Paul Prather

Paul Prather: How to listen for God's voice in such a busy world

It's probably always been difficult to maintain our heavenly mindedness once we venture outside the walls of our church each week and return to our secular routines, where there's rarely organ music and we've got to deal with surly coworkers, whiny kids and spouses with the flu.

If anything, it's even harder today to maintain spirituality than it used to be.

With 150 channels on TV, satellite radio, Netflix on our iPads, Facebook statuses to update and smartphones that instruct us how to drive even as incoming text messages ping away, it's nearly impossible to find five minutes free from the hubbub.

Someone asked me recently, "How can I listen for God's voice in such a noisy world?"

Here are a half-dozen suggestions for communicating with our maker even as we also earn a living and wipe little noses and soothe feverish brows and scan Facebook. (Not that I consistently master all these tips myself, I admit, but they're still valid.)

■ Be mindful. When we're trying to get physically healthier, we make a point of paying attention to the food we put in our mouth. We count calories. We read about nutrition. We can do something akin to that with our spirituality. We can become mindful of God. We can write ourselves Post-It notes: "Think God." If we see something funny, we can remember to say under our breath, "How about that, Lord? That was hilarious!" After all, he's at the door knocking; we just need to remember to answer the door.

■ Pray without ceasing. St. Paul urged us to do this. I don't think he meant we ought to jump up at our Monday staff meeting, fling our hands in the air and shriek, "I praise thee, O God, that thou hast increased our quarterly earnings!" But we can privately carry on a running conversation with God about matters big and small. This goes along with being mindful. We talk with God. And listen for him.

■ Set aside a quiet time — regardless. Every day, we can find five or 10 or 15 minutes alone to gather ourselves, refocus our mind and consider matters more profound than whether our socks happen to match. Bathroom stalls at the office make terrific prayer closets. No joke. Nobody will disturb us there, especially if we leave our cell phone on our desk. We also can use our coffee break to go meditate alone in our car.

■ Listen to music that nourishes our spirit. There's something about music that connects us with the transcendent. It lowers our stress, too. I don't know how it works, but it works. For some that music might be Bach; for others, Third Day; for me, it's Billy Joe Shaver and Johnny Cash. The brand doesn't matter. Find your own spiritual bliss. Create a playlist, pop in your ear buds and crank it up so loud the devil disappears.

■ Preach a sermon, teach a lesson or carry on a conversation — in our head. We can do this while we're driving alone in our car or washing dishes or jogging or feeding a baby. This is my favorite tactic. If there's an issue I'm confused about, or excited about, or even just on my mind, I preach a hypothetical sermon, thinking of points and counter-points. Or I mull the subject as if I were interviewing some theologian who knew a lot more than I know. I anticipate how he might answer.

■ Talk to someone about the Lord. Wherever we work, study or live, unless we're a sole proprietor or a hermit, there's almost certainly somebody nearby who's of more-or-less the same faith as we are.

When other coworkers congregate in the break room to rail about what an idiot the boss is or to gossip about which manager in accounting is sleeping with which sales rep in advertising, we can instead amble down the hall to our friend's cubicle, coffee in hand, and say, "So, buddy, what did your preacher speak about Sunday?" Or, "What's the Lord doing in your life that's good?"

More often than not, we'll end up in a brief but uplifting conversation that reminds us what really matters and sends us back to our desk with our spirit soaring. We'll realize there are loftier topics than trashing the boss or snarking about cheaters, whose shenanigans are none of our business anyhow.