Ask Father Cathie

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  Question: I would love to hear your advice on how we can better tune out the world and tune in to what God may be trying to tell us.

Answer: It occurs to me that I am answering this question on the day we remember Evelyn Underhill, a modern mystic and author, whose own family tried to discourage her from her spiritual gifts and listening for the voice of God. So I guess my first piece of advice would be to not let others discourage you from being open to hearing God!

That said, I am not sure that tuning out the world is necessary. In some ways, I would say that listening for God's voice involves tuning more into the world. It may mean tuning out distractions, and perhaps that is what you mean, but the world is full of ways that God is speaking to us.

And I would suggest two major ways to better pay attention: prayer and rest. These are fundamental Christian practices, followed by Jesus in the Gospels. Taking regular time to pray and regular sabbath time orients us towards God's work in the world, rather than our own, and opens us to all the ways in which God is currently providing for us, protecting us, and blessing us abundantly.

In the Anglican tradition, we have daily prayers in our Book of Common Prayer, so that every day can be grounded in a rhythm of prayer. There are are wonderful websites such as prayer.forwardmovement.org and missionstclare.com that offer easy electronic access to morning, noonday, and evening prayer and compline. I find that praying every few hours, even for just a few minutes, keeps me connected to what is most important in my life.

Sabbath rest is not only one of the 10 Commandments, it is a crucial part of a dedicated faith life and one of the most counter-cultural things we ever do as Christians. It is also an extremely good way to turn off the busyness of life and tune into God's presence and power. To take a day off of work and focus instead on 'pray and play', we are remembering that it is God's world and God's time, and that we are not the center of the world. If we don't get things done one day a week, the world will not stop turning. And thus we can rest in the fact that it is God who does keep the world turning, and we can rejoice in all of the gifts that we receive through this - life itself, appreciation for the beauty of creation, relationships with those around us.

Prayer and sabbath are not the only ways to hear God's voice more clearly, but they are some of the most basic aspects of practicing Christianity, and through them we make regular spiritual paths through which to experience more fully our relationship with God and others.