3D Listening: Connecting with God Every Day

Various spiritualities offer support in living in greater awareness of God’s presence in our day to day life. You can get really creative with this, depending on your schedule and what helps you! I hope that you share in the comments below what you are already doing, or what you might try to increase your awareness of God’s love for you daily. Here are a few practices that I have found useful.

* Begin the day with meditation on a Scripture passage that concludes with a preview of how I want to live what I meditated on through this day. As I look forward to my day and the responsibilities I will face, I resolve how to  respond with love in the various situations that might arise

* Use everyday events to remind myself to pray a one-line pray (or aspiration) frequently. For example, I  set my watch to beep on the hour. When my watch is silenced, I try to remember to pray every time I stand up from my desk. I’ve also used other reminders, such as beginning or switching to a new project/file, as a reminder to pray

* Use part (or all) of my lunch break for prayer: go to Mass, pray the Angelus, make a spiritual communion or visit Jesus in the Eucharist in a nearby church, or take a prayer-walk (during which you can simply rejoice in God’s love for you, or pray the Rosary, etc.). I know people whose work is flexible enough that they can stop at 3 PM to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet

* Use times when I have to make a decision or am not sure what to do to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit

* Close my day by putting on my “Sherlock Holmes” hat to look for one way that God revealed himself to me today. It might not be obvious or expected. For example, God often “speaks” to me through nature, such as a chickadee that chirps a greeting. A friend’s support at just the right moment, a film or song that deeply moves us, or a sudden insight—any of these can reveal God’s love.

Often, at the end of these mini prayer breaks, I will ask Jesus to guide me to respond to his call through the next hour/minute/project.

A favorite prayer practice that I use daily is the examen, and I hope to blog more in detail about that next.

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What’s the connection between deep desire and discernment?

Anna_Brassey_438-victorian-woman-writing-jornalThe driving force of any story is the protagonist’s deepest needs and desires, because they determine what the protagonist chooses and does. Think of Will Smith’s character in the film The Pursuit of Happyness. Or Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. 

Whenever we are discerning, we want to become more mindful of our deepest needs and desires. (Deep desires go much deeper than a passing urge, such as our appetite for chocolate or ice cream. “Deep desire” means desires that well from deep within our soul, such as the longing for happiness, etc.)  Just like in a movie, our needs and desires drive our choices—often without our knowing it. So the more aware we can become of what we want and need, the more honest and free our discernment becomes.

When writing a story, the writer has to write two stories that are deeply connected: the outer story with events, plot, obstacles, and other characters; and the inner story of the protagonist’s growth with the protagonist’s desires, needs, and choices. In a good story, these two stories are so deeply connected that it’s the resolution of both the inner and outer challenges that make a powerful ending.

Just as a good story has both an inner and outer story, so does a good discernment. In our world today, it’s easy to spend time focusing on the outer story: What are the needs of the world today? What do my family and friends tell me about myself? What does this spiritual book tell me? What is Pope Francis saying about the needs of the Church and how to live our Christian vocation?

All of these are important and critical when we discern. Yet the most critical place to listen to the voice of God is interior: within us. The basis for any discernment is our relationship with God. If we do not pray, we cannot hear the voice of God—often the whisper of God—within us.

When we discern, we also need to go within, to listen to God speaking and working within us. Our deepest desires often express our God-given identity! It’s just as important to pay attention to the voice of God within as it is to pay attention to how God speaks to us through events, circumstances, and people in our lives. Discernment involves weighing the different “voices” that I hear—from within, from outside—and discovering which is God’s call.

Our interior journey—our understanding of who we are, and our needs and desires—will profoundly influence and shape our response to God’s call in our choices and actions.

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To Journal About

  • Make a list of the ten things in life that are most important to you.
  • When you’re finished, bring that list with you before the Lord in prayer, and ask him to reveal his priorities for you.

Coincidence or God?

If God speaks to us in all these ways, how do we know when it’s God speaking to us, and when it’s just coincidence?

  • For a person of faith, there are no coincidences, only Providence. Providence can be defined as God acting in our world, in our lives. It doesn’t mean that every circumstance of our life is a direct call from God, but the overall circumstances of our lives are an important context in which we are called to listen and to act.When someone is a good writer, there are no coincidences in the stories they write. If it’s included in the story, it serves a purpose for the overall story. Likewise in God’s story for us, there are no coincidences. But sometimes we may need to pray with what an event means before we understand it; sometimes we may not understand God’s purpose until years later; sometimes we may need to simply trust in God’s loving purpose for us.
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Nurse Reading to a Little GIrl by Mary Cassatt (Public Domain)

We cannot limit how God speaks to us; rather, we want to use all the resources we have at our disposal to listen. God gave us intelligence, a heart with the potential to be compassionate, the community in which we live and work, mentors or wise people in our lives, our gifts and limitations, and our circumstances, in addition to faith and the gift of prayer… Just as God will use all of these to communicate his love, to draw us to himself, and to invite us to live our mission, God wants  us to use our heads as well as our hearts, the advice of mentors as well as self-knowledge, to listen to him.

  • Many of us share the same circumstances, but the call or invitation from God can be different for each person. For example on a city street, dozens of people pass a homeless person. One person may be called to pray for that person; another to offer a kind greeting or a smile, or to initiate a conversation; another to offer a sandwich or a hot coffee; another person may be called to start volunteering at a soup kitchen; another person may be called to donate more generously; another person may be called to be grateful for the gift of a home. The truth is that probably every person who passes someone who is homeless on the street is called to do something, but it requires discernment to discover what.
  • Just as a writer “listens” to everything in his or her life to inform the story that he or she is writing, so we are called to be attentive to our entire lives to discover God’s presence, action, and invitations, so that the “plot” of our life follows God’s lead.

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To Journal:

At the end of each day this week, take a quiet moment at the end of one day to look back over your day with this question: How did God reveal his presence and his love to you today?

Listening to Our “Silent” Co-Author

02E choice 2How do we listen to God’s voice when for most of us most of the time, God seems silent? How do we partner with a silent Co-Author?

We may experience God as silent, but God does communicate with us. We may need to learn to listen better, but we also may need to learn to understand how God speaks to us, and recognize when God is speaking. Each of us has a unique relationship with God, but there are also common ways in which God communicates with us.

If we look at the Bible, how does God communicate to his People?

  • Directly to the heart—sometimes in prayer, sometimes through intuition, sometimes in words
  • Through Divine Revelation: through his Word and the teaching of the Church
  • Through silence
  • Through other people (God sends prophets or other people to communicate his love, his warnings, and his invitations)
  • Through the beauty and power of nature (for one example, see Psalm 8)
  • Through the community, most especially through the community of the Church (the Acts of the Apostles is full of examples)
  • Through wise mentors
  • Through the needs of others
  • Through the ordinary circumstances of our lives
  • And sometimes through the extraordinary: visions/appearances/dreams/miracles (Sometimes we may experience a miracle but not recognize it as miraculous.)

God speaks to us today, in our own lives. How am I listening?

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To Journal About

  • How does God communicate with me?
  • When have I heard God “speaking” to me?