I King 9:11-13: Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper [emphasis is mine]. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
To hear God we must slow down, be present, be aware. The NIV translation quoted above says God was not present in the dramatic and obvious but rather in “a gentle whisper.” The NRSV translates these words as “a sound of sheer silence.” Developing this kinds of spiritual awareness takes humility and practice over time. We must spend time with the Lord and practice being in his presence, learning to hear him with spiritual ears and tender hearts. So part of our spiritual practices must involve practice just being with God, communing with his Spirit, listening with the ears of the heart. Only in this way can we learn to hear him in gentle whispers and even in the sound of sheer silence.