By Mark Virkler
How God’s voice (Rhema) Is Sensed
Probably no question bothers Western Christians more
than: “How do I discern God’s voice within my heart?” We are
now going to try to answer that.
I sought in vain for years to hear God’s voice within my
heart, but the only thing I found was many different thoughts. I
could not hear any voice. This is precisely where many
Christians stand frustrated. How can I possibly say “God said”
when I am not able to discern His inner voice clearly? How can
I move in word of wisdom, word of knowledge, prophecy, or
interpretation of tongues if I cannot recognize God’s voice?
How can I get to know Someone who I cannot see, hear, or
touch? Then the Lord finally began bringing the right teachers,
revelation, and understanding into my life and allowed me to
“see” what I had been missing.
Rhema, or the voice of God, is Spirit-to-spirit communication
— where the Holy Spirit, in union with your spirit, speaks directly
Thoughts from my mind are analytical.
Thoughts from my heart are spontaneous.
So we can say that Key number 1 for hearing God’s voice is
recognizing that “God’s voice is sensed as spontaneous
thoughts which light upon your mind.”
Biblical Support for the Concept That
Spontaneous Thoughts Are the Voice of the Spirit World
- All thoughts are not our thoughts.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but
mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting
down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself
against the k nowledge of God, bringing every thought
into captivity to the obedience of Christ….” (2 Cor. 10:4-
Why would we have to bring our thoughts into captivity?
Is it not because some of them originate in satan or an evil
spirit? If so, where may we assume that our other thoughts
come from? The Holy Spirit, naturally. We must come to terms
with the truth that many of the thoughts in our minds are not
our thoughts. What an incredible idea! I always believed that
the thoughts in my mind were my thoughts. But in actuality,
the Bible makes it clear that many of them are not. They are
coming from the spirit world. You see, I am one whom another
fills. I am a vessel, a branch grafted into a vine. I do not stand
alone but someone else flows through me. I keep forgetting
that and think that this is me living, when God has made it very
clear that I do not live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).
Therefore I accept the fact that spontaneous thoughts,
ones I did not think up, do not come from my mind. They come
either from my heart, the Holy Spirit within my heart, or an evil
spirit trying to impress his ideas upon me.
Now let us look at some more biblical support for the
concept that spontaneous thoughts are the voice of the spirit
- Naba — “bubbling up”
Naba, the Hebrew word meaning “to prophesy,” literally
means to “bubble up.” Therefore when the prophet would tune
to the prophetic flow, he would tune to that which was
bubbling up within him. In other words, he would tune to the
spontaneous flow which he recognized as the voice of God
- Paga — the chance encounter
The Hebrew word for intercession is paga, which literally
means “to strike or light upon by chance” or “an accidental
Can you remember a time when you suddenly had
the impression that you should pray for someone? You had not
been thinking about them; the thought just “came out of
nowhere.” That was paga. You were experiencing rhema,
God’s voice as a “chance idea” that intersects our minds, not
flowing from the normal, meditative process, but simply
appearing in our hearts. It seems to us it is just a chance idea
because we didn’t think it up. It is an idea from God lighting
upon our hearts and being registered in our minds as a
spontaneous idea. From God’s perspective, it is divinely sent,
and not chance at all.
- The river of the Holy Spirit within the believer’s heart
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus
stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him
come to Me and drink . He who believes in Me, as the
Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of
living water.’ But this He spok e concerning the Spirit,
whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy
Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet
glorified.” (John 7:37-39, NKJV)
Now Jesus is glorified, and the Holy Spirit has been given.
Jesus said it would be like a river within us. Therefore, when we
tune to the bubbling flow within us, we are tuning to the Holy
Spirit within us. This is more than simply theology. This is an
actual experience. There is a river within us, and we can tune
to it. This bubbling effortless flow is the Holy Spirit. It is so
simple that even a child can do it. And that helps prove it is
real, because Jesus said we needed to become like children to
enter the Kingdom. If we make Christianity too difficult for a
child, we most likely have it wrong. So when I tune to flow, I am
tuning to the Holy Spirit within me.
- We are a temple of the Holy Spirit.
