The past two sermons on The Voices Within are very familiar, as I’ve attended Rev. Bruce van Blair’s Prayer 101 retreat not once, but twice. Bruce covers these voices in a fair amount of detail during one of the sessions, and the sermons were a good reminder for me to practice discerning them. My prayer question this week is to consider the options before me. I’m at a crossroads I’ve faced before, and this time I might actually choose the road less travelled by.

I’ve worked with the concept of the voices for two years now. One thing I’ve noticed is that some of them are indeed voices, soundtracks I hear in my head when I’m faced with obstacles, difficulties, opportunities, decisions, even when I’m doing something as mundane as sweeping the floor or washing dishes. I can easily identify my sister’s voice, for example, or my father-in-law’s.

The Holy Spirit’s voice, however sometimes comes in words, but also comes in urges, longings, spur-of-the-moment ideas to do something I hadn’t planned to do. Occasionally in prayer I will hear an answer, or a statement. I pay attention to those. Harder but just as important is to pay attention to the desires that arise without words, the ones the other voices so often talk me out of. I think the Holy Spirit sometimes works in preverbal ways – emotions, for example, or instincts. I try to notice and record those, especially if they come up again and again.

Another final comment: last week my prayer question was answered three different times, in three different ways. I got one answer before I even left church Sunday. Another answer came during meditation time, while reading Matthew. A third came from my son. All three variations led to the same conclusion. Before you assume I’m some kind of prayer genius with a direct line (or three) to God, my first question wasn’t answered at all, and the second was answered in Bikram yoga class, and just once.

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