Saturday, November 1, 2008

Paying Attention: From a Different Point of View


God has creative ways of getting our attention, doesn’t He? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve been forced into a quieter life with more time on my back, more time to pray.

As a matter of fact, maybe that’s what prayer is: paying attention.

This is a big emphasis in Leighton Ford’s wonderful book (which I highly recommend!) The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things. Since I tend to have spiritual attention deficit disorder (SADD) when I am living my usual busy life, these times of lying flat on the heating pad not only give me more time to pray. It seems they also give me a different perspective on what God is doing in this world.

Just yesterday, I witnessed two amazing answers to prayers I had prayed with others over the weekend. And I wonder: would I have noticed them if I hadn’t been paying attention to what God is doing?

Time on my back also makes me spend more time looking up. Funny what one sees from that perspective. More, even, than spots on the ceiling that need some work.

In another wonderful book on prayer, Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (which I also highly recommend; it will take you a while to read, but it is well worth it!), Yancey emphasizes the importance of beginning our prayers from God’s point of view—not ours. I think of it as sort of a “Google Earth” deal. Instead of rushing in with my list of recommendations of what I’d like God to do, I could begin by prayerfully considering His perspective: How much more, for example, He loves and cares for His world, all the way down to that individual I am desperately praying will be able to have a baby.

This “back reflection” business is also a reminder of Who’s in charge. Yancey quotes writer Ben Patterson reflecting on six weeks he had to spend flat on his back. As Patterson was returning to his “real life” and lamenting that he had less time now to spend in prayer, God said to him: “Ben, you have just as much time when you’re well as when you’re sick. It’s the same 24 hours in either case. The trouble with you is that when you’re well, you think you are in charge. When you’re sick, you know you’re not.” (Yancey, p. 169, quoting from Patterson’s book Waiting)

Hmmm….Good point. I hope I can remember that when life returns to “normal.”

One last thing for you, as I know you may not have time just now to read either of these books. Don’t you love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of part of Matthew 6:34: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.” I’ll bet you can do that even if you’re not flat on your back!

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