Worship Together with Shawn Thomas
Lifestyle • Music • Spirituality/Belief
How to Hear the Voice of God
February 28, 2024
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How do I hear from the Lord? I think that's a question every believer asks at some point in their faith walk. And it's an important one! At the end of the day, the answer simple: listen. But that's probably not very helpful. And simple doesn't always mean easy.

Even when people talk about hearing the voice of God they talk about a “still, small voice.” How do you hear that?! I have a hard time hearing people who are speaking at a regular volume (too much loud music!), how am I supposed to hear God when I can’t see the expression on His face or watch His body language to help? It can be tough, and I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but it’s worth practicing. 

Below are 3 experiments to help you hear the voice of God. They're simple practices, but will be very powerful if you commit to them. 

When you try these, do so as Jesus instructs in Matthew 6:6: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." He will be true to His word. 


Experiment #1 Ask the Lord a Question in the Morning

This first experiment is intriguing because it’s designed to keep you engaged in prayer all day, listening for God to say something. Try it one day. Pray in the morning and ask the Lord a question. Ask Him to speak to you throughout the day. Hang on a few minutes after you ask though – He may very well answer right then and you might need a new question. 

If you do this experiment, start with something simple. Not because God doesn’t answer the major, life altering question you really want to ask, but because you’re learning to hear His voice. While you’re learning, it will help to start small and learn to trust that it is indeed His voice you’re hearing. 

Here are a couple ideas of questions to ask:

“Lord, what is something you’re proud of me for?” 
“Who have you put in my path for me to minister to today?”
I’ve even heard of folks asking God which pair of their shoes He likes the best!

Really, when you’re starting out the question isn’t all that important - it’s learning to listen for the answer.


Experiment #2 Try Prayer Journaling

This is a very similar idea to Experiment #1, you’ll probably want to have a question in mind. 

Begin by journaling your prayers. Write as if you’re writing a letter to God. Then when you’re finished, ask your question. Here’s where it gets interesting: After you place the question mark at the end of the sentence, put a set of quotation marks. That’s an act of faith, telling God you trust that He will speak. THEN write everything down that comes up in your heart and mind. Don’t pick and choose. Don’t assume it’s not God. Just write. You’ll be surprised at what comes up. When you are – that very well might be the Lord. 


Experiment #3 Silence and Solitude

The third experiment is probably one you’re more familiar with. You’re probably familiar with the concept at least: Silence and Solitude.

Carve out time to sit in silence with no distractions. Ask God to meet you there. For me, I usually need to go somewhere to do this. There are too many distractions in my house: my guitar, my phone, my tv, laundry, dishes, etc. When possible, I like to get to a river or a lake. I think something about that setting makes me feel like I’m living Psalm 23. I have to leave my phone in the car too. The only thing I really ever take is a journal, pen, and bible. Sometimes not even that. There, in the stillness and silence I pray, for me it’s usually out loud for a while. Then I wait and I hope to hear from the Lord. 

When I can’t get away, I often take lap or two around my neighborhood. I get weird looks sometimes because a neighbor will walk out of their house while I’m praying out loud, but besides that it works out pretty well. I’ve learned the secret to silence and solitude though, is silence. Sometimes I think we don’t hear God because we don’t shut up long enough to. 


I understand that different denominations and traditions have different views on hearing from God. I also understand it’s a concept way too big to cover in a blog post. That’s why I’m just sharing a few ideas. No matter your view, I encourage you to try. It will never hurt to try to understand how our Heavenly Father communicates with His children. I called the three ideas above “experiments” because God speaks to different people in different ways. For me, it’s typically in the silence and in studying His Word (by the way, take everything you think you hear back to scripture!), but I know for many others it’s journaling. For others it’s questions. Don’t over think it. I believe God will honor your desire to hear from Him. 

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Don't Overlook this Aspect of Leadership

You know one of the most overlooked concepts in leadership? Trust. People want to trust who they’re following. They won’t follow long if they don’t. You might think that’s a given; And it might be, but I don’t think it should be. 
Most of us think of trust very little if we do at all. Or we assume we have it because of the position we hold. But we all know that holding a position doesn’t mean you hold people’s trust. That takes work. As leaders, we ought to keep that in mind. 
Although it does take work, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Trust comes from relationship. It comes from getting to know people, and maybe more importantly, letting them get to know you. 
Have you ever wondered why people love your pastor so much and follow him so easily? It might be because he’s a great leader, but it’s more likely that people feel like they can relate to him. 
When he preaches, he is not only getting in front of everyone so they see his face and using a microphone so they hear his voice – you do both of those things every week too – he’s also sharing about his life. He uses sermon illustrations about his kids and talks about his wife. You get a glimpse into his life. That builds relationship. It builds trust. 
As worship leaders, we need to learn to do the same thing. Knowing that you wear skinny jeans and like to sing isn’t enough. Give people a glimpse of your heart as their leader.
Here’s an easy way to start: Choose a song that means something to you personally to lead in worship next week. Before you lead it, tell your church why it means so much to you. It’s that simple. If you sing originals at your church, even better! Talk about the story behind the song – why you wrote it.
You can also do this by intentionally reaching out to people in your church. Ask people to coffee, join a small group or hang out in the lobby. Let people know you want to know them. Remember, you’re the leader. It’s on you to take the first step.
You might not see results from this right away, but over time you’ll begin to see people lean in when you speak. You’ll begin to see people try new things when you instruct it. Folks will begin to understand you’re more than a guy with a guitar. You’re a leader. You’re a pastor. You’re a shepherd. And they can trust you because they know you. 

