Chapter 16 of Pathways to Darkness about Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling

 Sarah Young: Jesus Calling

The following is repeated from our own book, The Soul Journey: How Shamanism, Santeria, Wicca, and Charisma are Connected, in which we propose that the “connection” between these spiritual paths is actually the mediumistic practice of attaining a trance state and contacting spirits, be they supposed spirits of dead ancestors (shamanism and Santería), spirit quides (various occult renditions), lords and ladies of the Realm (Wicca), or even the supposed Jesus of Sarah Young’s series of books that started with Jesus Calling in 2004. 


Sarah Young practices “listening prayer,” in which she hears messages directly communicated from Jesus. She describes her technique in her bestselling book, Jesus Calling, which has sold over nine million copies in twenty-six languages (as of the end of 2013). This book was the fifth bestseller for the first half of 2013 for all books, not just Christian books. Through it all, the author maintains a low profile, partly due to physical disabilities, and thus she is relatively unknown. She has experienced chronic physical difficulties for many years and writes inspiringly of her loving connection with whom or what she thinks is Jesus giving her comforting and encouraging messages. 

It all began with Sarah wondering if she could receive messages during times of prayer. She hoped God would talk to her personally. And it began to happen. And yes, she believes that Jesus is really and actually speaking with her. She prays then listens, and He answers. This has been her experience for many years. 

As she hears, Sarah journals what she hears, and after a number of years she published some of what she heard. Readers and prayer groups are encouraged and comforted by the messages, and as sales of books demonstrate, she has a growing audience. Many thousands are now taking up the practice of listening prayer. 

The key question which must be asked is, who is speaking? Jesus or someone else? Is it possible there is clever counterfeiting here? 

Over the centuries Christians have thought that God does speak to them. Richard Foster, who champions contemplative prayer or meditative prayer, defends Young’s practice. He has modeled his own recommendations for deep meditation and contemplation on what Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Ignatius Loyola, and many others practiced and experienced centuries ago. What Young does is the same as or quite similar to the exercises of these Christian mystics. 

Sarah Young describes her own custom as meditating on Scripture and then waiting quietly to hear a reply from Jesus. When Jesus speaks, she writes down what she heard or was placed on her heart. She insists that the words or messages are not revelatory in the sense of prophecy or fortune telling; the content of the messages is fairly ordinary and biblically based. The Bible plays a major role in Sarah’s life, and she firmly believes it is the inspired revelation of God; however, and this is a huge “however,” she wanted more than what the Bible offers. She indeed got more and has come to rely on these communications, the “encouraging directives from the Creator,” as she originally said before that phrase was removed from her 2013 edition. 

But there is a worrisome twist. When Young journals the words supposedly spoken by Jesus they are written in the first person with Jesus as the person speaking. She does not, for instance, write, “Jesus said,” but rather, “Focus on me.” Since she purports to write down whatever Jesus says, her readers must logically conclude that her journal is as authoritative as the Bible, almost a fifth Gospel. If this is not so, then Jesus Calling is pseudo-biblical, an imitation, albeit very clever, of a revelation from God. 

Young’s error is therefore serious and similar to that of the Course in Miracles, supposedly communicated by Jesus to Helen Schucman in the 1970s. Schucman’s Jesus dictated profoundly spiritual concepts to her, which she wrote down, and one of the most successful new age cults was born. Schucman’s Jesus bears little resemblance to the biblical Jesus, unlike Young’s Jesus, but could this make the counterfeit even more difficult to detect? 

Young’s book sales are phenomenal, and again I cannot help but be reminded of Helen Schucman and the Course in Miracles; however, Young’s book is far more biblically Christian than Schucman’s. The difference seems clear, and many Christians are tempted to embrace Young’s claim to hear the voice of Jesus. But it will not work. There is neither biblical precedent nor warrant for quieting oneself, praying, and then listening for Jesus to speak. Young’s techniques fit into the broad spectrum that is Charisma today, emboldening yet another dangerous counterfeit practice. 

The Jesus supposedly speaking to Sarah Young is very affirming and encouraging, but little else. The messages lack the doctrinal content of the real Jesus found in Scripture. Encouraging promises found in quotes supposedly from Jesus’ appeal to those who are easily dazzled by assurances of personal satisfaction and are therefore attracted to purveyors of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. 

Nowhere in Scripture does God promise to speak individually to believers or answer prayer by speaking directly to the one praying. This is the critical point. What I discovered in my decades of ministry is that, if you want to hear things from God, you eventually will hear something. But the communication is not from God, however real and spiritual the communication might be. 

John 10:27 is quoted by proponents of Young’s book as proof that Jesus speaks directly to His ‘”sheep.” “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” To “hear” is to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd as distinct from a false shepherd or a wolf; the literal application of “hear” does not work here. It is the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer at conversion who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). 

An instruction for believers to listen for the actual audible voice of Jesus, be it solely in the mind, is foreign to the New Testament writings. There is nothing in Scripture about praying then listening for a response. It is surprising that so many do not know this. Churches across the country have instituted prayer groups devoted to Young’s methods. Again, it illustrates the fascination with feelings and direct experiences rather than seeking to learn what the Word of God actually teaches. 

We are all hungry to know more of God, and little by little we do grow up into the fullness of the stature of Christ (see Ephesians 4:1-16). Following Jesus is a lifelong process and there are no shortcuts. Quick and easy methods of “going direct” to the source can be addictive and difficult to disengage from. Christians are yet sinners and living in a sinful world; we are pilgrims traveling the straight and narrow road that is often filled with pain and sorrow. God hears our prayers and does strengthen and comfort us, but He speaks to us through the Scripture. That is enough for us. We do not need more. Eve wanted more and she got it, but it brought disaster upon her and all of us. 


We strongly suggest acquiring Brenna E. Scott’s book, Christian Journaling or Psychic Channeling? A Critical Comparison of the Jesus Calling Series with Occult Training Literature. You will find in this book a brief history of how Sarah Young encountered a devotional book, God Calling, written in the 1930’s by two women who practiced waiting in God’s Presence in a mediumistic manner. Ms. Scott is quite thorough in her analysis of the contents of Sarah Young’s books. There is a foreword by Chris Lawson, and it is published by Brenna Scott Publishing, LLC, 2022.

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