Teaching Teens to Hear God’s Voice

“God, are you there? What am I supposed to do?”

How many times in your life have you looked up at the ceiling and uttered those words, desperate for a sign that the Lord is listening, wishing He would answer out loud? The teen years are filled with so many challenges and decisions that feel overwhelming. As parents, we can encourage them to seek God’s will, but how do they figure out what that is without us giving them the answers?

When my oldest daughter was fifteen, we were talking to some friends, and she jokingly commented, “I don’t need the Holy Spirit; that’s what my mom is for!” Everyone cracked up, but I felt a check in my spirit and knew the Lord was trying to get my attention. It wasn’t my job to be the Holy Spirit for my daughter—it was my job to teach her how to hear His voice for herself.

That single comment had a drastic impact on how I parented from that point on. My mindset switched from helping my teens follow God by making good choices and avoiding bad ones to helping them learn how to hear God’s voice. Like the prophet Eli with young Samuel (1 Samuel 3), we have the opportunity to point out when the Lord is speaking to our teens and facilitate them recognizing His voice on their own.

Whether your teen is trying to discern what college to go to, what music to listen to, or what friends to hang out with, here are six steps you can walk your teen through that will help them learn to recognize God’s voice and obey Him.

Confess your feelings, fears, and preferences to the Lord.

Our teens need to know that God is interested in their desires and concerns! Building a strong relationship requires being vulnerable, and this is true with Jesus as well. He doesn’t just want to tell your teenager what to do; He invites them to open their heart to Him and be honest about how they feel.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT)

Surrender those feelings to the Lord and determine to seek/accept the Lord’s will above your own.

Once your teen expresses their desires to Jesus, they are then in a better position to listen to Him. Our hearts become softer when we feel heard, and this is true for our teens as well. By pouring out their feelings, they create space to accept what the Lord wants for them, trusting that His desires for them are better than anything they could choose for themselves.

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you and make His will clear.

When our teens get to a place of accepting whatever the Lord desires, they are ready to ask Him to speak. Don’t miss this—this simple step of asking the Lord to make His will evident truly makes all the difference! They are inviting the Holy Spirit to open their spiritual eyes and ears so they can see and hear Him clearly.

“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long, I put my hope in you.” (Psalm 25:4-5)

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)

Walk forward in obedience, one step at a time, asking the Lord to open and close doors.

Advise your teen to pay attention to what they read in His Word, to seek godly counsel, and to notice seemingly random circumstances. Are there any recurring themes or repeated messages? Is one direction increasingly filled with obstacles while another seems to be opening up? My youth minister once told me if I feel a nudge in my spirit (when hearing a Scripture, song, or specific advice), I should pay attention. If I hear it twice, I should acknowledge it might be God. And if I hear it three times, I should write it down and do what God says! At the same time, it’s important to remind your teen that the Lord cannot contradict Himself, so He will never tell them to do something contrary to His Word. If they think He is leading them in a direction that goes against Scripture, they have not heard Him correctly and should reconsider.

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you, a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”  (Isaiah 30:21)

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Follow His peace.

It is essential for our teens to learn that following Jesus will not always be easy; in fact, Jesus promised us that it would be difficult! More often than not, His way is the harder option. But thankfully, He promises us His peace in the process! Sometimes, His peace comes before we make a decision, leading us to obedience; however, often, especially as we mature in our faith, it comes after our obedience as confirmation that we are following Him. But our teens can be sure it will always come, even in the midst of chaos, when they are wholeheartedly seeking to obey Jesus.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then, you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Write down how you recognized the Lord’s voice.

Afterward, help your teen clarify how God spoke to them. Was it through Scripture? An unexplainable sense of unrest or overwhelming peace? Confirmed by godly mentors or through a series of circumstances? A general impression in their spirit? Celebrate with them how they heard God’s voice and encourage them to make note of His methods so they can more easily recognize it next time.

Finally, remind your teen that very few decisions are irreversible. They may not always hear Him correctly or make the right decision, and that’s okay! Our Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8, NIV). If their desire is truly to seek Him and obey, He will direct their steps, even in spite of their mistakes.

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