“Or do you not k now that your body is the temple of
the Holy Spirit [who is] in you, whom you have from
God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19 NKJV)
The Holy Spirit lives within us. We are not alone on the
inside. And where the Holy Spirit is, there will be evidence of
- The Christian’s spirit is fused to the Holy Spirit.
“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit [with
him].” (1 Cor. 6:17 NKJV)
“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord….” (Prov.
We are pure gold at the core of our being because we are
joined to Almighty God by a miracle which He performed.
When we touch our hearts, we also touch Him.
- We are a branch grafted into a vine.
“I am the vine, you [are] the branches. He who
abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without
Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NKJV)
There is a flow of sap through living branches on a daily
basis. The branch does not “crank it up.” It just happens
naturally. In the same way, there is a flow of spontaneity
through each of us all the time. We don’t crank God up; we just
choose to honor the flow that is already there.
Say out loud as a confession: “I choose to honor the flow
within me because it is the river of God in me by the working of
the Holy Spirit.”
Other Support for the Concept That
Spontaneous Thoughts Are the Voice of the Spirit World
- The experience of creative flashes
I am sure we have all struggled with a difficult situation
and then experienced in an instantaneous flash a creative
solution to the problem. Where did that flash come from? Was
it my own greatness finally revealing itself? Or was it the
creativity of the Creator Who lives within me? I believe that it
was a rhema from Almighty God springing forth within my
heart. I no longer take any credit for these creative insights but
give it to God, the One Who lives within.
- The experience of destructive flashes
Where do destructive and evil thoughts erupt from, when
I am not thinking them up but they flash across my mind with a
life of their own? I may be in prayer, and some perverted
thought abruptly comes into my mind. I am fully convinced
that they come from the destroyer, who is bombarding me with
his evil thoughts. Therefore I do not accept guilt for evil
thoughts that suddenly appear in my mind. I give proper blame
to whom blame is due — satan.
- Testimonies of “life after death” encounters
In books on “life after death” encounters, we find a
confirming witness of what Spirit-to-spirit communication is.
They tell of seeing Jesus or an angel speak. Although they do
not hear anything audibly, they instantly know within what has
been said. They receive in their spirits the spontaneous,
effortless flow of ideas that is Spirit-to-spirit communication (or
- The example from nature
God often models spiritual truth in the physical world,
which is why the whole earth reflects His glory. It is interesting
to note that the Jordan River, which flows through the land of
Israel, bubbles up from the depths of the earth and simply
begins as a full-fledged river. As the Holy Spirit bubbles up
from our innermost being and simply flows, the Jordan River
emerges from the bowels of the earth and flows as a river
throughout the land.
Qualities That Characterize God’s Thoughts
Interjected Into Your Heart
They will be spontaneous, not cognitive or
analytical, which means we move from living out
of the use of our reason to living intuitively or
spontaneously (i.e., living more like children —
Matt. 18:3). This, of course, is countercultural to
the Western worldview, so we are choosing to
step out of our comfort zone and live from a
biblical worldview. Jesus lived out of an inner flow
of thoughts and pictures from His Father, doing
nothing of His own initiative (John 5:19-20,30). We
can do the same.
God’s thoughts are expressed through our
personalities and style of speech. We notice that
the Gospel of John reflects John’s personality and
the Gospel of Mark reveals Mark’s individuality
and manner. So the divine flow within us does not
bypass or eradicate our personalities or style of
speech. God is united with us (1 Cor. 6:17), flowing
out through us. This is the wonder of Christianity
— that God has joined Himself to man, and is
expressing Himself through him. God’s glory and
splendor is being highlighted as it flows through
your unique personality. So when you see your
personality and vocabulary coming out in your
journaling, do not reject it as being of self, but say,
“The wonder of Christianity — Almighty God
joined to me!”
These thoughts come easily as God speaking
in the first person.
They are often light and gentle, and easily cut
off by any exertion of self (our own thoughts, will,
etc.), so we are careful to choose to honor the river
over and above our own self effort.
They will have an unusual content to them, in
that they will be wiser, more healing, more loving,
and more motive-oriented than your thoughts.
They will cause a special reaction within you,
such as a sense of excitement, conviction, faith,
life, awe, or peace, assuming you have taken a step
of faith and believe that what you are hearing is
from the God Who flows within.
When embraced, they carry with them a
fullness of strength to perform them, as well as a
joy in doing so.
