language better, both in terms of speaking and listening.” page 61
One way to discern the voice of God, beyond prayer and reading scriptures, is an ancient Benedictine practice called Lectio divina. Mark describes it as follows:
“It involves four steps, or stages: reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. Lectio divina has been likened to a meal, and I like that metaphor. Reading is taking the first bite. Unfortunately, that’s where most people stop. The second step, meditation, is chewing on words and phrases. Instead of dissecting the word, we let the word dissect us. The third step, prayer, is savoring the word. When was the last time you read the Bible for pure enjoyment? It’s prayer that turns discipline into desire; “have to” becomes “get to.” And the fourth step, contemplation, is digesting the Word and absorbing its nutrients. That’s how the Word gets from our head into our heart. I wish that hearing the voice of God was as easy as reading, but it’s not. It requires meditating, praying, and contemplating. Ironically, it’s only as we slow ourselves down that the Holy Spirit quickens us.” p. 74-75
After all of this, the next step of obedience is also required. Mark writes, “The Bible calls us to be ‘a peculiar people.’ So why are we trying to be normal? If uniqueness is God’s gift to us, then individuation is our gift back to Him. And it starts with hearing and heeding the voice of desire [to know God and do his will]. And when God’s voice is the loudest voice in our lives, we can dare to be different” (page 93). Saying that I can hear the whisper of God might make some people think I’m weird, but I am saying it because I believe it is true.
My One Word Resolution for 2018 is delight. I wrote about why I picked that word in another post – but I was floored when I realized there was an entire chapter of the book dealing with desires and delight. In fact, one sub heading was Pure Delight. The chapter even begins with the verse I picked for my resolution (Psalm 37:4).
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
In the Pure Delight section, Batterson writes about a girl who waited years to have a dog; when she finally got the dog, she started sobbing uncontrollably with joy. For him, that is an illustration of pure delight.
“Seven times in the book of Genesis, God steps back from the canvas of his creation and admires His handiwork and sees that it is good. It’s the Almighty’s first reaction to His creation. It’s the first recorded emotion that God expresses. The word good comes from the Hebrew word tob. It’s joy unspeakable. It’s pure delight. That first emotion sets the tone, sets the bar. God delights in what He does, and He wants nothing less for us. He wants us to delight in His creation. He wants us to delight in one another. And above all, he wants us to delight ourselves in Him.” p. 79
I started my year by asking God what it means to delight in Him. We are only a month into 2018, and He is already providing so much for me to consider.
“How much do you enjoy God? Enjoy His Word? Enjoy His presence? Sure, spiritual disciplines usually start out as disciplines. But sooner or later those disciplines turn into desires if you delight yourself in the Lord.” p. 79
When we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desire to do what He calls us to do, even if it’s difficult. Apostle Paul identified three traits that Christians should have in their tasks: generous, diligent, and cheerful. Mark writes, “Diligence means delighting in what we do. And when we do that, everything we do is transformed into an act of worship” (page 84).
Mark recalls times that God has let him know that some things happening in his life were the result of the prayers of his grandfather, Elmer, who died when Mark was six years old. Even though his grandfather died, the prayers did not die. He writes, “We are the beneficiaries of prayers we know nothing about. God was working long before we arrived on the scene, and He’s using us to set up the next generation. We tend to think right here, right now. God is thinking nations and generations” (page 153).
To learn more specifically about the whisper and the other ways God communicates, pick up the book. In the meantime, there are some good resources at markbatterson.com/whisper. I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review; considering all of the detail I’ve given you in this post, I think you can understand the sincerity of this review. Here’s a final thought that stuck with me.
“Don’t let the voice of condemnation keep you from worshipping God; sing over it. If your worship is based on your performance, you’re not really worshipping God anyway. That kind of worship is a form of self-worship because it’s based on what you do rather than who God is.” (page 182)
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost they sevenfold gifts impart.
–from the Book of Common Prayer
Have a blessed week. Teresa