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February 06, 2024
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A Tool for Personal Prayer and Worship

I recently read of a prayer tool called Examen. Have you heard of it? The concept is one that was familiar to me, but I never knew it had a name or that people have been praying this way for hundreds of years! I love this way of praying because it leads you to worship. It’s all about reflection. It’s all about remembering. And much of worship begins with remembering. 

Here’s a basic overview of Examen

Often prayed at night, Examen is, as you might imagine, an examination of yourself. It’s a way of replaying your day with the Lord: the day’s events, interactions with others, conversations with your spouse, attitudes you had, actions you took, everything you can think of. Intentionally praying through every detail of your day can help you to see where the Lord showed up, where you missed His voice, and what you need to praise Him for. 

If that sounds complicated, don’t worry. It’s not. In his book, How to Pray, Pete Grieg lays out a four-part roadmap to follow: Replay, Rejoice, Repent, Reboot.

Begin by replaying the day’s events in your head. Tell the Lord about your day. Ask Him to highlight things for you. What stands out? What events took place? What made you happy or sad or anxious or angry? Personally, I have to do this out loud or I’ll get lost in thought somewhere!

Spend time praising God for His goodness. Where are places He clearly showed up in your day? Were there random acts of kindness? Are you healthy? Did He answer a prayer you prayed weeks ago? Do you have a roof over your head? Praise God for the obvious and not-so-obvious things. Search for things to rejoice for!

Let the kindness of the Lord lead you to repentance. Where did you misrepresent Christ? Where did you see a need and ignore it? Where did you just blatantly sin? If I’m honest, I skip the repentance piece of prayer more often than I should. It’s painful. But sin separates us from God. Repentance is a step in reuniting us to Him!

Make a decision to live for Christ more fully tomorrow. Ask for a greater sensitivity to His Spirit! Ask to see His movement and hear His voice more clearly tomorrow.  

That’s it. Reply, rejoice, repent, reboot. I said earlier that much of worship begins with remembering: remembering who God is, remembering His faithfulness, remembering the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But worship requires something else, so I like to add a fifth step to Examen: RESPOND. We remember and then we respond. After seeing where God has shown up, respond in worship! Declare the goodness of God, your hope in Him, your thankfulness for His presence, etc. 

There are 550 references to remembering in scripture. Examen helps us to be intentional. It’s tool for prayer, but it’s also a tool for worship. A tool that helps us to remember the love, the goodness, the faithfulness, the sacrifice of God every single day! Try it this week!

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February 01, 2024
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Worship Leader - When was the last time you opened your bible?

“Somebody told me something the other day. I don’t know if it’s in the Bible, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was…” That’s a real statement I heard recently from a real pastor during a real sermon. Then he went on to state what he wasn’t sure was scripture or not. That’s crazy to me. 

Similarly, I knew a worship leader several years ago who after almost two years of leading together, I never once heard use scripture. She would say things that were based in scripture, or things that were true, but never things the bible actually said. That’s crazy to me too.

Of course, the first example is less common. Most pastors I know cite their sources, but the second example I find to be very common among worship leaders – they don’t always know the bible. Today, I want to challenge you to be different. 

I fear our churches are becoming more and more bible illiterate because our pastors and leaders are becoming more and more bible illiterate. As a worship leader it’s not only important that you spend time in worship, it’s also important that you spend time in the Word. We can’t lead our churches effectively if we don’t. We can’t lead worship effectively if we don’t. 

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t expect everyone to have a doctorate in biblical languages or anything like that. I certainly don’t. But we are not leading to the best of our ability if we are not using the tools God has given us to lead with - especially the Bible. 

Very practically, there are two areas the Word can help us as worship leaders: worship and leadership. (I bet you didn’t see those coming…)


In Worship

Scripture tells us the story of God and man - the history of God if you will. It opens our eyes to see the truly unfailing love that we sing and speak about so frequently. It shows us that God is unchanging. It gives us glimpses into His character, His goodness, His promises and more. It helps us to look beyond ourselves and even our lifetime to see why God is the only one worthy of our worship. 

Going to scripture allows us to not only worship God for what He’s doing in our generation, but also for what He did in the generations before us and what He’ll do in the generations beyond us. By going to scripture, we can continue the praise of the Israelites being set free (Moses’ Song in Exodus 15) and we can join with the angels singing holy, holy, holy through eternity (Revelation 4). 

Scripture opens our eyes to who God is and how He engages with His people, it gives us reasons to worship and it expands our knowledge of God. If we are missing out on the Word, we miss out on furthering our knowledge of God and that limits our worship. We can only worship Him to the extent that we know Him.


In Leadership

Our bibles contain thousands of years of insight, of wisdom. I don’t know about you, but as a leader wisdom is what I pray for most. 

Proverbs 2:1-6 says, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding – indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

King Solomon, the writer of the proverbs and known as the wisest man to have ever lived, thought it incredibly important that his sons seek wisdom.  So important in fact that he wrote them a book full of practical wisdom to learn from. We have access to the same book every day. If the wisest man to have ever lived thought it was worth writing, I think it’s worth reading.

Beyond the proverbs we find the stories of the leaders of God’s people. We find the teachings of Jesus. We find the ministry of Paul. All of which will make us better leaders. As Solomon said in verse 6, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Where better to get His wisdom than from His Word?

Wise leaders are leaders worth following. Wise leaders speak truth. Truth comes from knowing the Word of God. 

As worship leaders, we have a responsibility to our churches to lead with wisdom and understanding. We have a responsibility to know who the God is that we are leading our people to worship. We can’t do either of those things without spending time in scripture.

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