Your spiritual senses are trained as time goes
on, and you will more easily and frequently
experience God speaking in this way. So don’t quit
if it is a bit awkward the first couple of times. It
becomes easier quickly.
Remember: God is speaking to you all the time,
and you are receiving His interjected thoughts.
Until you begin distinguishing them from your
own, you are simply grouping them all together
and assuming they are yours. In learning to
distinguish His voice, you are learning how to
separate the spontaneous thoughts that are
coming from Him from the analytical thoughts that
are coming from your own mind.
Testing Whether Flowing Thoughts Are From God
There are many ways of testing whether the spontaneous
flow is your heart, the Holy Spirit Who is joined to your heart,
or an evil spirit who is issuing an attack against you. An entire
chapter will explore these later. However, let me offer a couple
of easy tests right now that I currently use.
If you posture your heart properly, the flow
within will certainly be the Holy Spirit!
John 7:37-39 tells us that we can sense a flow within us
which is the Holy Spirit. It also lays out the prerequisites for
positioning our hearts properly to ensure that this flow is
coming from God and not self or a demon. The posture is
The promised result is that we connect with the Holy
Spirit! “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living
water, but this He spoke of the Spirit.”
Notice the Lord does not say that the Holy Spirit will flow:
If you are fasting.
If you have prayed much.
If you have prayed and interceded greatly.
If you have not sinned in a given period of time.
If you are a longtime believer.
If you have read your Bible regularly, or at length.
If you are a deacon or an elder in the church.
If you are in a religious atmosphere, eg, in a church meeting.
If you have done works for the Lord.
When I want to hear what God is saying to me, I position
my heart properly before my King by saying, “God, I am one
of Your ‘anyone’s.’ Lord, I am thirsty for Your voice, vision, and
anointing. I fix my heart upon You. [I do this by using vision
and seeing Him present with me — which the Bible clearly says
is truth. You could also pray in tongues or listen to anointed
music.] I tune away from my own reasoning, and I tune to Your
voice, to flowing thoughts and pictures within me. I drink in
Your words. Father, I believe the flow within me is the river of
God, because You have declared it to be so. I banish all doubt.
I believe that what the Bible teaches is true. Thank You, God,
for the river of Your Holy Spirit within.”
(As a side note: All the gifts of the Holy Spirit [1 Cor. 12:7-11]
are received through exactly the same heart posture and in the same manner.
When I need: words of wisdom or words of knowledge, I tune to flowing ideas;
for a prophecy, I tune to flowing words; for healing power or a miracle, to divine energy/light which flows out
through me; for discerning of spirits, to flowing pictures, ideas, or emotions;
for faith, to a deep flowing emotion/confidence; for tongues, to flowing syllables;
and for the interpretation of tongues, to flowing thoughts, emotions, and pictures.)
As I journaled about releasing God’s healing anointing to
one who was very sick, the Lord said: “Mark, this day show
love. That is the heart of My anointing — My love streaming
forth, unhindered, and unearned. That is what is at the core of
My being and that is what is to be at the core of your being,
especially this day. It is not a day to judge. It is a day to love,
to release My anointing through your love for My son and My
daughter and to build them up in the Holy Spirit. My anointing
is released through My love. So love unconditionally and you
will see My anointing flow. It is about releasing My love. My
anointing will never be separated from My love, saith the Lord
of Hosts. So let love always be in the center of your heart and
in the center of your actions.”
Testing flowing thoughts against the Bible
Of course, you always test the spontaneous flow against
the Bible, and you submit your journaling to your spiritual
advisor(s) to see if they can confirm that it is from God.
Testing flowing thoughts by knowing where your eyes are fixed
It is a true principle that “the intuitive flow comes out of
the vision I hold before my eyes.” Therefore I ask myself if I
had my eyes fixed on Jesus while I was tuned to spontaneity. If
so, I find that, for me, the spontaneous flow is from God 95%
or more of the time. We must acknowledge that we will
always be vulnerable to mistakes. And that is okay. We can
celebrate our mistakes, laugh at them, and learn from them
Generally when a person makes a mistake in his
discernment of God’s voice through journaling, I have learned
to ask this one question: “Where were your eyes fixed when
you wrote that section in your journal?” The correct answer, of
course, is, “Upon Jesus.” However, in nearly every case of
error, the person will admit that they had dropped Jesus out of
the picture, and they were staring at something else and then
tuned to flow.
