Lenten Devotion for March 25, 2023

Can we have direct experience of God?

In the Good Courage devotion for today, writer Amy Panton confessed when her psychiatrist asked if she ever heard Jesus talking to her, she panicked, and out of fear she’d end up on even more medications, said “No.”

Amy’s hesitation and fear are understandable. As much as we may crave clear messages from God, and follow a religion that claims such revelations are possible, we don’t really know what to make of it, when someone says they hear the voice of God.

In 1986 I was a student intern at Koinonia Farm, a Christian intentional community in Sumter County, Georgia. Koinonia is about 10 miles from Plains, home to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.


Fran, the farm’s volunteer librarian, invited the interns to join her early on Sunday mornings for silent worship, under a big tree. This was my first experience with Quakers.

We would gather shortly after sunrise. Early enough to not be sitting out in the heat of the day, and before the mosquitoes were up.

Worship was simple. We sat. Fran would welcome us, invite us to get comfortable. She might read a short passage from the New Testament, or from a Quaker author. Then we would relax into the quiet.

Quakers talk about a “gathered meeting”, at which the presence of God is experienced. Philosopher and author Thomas Kelly described it this way:

“In the Quaker practice of group worship on the basis of silence come special times when an electric hush and solemnity and depth of power steals over the worshippers. A blanket of divine covering comes over the room, and a quickening Presence pervades us, breaking down some part of the special privacy and isolation of our individual lives and bonding our spirits within a super-individual Life and Power—an objective, dynamic Presence which enfolds us all, nourishes our souls, speaks glad, unutterable comfort within us, and quickens in us depths that had before been slumbering. The Burning Bush has been kindled in our midst, and we stand together on holy ground.”

I remember moments under the tree that seemed something like what Kelly was trying to describe. A sense there is “more” than what we normally see and hear.

The founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox, rejected the need for educated priests and an organized religion to mediate between the individual and God. This got him in a lot of trouble in 17th England, which was already rife with rebellion against established authorities of all kinds.

Organized religion, and civil authorities are often quick to write off people who claim to hear God’s voice.

What do you think?


  1. When I entered Quaker seminary in 2009 (a baptized & practicing Baptist) I was blown away by encountering in Quaker worship ” A sense there is “more” than what we normally see and hear.” Indeed. I’m not sure what means would be best to evaluate & quantify a response to your query. How do you believe that those who claim to hear God’s voice are being written off at this moment in history?

    1. Darrow says:

      The devotional book I have been working through has had several daily readings about the struggles of people with mental health issues. That kind of provided a context for the question. I chose to write about my first experience of Quaker worship as a nod to George Fox, whose claim that none of us need an intermediary between us and God is a reminder that not every person who hears voices, is delusional. I was at ESR from 1988-90, and loved it.

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