Vineyard Christians do. And T.M. Luhrmann, in her new book When God Talks Back, studies how Vineyard Christians know the voice of God
What are the distinguishing features of hearing God? What are the tests for hearing God? How do you know it is “God” and not just your brain talking to itself?
These are the sorts of questions that most interest Luhrmann. As an anthropologist, she explains this hearing-God phenomenon as a “new theory of mind” in which some thoughts are perceived as coming from outside the mind. (Technically, “thoughts” become “perceptions” for those who say they hear from God.)
It all leads to a problem: learning not only to hear things but also to interpret them in such a way that one can know some thoughts are God speaking.
She sketches how this develops: it begins with a yearning, a desire for “more” and this leads to the mental volleyball of going back and forth from “this is goofy” to “this is God.” Theologically, hearing from God requires that a person believe that God speaks and that God speaks to you personally if you will but pay attention and listen, and then develop the skill of knowing when it is God – often leading to a person claiming he or she has learned a divine pattern of communication.
The breakthrough for Vineyard folks often occurs when a coincidental experience is so powerfully “not me” or “from outside” that they know it had to be God, and this leads to a great sensitivity. Journaling one’s prayers is common for those who hear God.
How do such folks recognize God?
1. In prayer.
2. Through circumstances.
3. Through Scripture: reading the Bible becomes a conversation.
4. Through dreams.
But how do you know it is God? She has detected four essential “tests” for detecting a voice from God:
1. Whether what you heard was the kind of thing you would say. If so, it is not from God or may not be from God; it is you
2. Whether what you heard is the kind of thing God would say, and here she is speaking of the importance of the Scripture test.
3. Whether what you heard is confirmed through circumstances or through the witness of other Christians who pray.
4. A feeling of peace that confirms what one has heard.
Of course, there are some less general and more private experiences or tests: like goosebumps, feeling warm, images, etc, that many describe when they experience God speaking to them.
It all takes persistence and patience, and it is often accompanied by a lack of absolute certainty.