How to Hear God: A Lesson from George Washington Carver and the Peanut

The Lord always provides me with life changing ideas. Not that I am special. The Lord provides everyone with life changing ideas. These ideas are quite literally a treasure from the Almighty. It is up to each of us however, to choose and dig for the treasure. ~ George Washington Carver


George Washington Carver is credited with saving the agricultural economy of the rural South. From his work at Tuskegee, Carver developed approximately 300 products made from peanuts; these included: flour, paste, insulation, paper, wall board, wood stains, soap, shaving cream and skin lotion. Carver is also credited with the innovation of crop rotation.

Cotton was the primary crop in the South in the early 1900s but cotton depleted the soil. Carver knew that peanuts replenished soil and tried to convince his constituents to plant a harvest of peanuts in between cotton yields so the cotton harvest would be more bountiful. The only problem, peanuts were not a profitable crop, which led George Washington Carver to the woods. Why the woods?

All my life, I have risen regularly at four in the morning to go into the woods and talk with God. That’s where He reveals His secrets to me. When everybody else is asleep, I hear God best and learn my plan… ~ George Washington Carver

One of those mornings, Carver asked God to show him why he made the peanut. He knew it was the solution for soil health but he needed to know why it was valuable so his crop rotation idea could be implemented.

He told me, ‘separate the peanut into water, fats, oils, gums, resins, sugars, starches, and amino acids. Then recombine these under My three laws of compatibility, temperature, and pressure. Then, the Lord said, ‘then you will know why I made the peanut! ~ George Washington Carver

“Within ten days George Washington Carver had “discovered” more than 300 uses for the peanut. One trip to that special place in the woods to talk with God not only enhanced race relations at the time but also fundamentally changed the agricultural industry as we know it today. All because he listened to and felt the spirit of God in his life.” (Andy Andrews)

God’s response made sense to Carver because this was his field, God met him where he was. God expanded his understanding of an area Carver was already familiar with. Like Moses who used the staff that was already in his hands and like the widow who approached Elisha, the oil she already had was multiplied, God expanded something Carver was already involved with.

This is a lesson for us, we often wait for God to do a “new thing” in our lives when he’s actually seeking to increase and expand that which he’s already placed in us.

Attitude Rather Than Lip-Service

I personally identify with Carver’s thoughts on hearing God, prayer and living a life of acting on inspiration. This series of quotes give us more insight into the man, his success and how he puts God’s influence into action.

"God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless." ~ George Washington Carver

Carver takes personal responsibility to use his God-given talents and be productive.

“No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” ~ George Washington Carver

Carver understands himself and how he hears God. He understands that God’s unseen world is understood by looking at the things which are seen (Romans 1:20). He leans on God for understanding.

"My prayers seem to be more of an attitude than anything else. I indulge in very little lip service, but ask the Great Creator silently, daily, and often many times a day, to permit me to speak to Him through the three great Kingdoms of the world which He has created - the animal, mineral, and vegetable Kingdoms - to understand their relations to each other, and our relations to them and to the Great God who made all of us. I ask Him daily and often momently to give me wisdom, understanding, and bodily strength to do His will; hence I am asking and receiving all the time." ~ George Washington Carver

He’s creative with his relationship with God, he’s developed his own way of communing with God.

"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God." ~ George Washington Carver

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only TUNE IN. ~ George Washington Carver

Carver gives God the credit for his ideas, even though he recognizes his own responsibility to hear and act.

"As I worked on projects which fulfilled a real human need forces were working through me which amazed me. I would often go to sleep with an apparently insoluble problem. When I woke the answer was there. Why, then, should we who believe in Christ be so surprised at what God can do with a willing man in a laboratory? Some things must be baffling to the critic who has never been born again." ~ George Washington Carver

Carver recognizes that God lives within him, he doesn’t need to seek outwardly to understand or hear God, he communes with God in his heart.

"Most people search high and wide for the key to success. If they only knew, the key to their dreams lies within." ~ George Washington Carver

Carver is adept at what I consider to be the most important factor in the equation of hearing God, acting on God’s inspiration. God is always speaking, if we would simply act on his inspiration we would develop a track record with ourselves, a track record of hearing God and taking action on his influence. God will always lead us into life and truth, if we’ll simply act on his subtle nudges, we’ll develop our hearts to the point where we’ll follow him in the big things as well.

"Where there is no vision, there is no hope." ~ George Washington Carver

"Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses." ~ George Washington Carver

"Start where you are, with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied." ~ George Washington Carver

"Do what you can, with what you have and do it now!" ~ George Washington Carver


Like Moses, God will use what’s in your hands. Like the widow, God will invite you to put out jars to contain his blessing for you. But you must act, you must step into the path he’s laying out for you, you must move toward the direction he leads.

The heart of man deviseth his way, And Jehovah establisheth his step.
— Proverbs 16:9

You’ve probably been taught that man comes up with plans but God has his own plans and does what he wants. God does have his own will that we miss at times but that is not what this passage is saying. This passage means that God will show you how to accomplish the plans you have in your heart.

Do The Hard Things In Your Imagination

You have a godly desire, a business idea, a dream, something burning within you to accomplish…God wants to show you how to succeed in that desire. When you think about it, don’t shrink back because you don’t know what to do or you don’t feel qualified, wrestle with it until you get wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God and it will be given to him
— James 1:5

God WILL speak to you, he will sow into you the things you need to step forward in your desires. He’s placed desires within you and he’s seeking to give you wisdom in those areas so you will take responsibility and act. It’s not up to you to accomplish the idea on your own, God will help you, but you must push through the mental blocks and personal issues as you pursue God.

You must be willing to take steps based on his wisdom and inspiration. You can either sit back and navigate life the best you can, or you can stand on a promise from God, receive wisdom from him and act. It’s your choice!!

Try This

  • Take a few minutes to think of something that stood out to you from this sermon or article. Make it just one thing.

  • Now imagine an area of your life you’d like to see move forward, no matter what it is.

  • Now wait on wisdom to show you how to take a step in that area. The one thing that you remember or that excited you from this article/sermon can serve as the action to take.

  • Involve your imagination and see a simple, measurable step you can take in that area of life you identified.

  • See yourself taking that step. Do you see it?

Now do that everyday for the rest of your life, make it a habit of thinking through the hard things with the Word of God in mind, and allow inspiration and wisdom to rise up. AND ACT!!!

Clint Byars

Believer, Husband, Father