Listen While You Speak

How to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice more in your sermons

Pastor, have you been listening in on our family’s private conversations?” “You read my mail today!” “Your message spoke so directly to my situation that I was almost worried you would call out my name.”

There is probably no more rewarding aspect of our preaching ministries than when we receive this type of feedback. Peter said: “Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you” (1 Pet. 4:11, NLT).

Nothing is more exciting for us preachers than to sense that “God Himself” is speaking through us as we deliver our weekly sermons. Indeed, to sense the “unction” of the Holy Spirit on our words and then hear that people received them as the word of the Lord is one of the greatest delights a pastor can experience. It makes up for the constant relational stress and pressure that accompanies the ministry, it is sufficient reward for our hours of prayer and preparation, and it affirms that we are truly in our niche as spiritual leaders.

So how can we increase the frequency of this type of prophetic unction in our preaching? Is it realistic to expect this regularly? I believe it is and suggest following these guidelines for a more Spirit-led dimension to our preaching.

1. It isn’t all contingent on hearing His voice while we’re speaking. Although we obviously want to be sensitive to God’s promptings and nudges while we’re delivering our sermons, we need to be confident that He was in our preparation as much as He is in our delivery. If our prayer and study times are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led, we can be confident that our deliveries will be as well. The first step to listening while we speak is to listen while we prepare.

Also, remember that God knows your schedule and will typically honor it. If you have only Tuesday to prepare your message, He will speak to you on Tuesday. He’ll honor the time you set apart to study and prepare His word.

2. Prepare thoroughly enough that you’re not tied to your notes. We all hate that frozen feeling that accompanies a lack of preparation and renders us dependent on our outlines to complete the message. A thorough preparation, and thus the ability to talk freely without clinging to our notes, goes a long way in positioning us to hear from Him while we’re speaking.

3. Keep the well full. It’s obviously much easier to pull out additional, unplanned, unscripted insights and revelations if we have some additional insights and revelations. Certainly God can give us divine words of knowledge and wisdom, but more often than not, He speaks those divine words through the framework of our biblical knowledge and efficiency.

4. Be sensitive to even subtle leadings. I’m sure there have been days when you were running out of time, so you skipped point No. 3 on your outline in favor of point No. 4—and then heard from people that point No. 4 was their word of the Lord. Heed those leadings; the prompting of the Spirit may be as subtle as a desire to “camp out” a little longer on a particular point.

5. Beware of getting on an emotional roll. The leading of the Holy Spirit will usually be a steady, gentle nudge accompanied by an inner knowing that it is right. Our emotional, stream-of-consciousness, “let me climb on my soapbox” tangents usually get us in to trouble rather than proving to be genuinely inspired words from the Holy Spirit. If you have to say, “I think I’m just going to say this,” don’t. Listen—even while you’re speaking. God Himself wants to speak through you!


Chris Jackson is senior pastor of Grace Church of La Verne in Southern California. His latest book is Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church.

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