ATTENTIVENESS: Practicing Attentiveness; First Thoughts by Leighton Ford
Discerning God’s Presence in All Things
From The Attentive Life
C. S. Lewis said that when he first woke, thoughts came rushing in like a thousand wild animals all clamoring for attention. I understand that!
So I have tried (and am still trying) to let my first thoughts – or at least some of my first thoughts – be toward God. For example, on awaking I often pray parts of Psalm 25:
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.
Show me your ways, O Lord,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
(vv. 1-2, 4-5)
For a while I had those words taped to the mirror in my bathroom to read as I shaved. (I also had them taped to the windshield of my car for a time, until a worried passenger asked if that was because I tended to have accidents!)
Or I may use words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
and to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.
Often in the morning I will sit in a favorite chair in my study with a cup of coffee, with classical music playing, not trying to form a prayer with words but waiting, listening, until perhaps I sense the Spirit bringing to the surface a word from God. Then I offer just a simple, “Thank you.” I have found this time of silence, even if it is very short, to be a key to starting the day with attention.
Prayer Is Like Watching For The Kingfisher
Prayer is like watching for
The Kingfisher. All you can do is
Be there where he is like to appear, and
Often nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
No visible signs, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But when you’ve almost stopped
Expecting it, a flash of brightness
Many days I walk early with my Australian cattle dog, Wrangler, in woods near our house or on a schoolyard track next door. Often this is a time to pray over and over a version of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me – and on your world.”
As I walked early one day near Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, the sun, like the psalmist’s bridegroom, (Psalm 19:5), came leaping through the clouds to backlight the hills, and a prayer of John Wesley came to my lips:
Thou brightness of th’ eternal glory,
unto thee is my heart,
though without a word,
for my silence speaketh unto thee.
That has often been my prayer on bright mornings! It has helped me to start the day by using familiar words. But just as often my prayer may be a simple greeting: “God, I am here!”
The exact form does not matter. What matters is the reality. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “The prayer preceding all prayers is this: May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real thou that I speak to.”
If you’re like me, there are times of prayer when nothing much seems to happen. Perhaps Ann Lewin’s poem, “Prayer Is Like Watching For The Kingfisher,” will speak to you as it does to me. Don’t forget to wait!
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