Religious Experience

In the Bible many references are found to the way humans respond when confronted by God. In Exodus 3:5, Moses is confronted by the vision of the burning bush and from out of the bush the voice of God tells Moses that he is on holy ground. In I Kings 19:12, Elijah hears that the voice of God was not in an earthquake but in a still small voice. In Amos 8:2 it is even a basket of fruit that prompts him to see the working hand of God. Paul is stricken down (Acts 9:5), and Jesus has his mission confirmed by a voice from heaven (Luke 3:22). Christians believe that God is alive, personal and able to communicate with them. Mostly this communication is through prayer. Prayer is a form of speaking to God. It can be formal as in a church service, or extempore, as a private prayer. Prayers can be expressions of thanks, of hope, or even petition, asking for something. Christians also believe that God responds. This might be in the still small voice, the silence through which the believer tries to interpret what God wants. It might though be through events that unravel to show that, for the believer, God is working in their lives. As a response to this a Christian will give thanks and praise. Such thanks and praise are often seen in the singing of hymns or anthems in services, the speaking of tongues or glossolalia in charismatic churches, the grand performances of the oratorios of Bach and Mozart. Christian responses to their spiritual feelings are many.

The parish church is one of the few places in a town or village where quiet can be found easily. Often it is a place which has a long history of prayer and so reflects prayerfulness and stillness which can inspire awe and wonder. It can be a place, for Christians and those who are not familiar with church, to express their concerns and worries and find solace. In a church each Sunday, and on other days, prayers are offered for the well-being of the community, and the parish priest each day offers prayers at his daily office, which often he or she might say alone.

Although the wider community might not be aware of these offerings of prayers, they are said to allow God’s influence to work through the people in the community. Some churches have house groups and prayer groups that meet to pray and help in the community, with older people, the disadvantaged, young people – all in response to their feelings of gratitude to God for what they have gained in this life.

Many Christians claim to have had religious experiences. These range from the mundane to the extraordinary and include experiences of guidance in making decisions, help with practical situations, and healing of physical and mental distress.. A great deal of research has been undertaken into this area of religious psychology and the Alistair Hardy Archive of Religious Experience at the University of Wales, Lampeter contains about 6000 accounts of first-hand religious experiences from individuals in many countries and of many religions. These are catalogued, with summaries of each account entered on the Archive’s database; It also houses the papers of Sir Alistair Hardy FRS (1896-1985) relating to the foundation of the Religious Experience Research Centre in 1969; the archives of the Centre since 1969; an audio archive including lectures given by members of the Centre; a small video archive, including lectures, interviews and programmes made for Channel 4; and a library of about 2000 volumes, many of them copies formerly owned by Sir Alister Hardy with his inscription, annotations and inserted letters and cuttings. The research potential of this collection for those working in the field of Religious Experience and major world faith traditions is being increasingly recognised and demonstrates the seriousness which this area of study is taken by scholars.

One finding that often comes out of the religious / spiritual experience is that it is life changing for most people. There are many examples of people in modern times who have had these life changing experiences such as Nicki Cruz, who decide to devote themselves to good causes.

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