ATTENTIVENESS: A Life Of Continual Conversation by Leighton Ford
Discerning God's Presence in All Things
From The Attentive Life
When I consider these three important words, I confess I feel just a bit bewildered. If contemplation (seeing life in the presence of God), abiding in Christ, and Christ’s indwelling me are so important, how do they operate in my everyday life?
How do I take these wonderful concepts and translate them into my own “prime time”?
It helps me to think of “abiding” as a continual conversation in which I listen for God’s voice and speak back to him. The late Henri Nouwen said that to “pray without ceasing” would be impossible if it meant that we did nothing but think and speak constantly about God. To pray unceasingly is not to think about God rather than other things, or to talk to God instead of to other people, but rather to think, speak, and live in the presence of God. Prayer, Nouwen continued…
…can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts – beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful – can be thought and expressed in the presence of God. This requires that we turn all our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is not so much what we think, but to whom we present our thoughts. Prayer is an outward, careful attentiveness to the One who invites us to unceasing conversation.
Through this kind of conversation life becomes a kind of ongoing lectio Divina, a rhythm of listening for God’s voice in scripture (and also through his Spirit in nature, and our own hearts) and answering back in whatever kind of response is appropriate – in word, action, or even ongoing silence.
Prime should be the time of listening first not to my needs and wants but to Jesus’s words and directions. Prime can be early in life, early in our life with Christ, and early in the day. I am blessed that when I was very young and impatient my adopted mother Ford taught me to memorize parts of the Bible, words that still come back to me again and again. I am also blessed that in my early teens I learned to “pray the scriptures” as a way to be formed as a disciple of Jesus. And I am blessed every morning when I can quietly sit in the presence of my Lord, waiting for his voice, hearing from his Word and then moving into the day knowing that as I go with him I also stay with him; abiding in him and in his Word.
This way of living – of listening and responding to the words of Jesus – is not just a matter of learning what Jesus said, or even asking the well-known question, WWJD: What would Jesus do? It is a way of opening myself to ask, WIJD: What Is Jesus doing? The apostle Paul certainly knew what Jesus said, but he quoted Jesus directly only three times. It was the word of Jesus living in him that changed him.
To paraphrase another writer, I know the transforming power of Christ not only because once he said to his disciples in an upper room, “Love one another as I have loved you,” but because now he is loving through me by his Spirit living in me.
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