New Directions in the Study of Prayer grantee Tanya Luhrmann, in a recent essay for The Daily Beast, writes: “I know what it is like to hear God speak.” Luhrmann gleans this knowledge from years of anthropological study of evangelical Christians, during which she has observed their learning to hear the voice of God, to “pay attention to their inner world in a different way.” But while Luhrmann is not herself a Christian, nor even does she know in certain terms what she herself means by the word “God,” there is nonetheless an experiential flavor to her knowledge of God’s voice: prayer and the other techniques of learning worked for her, too.
I worshiped with these charismatic evangelicals. I prayed with them. I read their books. I sought to pay attention to my inner world the way they did. As I did so, I began to have experiences like the ones they reported. I remember with clarity the first time it happened. I was trying to compose a note to someone—one of those complicated notes you need to send to someone you don’t know well, when you want to be personal but not forward. I fretted about the note off and on for a few days. Then suddenly the sentences just came to me. I didn’t feel that I had chosen them. They came to me, and I wrote them down, and they were perfect. To some extent, the practice works. My ethnographic and experimental work confirmed this again and again.
Read the full piece here. For more information about Luhrmann’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer research, read her project description. Also keep your eyes on Reverberations for our upcoming interview with Luhrmann.