HOW GOD COMMUNICATES
by Lyn Packer
We understand that in the natural realm communication happens on many wavelengths, frequencies, and in many ways; speech is just one of those. As a person communicates they do so through the words they choose, their tone of voice, body language, emotional expression and energy, spirit output, reception and more. We communicate also through art, music, dance and movement, language of all sorts, cultural expression, the use of light and shade, form and shape, structure and so much more. Likewise, God communicates in many different ways.
How does God communicate with people?
There are many different ways that God communicates with people but we generally tend to lump them together and refer to them with statements like “hearing from God”, “God spoke to me”, or “God showed me”. As prophetic people, prophets, and revelators we need an understanding of these different ways of receiving revelation so that we can talk about them correctly, and in doing so, give correct understanding to others.
Let’s look at the different ways God communicates. The list below is not in any order of importance; any way God chooses to communicate is important.
- Still small voice (words or thoughts) – these are “God thoughts” and impressions received internally in our heart and mind. Very often these thoughts or comments will sound like our own thoughts, which is why we should test them.
Ask God if what you’re hearing is from Him. Remember, thoughts can have varying sources – God, the demonic realm, and our flesh/the world. If the thought is from God then it will carry as much revelation and power as a more overt form of communication, such as an open-eye vision. Lean into the faint small impressions and whispers that come into your mind from the Lord; they often have deep truths in them. Chase them down, don’t dismiss them.
- Through the eyes of our understanding with “internal thought pictures or vision”.
In Ephesians Paul prays that the eyes of your heart/mind/understanding would be enlightened to know some things –
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints…” Ephesians 1:17,18
The Greek word ‘dianoia’ translated understanding in this verse actually means 'imagination'. The New Dictionary of Theology Vol 3 says when dianoia is used it always means imagination. Vines dictionary says dianoia is a faculty renewed by the Holy Spirit at salvation called ‘imagination’.
Your imagination is part of your ability to see; it’s your God given internal vision centre. Your imagination is probably one of your most important spiritual organs. It is involved in every vision, dream, thought. Your imagination is not evil and it is not just the place where you fantasise and make things up. It is a faculty given to you by God where you see and can receive revelation.
All vision is processed internally, both natural and spiritual. Your eyes gather information and pass it along to the vision centre in the brain, which translates it to form what we see, so you actually see with your brain, not just your eyes.
Col 1:21,22 tells us that our imagination has been sanctified (set apart) and reconciled to God. “And you who were once alienated and enemies in your mind (imagination - dianoia) by wicked works, yet he has now reconciled… (made right with him)”
- Through the Scriptures – God speaks to us through Scripture, both on an historical level, that of showing us His relationship with mankind and nations down through the centuries, and on a personal level, when we understand the covenant He made with us through Christ, and when the ‘logos’ Scriptures become ‘rhema’ words. In general Logos refers to “the written word of God”. Rhema refers to “the revealed word of God", as an utterance from God to the heart of the receiver via the Holy Spirit, as in John 14:26.
- Through creation – Creation itself speaks to us of God (Romans 1:20; Job 12:7-10; Psalm 19:1 and many more).
- Through objects and symbols - Visual messages / signs, symbols - God can take things from the natural realm and speak to us through them – they can either be things from nature or man-made things. This is where God takes things that have one meaning and gives them another e.g. like billboards etc. natural or man-made. (i.e. animals, flowers, foods, objects etc). God uses symbolism and metaphor a lot in Scripture to speak to people. He often used objects to either get a message across or to help people understand what He had to say, or to give an object lesson. One example of that in Scripture is when God told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house and watch him making a pot (Jeremiah 18:1-11). Also check out Jeremiah 19; Ezekiel 4:1; Acts 21:11.
- Through other believers - in normal conversation with someone God can take something that person says and quicken it to us as revelation.
- Audible voice – There are times when God does speak in an audible voice and people hear it as such. (Exodus 3:1-15; 33:11; Acts 9:3-17)
- Inner audible voice – This is where God speaks clearly in your heart and mind. It’s not actually audible, but it is so clear in your mind it’s as if it were audible.
- Dreams / night visions / night transportations – Dreams are a common way that God speaks to people. As revelators we should learn how to interpret our dreams and steward wisely what is given to us in them. The Bible has many examples of God or angels visiting in dreams with messages for people. Bible characters like Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar, and others had dreams. Dreams are often full of symbolism or metaphor, therefore they require interpretation. If you ask for the interpretation God will reveal it to you. Learn to tell the difference between the types of dreams that you have, and whether they are a simple dream, a night vision, or a night experience.
– Some of your dreams are simply your subconscious mind processing the things of your daily life.
– Others are night visions - God communicating with you, and these may be revelatory or prophetic in nature. Genesis 20:3 - 9 is an example of this – God came to Abimelech in a dream and had a conversation with him.
