We wake-up in the morning, go to bed at night, and in the hours between we live our lives. When, during these hours, are we most aware of God?
We easily think of God awareness as varying across people. Some people seem to have more of it than others. We also think of it as varying across events. Saying grace before a meal reminds us of God’s provision. A religious service can be permeated with this awareness.
In addition, awareness of God systematically varies by time of day, as found in a recent study (Kucinskas et al, forthcoming) for which I was a coauthor.
This figure reports data from the SoulPulse study. It plots participants’ awareness of God as it varies by hour, from 6 am to midnight. As shown, awareness of God flows throughout the day like a tide. The day starts with slightly above-average levels of awareness. This increases through the morning until peaking at 11 am. Then it starts declining until it hits its lowest point at 5 pm. Then climbs up back to about average by the end of the day.
The magnitude of these changes isn’t huge—only a two-point swing on a 100-point scale, but it is statistically significant. How should we interpret them?
Perhaps God awareness tracks with our general levels of awareness. I wake up in a fog, but my mind begins sharpening, and I’m most aware of myself and the world around me in mid-morning. Then fatigue starts to set in. By the mid-afternoon, I’m having trouble keeping ideas straight, and I’m ready to take a nap. By early evening, I’m resting and getting ready to do it again the next day.
If this is the case, and if we want to increase our awareness of God, we could start by simply increasing our general awareness, especially in the afternoons.
How do we do this? There are many ways, and what works varies by person. Popular strategies include taking naps, resting, minimizing high glycemic foods, exercising, not rushing, not multitasking, being mindful, minimizing distractions, and so forth. Regardless of how we do it, we should keep in mind that simply being aware of our life in a moment might be a prerequisite of being aware of God.
Of course, the pattern shown here doesn’t apply to all people. It’s an average across participants; though, the pattern does fit with studies that find that most people are morning people.
The y-axis records within-person deviations of God awareness. Rather than plotting participants’ raw scores, we subtract their average score for that hour minus their average score for all hours. Doing this has desirable statistical properties.
This hourly pattern did not meaningfully vary by gender, age, or employment status.
Few participants had God-awareness scores, over the course of the study, that spanned the whole 100-point scale. Thus the impact of a 2-point swing is somewhat greater than implied by the scaling.
The data analyzed here include data collected after Kucinskas et al. was submitted for publication.
Kucinskas, Jaime, Bradley R.E. Wright, D. Matthew Ray, and John Ortberg. Forthcoming. “States of Spiritual Awareness by Time, Activity, and Social Interaction.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.