The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

When you make plans for today or tomorrow you probably have expectations about the outcome of your efforts. Hopeful these plans will work out as you intended. Long-range plans can get your hopes up, but with so many things happening in the meantime you don’t know if your goal can be achieved. Nevertheless, you plan ahead and hope for the best.

Thoughtful planning is a good pursuit to pave the way for happiness in the future. On occasion, however, our hopes and expectations are not reasonable or easy to accomplish. Sometimes the daydreams are just that – a nice thought but nothing that can be achieved. Unfortunately, if you take unreasonable expectations too seriously you will end up with considerable disappointment. Much of the emotional pain we experience is caused by our unrealistic expectations. “Stop chasing unicorns,” an author wrote. Fantasy plans can explore new vistas and create new inventions. But a realistic approach can prevent unnecessary disappointment.

So where does God come into this picture? The fact is that God is with us no matter what we do, even if we chase unicorns. But an important aspect of prayer is to listen, not just to talk. We can pray for all sorts of things, but just because we pray for what we want doesn’t mean that it is now God’s responsibility to make it happen. When it doesn’t happen some people blame God for not answering their prayer. Rather than being God’s fault, it could have been an unreasonable expectation.

Before setting out on a big project it is good to listen as if with an inner ear to the voice of God speaking in God’s first language, silence. If we are quiet and let go of our anxieties, agendas, and miscellaneous thoughts, it is as if a “still small voice” is speaking to us, surrounding us with love, and giving us a gentle word or thought with which to move forward. Sometimes this message comes from the heart rather than from the mind. By being open and vulnerable to the Spirit we become better prepared to listen to new inspirations while letting go of our own desires. We give up control to hear. God speaks in a variety of ways, and one way to hear is to simply be silent and open to God’s presence.

I hope that in your planning for tomorrow you will use not only your mind to assess reasonable expectations of the outcome, but also to listen to your inner voice, the voice of God speaking to you from the heart.