– Some dreams are night experiences. They are us seeing what our spirit is doing, or involved with, while we are asleep. Our spirit has no need of sleep, and can continue to do things while we’re asleep.
- Day dreams - In a daydream you are awake, but you go into a dreamlike state. It is not as vivid or realistic as a trance, but in your mind a scenario is played out. Sometimes daydreams are initiated or encouraged by God. Timothy is an example of this – in 1 Timothy 4:15 Paul encourages Timothy to meditate on the prophetic words spoken over him. The word meditate in the original Greek means to “revolve over and over in your mind”, “imagine” or “frame up pictures in your mind”. Daydreaming can be very powerfully used in our lives; don’t dismiss this way of seeing. If you’re going to daydream then do so with a purpose.
– Become an imagineer – someone who dreams of possibilities and then works to bring them into reality.
– Take the prophetic words that have been spoken over you and see yourself doing them. Paul told Timothy to meditate (imagine or frame up pictures) in his mind concerning the prophetic words spoken over him.
– Sometimes our daydreams can contain revelation from God concerning our future; after all, He does put dreams and desires in our heart. A man we know of was given a prophetic word that said he would speak in huge crusades, so every day he spent time imagining what that would look like, daydreaming; he would picture the crowds and the people getting healed. Years later he stood on a platform looking out across a sea of people and realized that he’d seen this exact place and crowd, years before in one of his ‘daydreams’.
- Open eye vision – This is where your physical eyes are open, yet you are not seeing the natural realm; you’re seeing into the spiritual realm. Sometimes this type of vision can completely shut out any seeing in the natural realm, and other times it can seem as if the spiritual realm is overlaid onto the natural realm.
- Closed eye vision – This is an internal seeing. Your natural eyes are closed yet you see things. It often manifests like a strong clear impression, or like a TV screen on your eyelids. It is more precise and clear than a faint image or impression in the mind, or imagination.
- Open eye “spiritual” vision – Your natural eyes are open yet you sense things in the realm of the spirit. You may perceive shifts in atmosphere, disturbances in the atmosphere, like a shimmering that alerts you to something more that is happening.
- Colours / smells etc. – God can communicate through these and they can be seen or experienced through both our natural and spiritual senses.
- Through prophecy. God speaks a lot through prophecy. Interestingly in 1 Tim 4:12-15 we see Paul tell Timothy to take the prophetic words spoken over him and to meditate on them. That word ‘meditate’ has several meanings, one of which is to imagine or frame pictures in your mind. Take what God has spoken over your future; each day for 5–10 mins daydream it, picture it, see yourself doing it. What you focus on you empower and move towards.
- Through Words of Knowledge – (1 Corinthians 12:8) A word of knowledge is generally understood to be information received from God (or the spiritual realm) that you could not possibly know through natural means. A word of knowledge shows people that God knows them and is concerned for the intimate details of their lives, that He loves them and wants to have relationship with them, and is an invitation to them to interact with God. It is also about having understanding. Words of knowledge give us, as revelators and prophetic ministers, understanding and context about people’s lives, our communities, what is at work in situations etc.
- Through visitation by members of the Trinity - There have been many recorded instances, both in Scripture and in history, of a member of the Trinity showing up and talking to people. As examples, Abram met with God, Moses spoke with God face to face, and Paul on the road to Damascus had an experience with Jesus (Genesis 18:1; Exodus 33:11; Acts 9:1-9).
- Through angelic visitation – God often works through angelic messengers. While they are sent on assignments from the Lord my understanding is that we don’t have the right to command them to do things for us. (Job 4:15-18; Psalm 91:11; Daniel 8:15-26; Luke1; Matthew 4:6-11; 1Colossians 1:16; Revelation 14:6)
- Through our senses or feelings – Don’t dismiss feelings that you get; they can sometimes be God wanting to get your attention in order to communicate with you.
- Trance Vision – A trance vision is where you are inside the vision, functioning in it, not just looking on from the outside. In a trance vision your body functions may become impaired as the Spirit overrules everything else - some people get frozen in place, they can’t speak, don’t drink eat or go to the bathroom for an extended period of time. Maria Woodworth-Etter is a historical example of this happening. One trance vision that God took her into lasted several days, during which she neither moved, spoke ate, drank etc. and during that time she was seen by thousands of people.
God delights to communicate with us, both in everyday happenings and in special communications, and He isn’t boring in doing so. Imagine if there was only one way that He did so; how mundane that could become. Instead He presents us with this smorgasbord of revelation in which He dishes up to us delights that not only feed us and sustain us, but He does so in a way that is full of delight, surprise, and adventure!
Levels of revelation
No one way of hearing from God is better, or more spiritual, or more mature than another; they all have value. I also believe that ‘levels of revelation’ are a fallacy. God uses many different ways of communicating with each of us, not just one. What some people perceive as the more basic forms or levels of revelation take as much faith, if not more, to walk in than the more overt forms of revelation.
