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

to you.


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

  1. 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



  1. 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

within him.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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

His Presence.


  1. 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.


  1. 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


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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


  1. 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

clearly stated:

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

(Eph. 5:20).


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)