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When you stop hearing God

Years ago a friend of mine was going through a crisis in his life. He needed God, but had felt a distance in his relationship with him for too long. I offered to help him. I said, "Let's pray together and see what God says." "OK," he responded. And when we prayed …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Years ago a friend of mine was going through a crisis in his life. He needed God, but had felt a distance in his relationship with him for too long.

I offered to help him. I said, "Let's pray together and see what God says."

"OK," he responded.

And when we prayed together, my friend borrowed two things from me that he needed: my faith and a few questions we asked God together.

He'd stopped believing that God wanted to speak to him. I, on the other hand, sensed that he did. But my friend had to exercise enough faith to give it a shot.

When he did, I could tell that God was in fact speaking to him as I saw tears rolling down his cheeks.

"What did God say?" I asked.

"He said, 'I've missed you,'" my friend answered.

What my friend experienced is normal. We all go through periods of silence. When I first posted about it five years ago, thousands of readers responded. I still get comments on that post – over 120 of them. People pouring out their frustration at the separation they feel from God.

I wish it were easier. If you feel yourself struggling to hear God clearly, you find yourself in good company. Listening prayer can sometimes feel like a frustrating waste of time. Anybody who minimizes that struggle is probably not telling you the whole truth about their own complicated conversation with God.

I've been asking myself (and God) the question, "Why does this happen?" And I've got a few thoughts.

First, we need to recognize that it's normal in any intimate relationship for people to experience periods of silence. They can feel awkward and make you mad. Why should our relationship with God be any different?

Usually there's a logical reason why it happened. I can become impatient in how quickly I expect the response to come. Or, it happens to me when I get lazy and stop thinking about the other person and what they may need from me. It's normal to begin to slouch into a pattern of just thinking about myself. And if we do talk, it may be me just talking about about my needs – never expecting a response.

Second, when I begin to lose the Lord's voice, it's often because I've stopped asking him questions. It's a habit I can easily fall out of.

Asking God questions shows that you trust him to answer – it demonstrates an expectation. Questions are the normal conversation-starter for two people.

I recommend that you come to your time with God with a Bible and a journal in hand. Write down the question you want to ask the Lord. And after you ask it, pause and actively listen. Then write down what you feel he may be saying. Check it against Scripture – God won't contradict what's written there.

And, if you're stuck, let me offer a little help. Here are some questions that you may want to try asking God. You can look in the Bible and find examples where people ask these types of questions and see how God responds. When that happens in your life, it can be an incredible thing.

Questions for God
  • What questions should I be asking you?
  • Is there anything you want to tell me today?
  • What do you want to tell me about my key relationships?
  • Is there anything I need to do to be at peace with anyone?
  • What are my blind spots?
  • Is there anything that's gotten between you and I?
  • Is there anything in Scripture that you want to show me?
  • How shall I invest the time I've today/this week/this year?

God bless you as you press into the most important relationship in your life. He loves you and is waiting for you. Whatever it costs you, it's worth it.

Comments (14)

  • Thanks Seth. This is a thoughtful post to a quixotic area. I’m thankful that in some seasons of my life there have been the chances to ask questions together and pray. You are gifted in sensing those moments when that appears to be the only gambit we have.


  • Going through your Listening Prayer book years ago truly revolutionized my faith. Over time though, it is easy to get in a rut and forget to ask God enough questions- I tend to just talk to him:) going to use these questions to jump start again. Appreciate the post!!

  • Great post – and brilliant questions at the end too. Silences from God is something that I am working through at the moment – and working up the courage to blog on it…!

  • Seth, I would like to thank you for your post. I have struggled with this since I was on a trip to Haiti with AIM last summer. When we did the listening I in prayer exercise I so wanted to hear from God, but came up with nothing. That hasn’t stopped me from continuing to ask. I going on a campout this week and will try to do what you have suggested here. Keep up the good work you all do!!!!

  • I appreciate your honesty, Calvin. Sometimes it’s one of two things:

    * We need to do the last thing God said in order to get further guidance.
    * We may be oblivious to a sin issue that is keeping us from hearing clearly.

    Failing this, I find it helpful to get people to pray for me and listen to what God may be saying on my behalf.

  • Thank you so much! I feel like despite the outcome, I WILL keep all of these things you’ve mentioned in mind, and I feel in my spirit, this is what I needed to hear. Just some healthy encouragement and suggestions from follower of Christ. I was just typing in google “I`ve stopped hearing from God”… Well, because I feel frustrated and I don’t know anymore what is He saying / what is He not saying, I open the Bible and I read one thing and think about my situation and come to conclusion, the next day I read Bible and come to completely different conclusion and I don’t understand A THING! I think to myself did I miss something, did I miss many things He have already told me and I just ignored? I feel like at some point, since I live with my mother and sister I’ve fallen back. But still some serious questions have been going in my head, in my life for longer than week and I HAVE to KNOW the answers about these situations, because those things can change my future, I guess. About moving back to city where I rent my flat (but God revealed that it’s a sin to not pay taxes, which I am not in that case), but anyways, I really was thanful to God about having a flat and at large city but silent place of it and the place is really cheap, so that I can afford it. The only thing is… taxes, but in our country there are MANY, MANY places where taxes are not paid, sadly, so I don’t know if it’s a big deal. Because otherwise I probably have to stay in my hometown and live with mother and sister, but they are not fully living with Christ and it sometimes drifts my mind off of Jesus and I don’t want that… So. It’s not “super good” any ways, but I have to choose. I have to move on. Have to do something. I can’t stay in “I don’t know” for longer, but I feel like God is just playing with my mind or being silent, I don’t know. So I guess I just gotta pray some more and pray deeper (with all of me, for 1000%), I hope He reveals His truth and so that I can follow it! Then if He is still silent I have to make some choice and keep praying for better change to come… It’s hard to understand sometimes… I’m at this moment in my life NOW.

  • I asked this question of my spiritual leader and after 18 hours when he still hadn’t answered my text, I remembered his suggestion from before. That if I have immediate spiritual questions, I can Google it. This was the first article. Immediately when I started reading, the Spirit filled me like an engine powering up. That is common for me, but lately I had not been hearing God’s Words. When I started asking these questions, He answered me! He spoke more words to me than any other time in my life (that I can remember hearing lol). So, so thankful for your suggestions! God bless you!

    • That’s great to hear, Jennifer! Here I wrote this 8 years ago and now you’re challenging me with my own words – words I’d forgotten that I’d written! I pray you continue to hear the Lord!

  • I love when the Lord speaks to me through your posts. I can hear him saying to me , Robin , these are questions I would love to answer for you if you would just ask. Thank you Seth !

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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