In some cases, they have been staring at the tension in a
relationship, perhaps even with a spouse, and then had the
flow say to them that this person was going to die. One person
was focusing in his mind’s eye on Pharisees in the church, and
then tuned to flow. His journaling became very vicious and
destructive. You can always test your own journaling by going
back over it and asking, “Where were my eyes fixed when I
wrote this section?” If they were not on Jesus, then that
section is suspect.
Sorting Out Three Categories of Thoughts in Our Minds
Spontaneous Positive Thoughts that line up
with the names/character of the Holy Spirit,
including Edifier, Comforter, Teacher, Creator,
Healer and Giver of Life, we will assume come from
the Holy Spirit.
Spontaneous Negative Thoughts we assume
come from demons, and thus will line up with the
names/character of satan, which include Accuser,
Adversary, Liar, Destroyer, Condemner, Thief, and
Analytical Thoughts come from self, from our
own reasoning process, and are sensed as
cognitive, connected thoughts. They are limited
by our own knowledge, wisdom, understanding,
and abilities. For example, you may “think” one
plus one equals two. In this case, the thought
would be correct (“true”) if you were only talking
about decimal or base 10 math. However, in binary
math (the language of computers and engineering),
it would not be true. (In base two, one plus one
equals 10.) So “reasoned truth” is only little
glimpses of partial truths.
It had never crossed my mind to develop a biblical
understanding of the three sources of thoughts within my
head. I had just assumed they were all my thoughts since it
was my head! This simple step has helped me greatly in my life
and my Christian walk, for now that I have identified the
different types of thoughts, I have made the choice to only
accept those from Category One. (Category Two thoughts are
rejected as soon as I am aware of them. Category Three
Analytical Thoughts are replaced with “Spirit-led reasoning.”
which we will discuss later. )
ACTIVATION: (Personal Application)
Write down a question in your journal that you would like
to ask the Lord. It can be any question that you choose, as
long as it is not one of the most traumatic questions of your
life. Those issues cause you to become tense; they tend to
inhibit you from maintaining the biblical poise of stillness that
is commanded as we approach God (Ps. 46:10), especially when
you are just learning the skills of journaling. Here are some
ideas of questions I recommend you begin with:
Lord, do You love me?
Lord, what do You want to say to me?
Lord, what do You want to say to me about the truths
in this chapter?
Take a moment, choose a question, and write it down.
After you have written the question, ask Jesus to open
the eyes and ears of your heart so that you can receive what
He wants to share with you. Then picture Jesus in a
comfortable setting. He may be sitting next to you, or walking
along the Sea of Galilee with you. Become a child. Take His
hand. Look into His face. See His joy and expectancy and
excitement over sharing this time with you. (If you can’t see
His face at this time, don’t worry about it. His face will become
clearer the more you use vision.) This is what He longs for
more than anything else. See His long robes. See the sandals
on His feet. Relax and put a smile on your face. Enjoy being
alone with Him. Then as you gaze upon Him, ask Him the
question that you have written down.
Tune to spontaneity, fix your gaze upon Him and write
what begins to flow within you. Don’t test it now. Just write in
simple childlike faith. You can test it later. If it is not too
private, share it with a spiritual advisor for confirmation. It is
important especially during your first weeks of journaling that
you share much of what you receive with your advisor so you
are established in faith that you are on the right track and truly
hearing His voice. During this learning time, ask simpler and
more general questions, rather than questions about decision-
making or predictions of what is going to happen or extremely
sensitive issues. One good introductory line for your
journaling is to say, “Good morning, Lord, I love You! I give
You this day. What would You like to say to me?”
Enjoy an example of the journaling of one of my students:
“Lord, what would You like to say to me?”
“You are too hard on yourself. I don’t expect you to be
perfect. I called you out so that I could live in you and so that
we could both experience what the combination of the two of
us looks like when we are expressing our personalities
through this one body. When we are separate I am like
chocolate and you are like peanut butter. Blend us together
and the result is a tasty treat. Except that there is only one
like us in the whole world. Together we are a RARE tasty
(Taken from Mark Virkler’s book: How to Hear God’s Voice)