Take this seriously:
The historian Paul Johnson writes in his spiritual memoir about having once called the prime minister’s office and, instead of getting the secretary’s secretary, the prime minister herself answered.
“It happened to me once with a prime minister,” Johnson writes. “But with God it happens all the time.”
I don’t know if Johnson’s experience is like mine, but from that day on, when I prayed, I almost always received a verbal response, often with quite specific guidance. At first, it just seemed an oddity that went too much against my agnostic worldview to be taken seriously. Once my son had classical music playing in his ear all the time. It turned out to be an ear infection, causing buzzing signals that the brain very skillfully translated into Mozart.
Maybe my prayers were like that.
I would tell Abigail about these odd experiences. While I am cautious in my beliefs and skeptical by temperament, she is more spiritual and less distrustful. I had always been skeptical of paranormal reports, near death experiences, and the like, but she was not. I assumed she put the voice I heard in that category. Though, I didn’t really know because, usually, she just took in what I told her and didn’t say much.
She explained to me later that she thought I was engaged in a sensitive, fragile communication and did not want to create static. But, one day, she did speak up. “Are you going to take the voice seriously, or is this just entertainment?”
She had put her finger on the contradiction I was living.
The voice was too real and spoke with too much authority to ignore. Yet I could not imagine actually acting on it. Well, actually I could and did act on it, but without quite taking it seriously. I would be told to do this or that. Sometimes the guidance was about some matter facing me that day, and following the guidance usually worked out well; other times I received directives that seemed quite arbitrary but, since they did no harm, I would follow them. For example, one morning, Abigail and I had just sat down to breakfast when I was told,
So I just sat there for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, until I was told I could eat now. I always did as I was told, but it was still more like a game of Captain-may-I than a life imperative. I was not ready to answer Abigail’s question.
God: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher – is the true story of a philosopher’s conversations with God. Dr. Jerry L. Martin, a lifelong agnostic. Dr. Martin served as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Colorado philosophy department, is the founding chairman of the Theology Without Walls group at AAR, and editor of Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative. Dr. Martin’s work has prepared him to become a serious reporter of God’s narrative, experiences, evolution, and autobiography. In addition to scholarly publications, Dr. Martin has testified before Congress on educational policy. He has appeared on “World News Tonight,” and other television news programs.
Listen to this on God: An Autobiography, The Podcast– the dramatic adaptation and continuing discussion of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin.
He was a lifelong agnostic, but one day he had an occasion to pray. To his vast surprise, God answered- in words. Being a philosopher, he had a lot of questions, and God had a lot to tell him.
5 thoughts on ““Is This Just Entertainment?””
Mark Glidden January 12, 2015
I find this fascinating.
I was once told by a friend that there is a prayer that we must be careful to use and to only use it when we are fully prepared to deal with the affect. It is the prayer to ask how we may become an instrument of Him. I am not surprised that you got the response you did from your request.
Looking forward to the rest of the book.
Jerry L Martin January 24, 2015
Thank you for that penetrating comment. These days, prayer I say most often is this: “Lord, please give me the desire and the understanding and the strength and the courage to do Thy will.” I pray for all four because, if any one is missing, the effort fails. Wanting to be of service and sensing what God wants of me gives me a sense of direction. The personal health and ability to do what God wants, along with the courage required to actually do it, provide the means. I hope to hear from you again, Mark.
Don Hogg September 16, 2012
God is speaking to you and you need to listen carefully and attentively. I know God answers prayer, not always immediately or verbally, but in some way or another.
Years ago I was doing a project for our church and needed some help that my wife who was with me could not provide so as we sat for lunch I prayed a specific prayer for the help I needed. Within 20 minutes God sent a man who asked me if I needed help with a specific project. I answered him with an affirmative, he helped me with the project. He had no way of knowing I needed this help had he not been sent by God. After we completed this project I thanked him and he walked away. I had never seen this person before and have never seen him again.
Good luck on finishing the book.
Jerry L Martin September 27, 2012
Thank you for your kind words and for sharing an experience of your own with us.
Peggy Brooks July 20, 2012
A truly inspiring and extremely interesting story of a personal spiritual journey. I’d love to have the chance to read it all.