Here are four ways God can speak to His people.
Through the Bible
The most obvious way God speaks to us is through His holy Word, the Bible. When people ask about finding the will of God for their lives, I point them to the Scriptures. If we want to know the mind of God so we can know the will of God, we can read the Word of God because God speaks to us through His written Word. Even though it seems obvious, we can’t overlook the fact that the Word of God is the very breath of God and Him speaking to us.
Through Other People
There are times when in my dullness of hearing or understanding, someone will come up to me and say something that I hadn’t even considered. I want to remain humble and listen to others because there are times when people are moved by God’s Spirit to tell me something. And when it aligns with Scripture, I had better listen. I am mentoring a young man, but I also have a mentor, a retired senior pastor, who tells me the truth. Even if it wounds me, I know that “faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
Through Our Hearts
When God whispers something to me, deep within the recesses of my heart, and I am convicted by it, I am often moved to act. God does speak to us through His written Word and through others. He also He speaks to us in our hearts. God can discern every thought, intent, and motive of our hearts, and nothing is hidden from Him (Hebrews 4:13). When God speaks to my heart and it is not contrary to Scripture, then I know it must be from God.
God does hear and answer our prayers, so we know God does speak through answered prayer, whether it be “no, not yet” or “I have something better for you.” God knows what we need before we even ask, but that doesn’t mean we don’t ask. God can use people, circumstances, His Spirit, and His Word (maybe all four!) to speak to us. But prayer is us speaking to God, which allows Him to speak to us in various ways, ways that must match what is written in Scripture.
I have concerns when people say, “God spoke to me and told me you’re supposed to do this or that.” My question is why would God not choose to speak to me first and instead use someone else to do it for me? Why would God use a third party to reach me? Isn’t God capable of communicating to me by His Spirit and in His Word? That’s why I am very suspicious of someone telling me I should do this when I haven’t even heard it from God? It’s like someone showing up at your door and giving you a message from someone you already know. I would ask why they didn’t call me themselves.