All types of hearing are subjective, in that we hear and see through lenses, and Scripture tells us that we see and know in part (1 Cor 13:9).
Lean into the faint small impressions; they are as weighty as anything else. They often have deep truths in them; chase them down, don’t dismiss them.
Function from the place of relaxed focus; if you’ve asked God to speak, believe that He will.
The still, small voice of God is usually heard as a spontaneous flow of thoughts to our mind and heart.
One of the Hebrew words for prophecy is ‘naba’, which means to ‘bubble up’ spontaneously. The prophetic person often hears the voice of God bubbling up as a spontaneous flow within their spirit and heart.
Naba – the spontaneous bubbling up is how we receive revelation, but before we share what we are receiving, we need to do some processing. It is not wise when we give voice to that bubbling up word without processing it first. Not everything that comes into our mind should be immediately spoken out; after all, not everything that comes spontaneously into our heart and mind will be from God. Prophets who receive this way still need to weigh and test things before speaking them out.
Often, immediately after that spontaneous thought, our mind kicks into gear and tells us that we are probably making it up, and that we can’t really be hearing from God. At this point we have a choice to make; we have to decide whether we are going to listen to our mind, or believe that we have heard from God.
Don’t be afraid to practice listening and seeing. Practice is scriptural. Heb 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Or another version “Who have their senses developed by reason of practice.”
Be a good steward of what you’ve been given. Don’t be like the servant who was given money and buried it in the ground because he was afraid to use what God had given him. (Matt 25:15-30)
Revelation, Interpretation, Application
All revelation is also comprised of these three elements -
1. The revelation itself
2. The interpretation (what it means)
3. The application (what God wants you to do with it).
These are all important parts of the revelation, and a revelation isn’t complete without learning what the Lord wants to show you in each of these areas.
Many people receive a revelation and wait for God to sovereignly give them the interpretation. Sometimes He will, but most often He doesn’t, because He has invited us to partner with Him in releasing heaven into earth. The way to get the interpretation is to ask Holy Spirit questions. Don’t go into your head to try and figure out what it means, using worldly symbol interpretation, as it will often mean something quite different to what your natural mind would think. Ask Holy Spirit what it means. Ask Him about the different aspects of it – “What is symbolic and what is literal?” “What do the symbols mean?”
Prophecy may involve the receiving of abstract imagery by the prophet, but the prophet must still be able to give a clear and understandable message.
Hab 2:2 …I will give you my message in the form of a vision. Write it clearly enough to be read at a glance (CEV) … so that a runner can carry the correct message to others (NLT)
1 Cor 14:7,8 Even lifeless things, like the flute or harp, must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle.
There may be times when God doesn’t give the interpretation to the prophet because He has given it to the person being prophesied over. If you find that God isn’t giving you the interpretation of a visual image, ask the person if it means anything to them. Often it may be very significant to them. If it doesn’t have any significance for them, ask them to hold it before God in the days ahead and believe that He will show them the interpretation.
Literal or Symbolic
Often Holy Spirit uses symbols and metaphors when communicating, so when seeing visual revelation we must ask what is symbolic and what is literal in what we are seeing. Jonathan Welton says, “There are true messages behind spiritual images, but the images are merely a form of communication.”
Symbolic things usually represent an eternal reality, but they may or may not actually be physically real in themselves. For example – the body warehouse in heaven is certainly a symbolic picture of the fact that in heaven healing is provided for every possible sickness, and is readily accessible, waiting to be released into earth, but is there an actual body warehouse? I don’t know. Whether there is or not, it does not negate the eternal truth that healing is provided for, and is accessible!
Sometimes there will be a mix of literal and symbolic in the same vision. The only way to find out which is which is to ask. In Rev 1:10-19 we see this - John sees the candlesticks (symbolic), which represent the churches, and in the midst of them He sees Jesus (literal). But even how Jesus is shown has symbolic elements which have definite meaning.
Many of us have somehow embraced the idea that we must not question God, but He encourages us to ask Him things. Much of prayer is listening and asking questions. There is a place for asking questions to gain a better understanding and to get clarification. This is actually good stewardship of what we are receiving. Bad stewardship is the acceptance of ‘not understanding’, and ‘putting it on the shelf’. Never put revelation ‘on the shelf’; if you don’t understand it, then ask what it means. The Lord may not show you immediately, but too often ‘on the shelf’ becomes ‘forgotten and I'm no longer interested in finding out’.
There is no doubt much more that we could cover here about how God communicates, but this is a start. Explore the gift that God has given you; have listening ears and an enquiring heart.
Lyn is recognised as a Prophet within New Zealand and other nations she’s ministered in. Her ministry is revelatory and catalytic, propelling people into encounter with God. The governmental prophetic gift she carries is expressed through prophetic, revelatory insight and strategy, prophetic words (personal, corporate and national), teaching, art, and writing. Click here for more info...