Have you ever gotten a vision or heard the Spirit’s voice during your prayer time? If the answer is no, this blog is theoretical for you, but trust me, it happens. If yes…has that vision confirmed things you already know you should do, like be kinder to your really annoying father-in-law, or tithe, or take a stand at work that won’t be popular but is the right thing to do?

Most of us would say yes to this, leading to the misconception that prayer time is just another opportunity for God to point out where we’re going wrong in life. Given some quiet time and a Bible passage, in my experience what surfaces first are the shoulds. My examples often run something like this: I should eat less and exercise more. I should read my Bible and pray daily. I should make my son read more books and play fewer video games and write thank you notes after Christmas. I should…I should…I should…stay on the surface of my life. (The list of shoulds brings to mind a therapist who once told me to repeat this mantra: Today I will not let anyone should all over me.)

The list of shoulds is endless, with new ones replacing expired shoulds as my circumstances change, but in my experience, it will settle down as my prayer time continues. What surfaces under the shoulds is usually less like a voice in my head and more like a flash of insight. An image. A calling. A desire. Repentance in the truest sense of the word – change your whole way of thinking. Not a should of “I should call my sister and apologize for the big fight over Christmas” but in my life circumstances, “here’s a new book for you to consider writing, completely different from anything you’ve written, or thought about writing. Total life change. You’re welcome.”

These flashes are frequently a diversion from whatever I’m currently doing. Keep writing, but write something different, and expand your creative outlets while you’re at it. I’m a restless soul so this doesn’t surprise me anymore, but knowing they’re coming doesn’t make dealing with them any easier.

Peter experiences the same expansion when he receives a vision that not only allows him to eat of every bird or beast but also encourages him to preach Jesus’s message of love and acceptance to people he called outsiders, if not his enemies. This makes sense to me. He’s already preaching to fellow Jews. He’s already praying regularly, trying to discern God’s will. He’s on a path, making himself available for use, so God sends him a life-altering, world-changing vision, one that opens up new venues for Peter.

If I dive under the surface ripples of my mind the insights I receive open my heart, expand my horizons, and call me into greater participation in God’s love and work in the world. Give it a shot. You may end up eating squid…or getting your heart, mind, and view of the world blown wide open.

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