Stanford anthropologist TM Luhrmann, whose latest book is When God Talks Back, has been studying evangelicals and their approach to prayer. Luhrmann recently described in an article for The Daily Beast how that field work experience in at least one sense signified a conversion: Luhrmann did not walk a way having become an evangelical- or a Christian, for that matter; but with a newfound understanding- maybe even appreciation for- what evangelicals really mean when they say God “talks” to them in the stuff of life.
And, come to think of it, it must seem awfully odd for non-religious persons to hear expressions like “God told me to go talk to that stranger” or “God called me to work in Haiti.” I suspect that we evangelicals, many of us, know at least sort of what we mean when we say such things. Some inner conviction by the Holy Spirit, maybe. Or, an unusual stirring of the heart strings. Maybe just a recurring thought in the vein of “whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely” (Philippians 4:8). Sometimes intuition itself.
Usually when we say God “speaks” to us we do not mean that we are literally ”hearing voices.” (Those of us who do mean this, presumably need to talk to a psychotherapist in addition to God.)
But Luhrmann’s studies and reflections beg the question: how do we describe what it means to hear God’s voice in our lives? When have we heard God speak to us? When did we think we heard God speak to us and it turned out we were wrong? How might we describe for a stranger what it means that God speaks to us and that we listen? Leave your insights below!
[Special thanks to saint and sinner Paul Dover for introducing me to Luhrmann's article.]