Does God Speak Audibly?

Today, May 2, is the National Day of Prayer.

To commemorate this special day in which people of faith acknowledge the importance of prayer in their lives, The New York Times (of all places) has an Op-Ed contribution by T. M. Luhrmann in which he writes about God speaking to people audibly.

Mr. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford. She is the author of the book When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God.

Luhrmann’s article is based on an ethnographic field work conducted in a charismatic evangelical church in Chicago. She interviewed several people who claim that God spoke to them audibly.

Luhrmann wrote: “I started to ask people in the church more systematically about whether they had ever heard God speak audibly. About a third said yes. They reported odd auditory events in which God said ‘Sit and listen’ or ‘Read James’ or ‘I will always love you.’”

She concludes his article by emphasizing the importance of prayer for people of faith:

The more interesting lesson is what it tells us about the mind and prayer. If hearing a voice is associated with focused attention to the inner senses – hearing with the mind’s ear, seeing with the mind’s eye – it suggests that prayer (which today, the National Day of Prayer, celebrates) is a pretty powerful instrument. We often imagine prayer as a practice that affects the content of what we think about – our moral aspirations, or our contrition. It’s probably more accurate to understand prayer as a skill that changes how we use our minds.

Luhrmann has written an interesting article that deserves to be read on this National Day of Prayer.  You can read the article here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary


In an earlier version of this post, I used a “he” to identify Luhrmann. However, as Mark Roberts called my attention in his comment below, T. M. Luhrmann is a woman; her name is Tanya M. Luhrmann. I apologize for my mistake.

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4 Responses to Does God Speak Audibly?

  1. Mark Roberts says:

    Claude: Great to have you blogging again. Your posts are always worth reading. Today’s is a good example. (BTW, Luhrmann is a woman, Tanya M. Luhrmann.)


    • Claude Mariottini says:


      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your words of encouragement. I will correct Luhrmann’s name and give her proper credit.

      Claude Mariottini


  2. Andrew Sturt says:

    While I would agree with Luhrmann that prayer “changes how we use our minds”, I think it sad that her predisposition so sets her up that even though she says, “I don’t think that anthropologists can pronounce on whether God exists or not, but I am averse to the idea that God is the full explanation here,” she writes an article that in no way contributes any part or instance of these experiences to God. Hearing God speak audibly is outside of my own experience, but I do have a friend who became a Christian because God spoke to her audibly, and she could no longer sustain her disbelief in him. It is, I think, always more convenient to not believe in God. If there is no absolute authority, we are free to make our own decisions in regard to right and wrong (Psalm 14:1) as long as our society allows our actions (or we escape detection). So, it was an interesting article, but so very, very sad.


    • Claude Mariottini says:


      Although I have never heard God speak audibly, I believe God speaks to people of faith. Those who consider themselves to be non-believers, the idea that God speaks audibly or otherwise is just beyond the realm of imagination. And I think here is where she stands on this issue.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Claude Mariottini


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