Imagine the irony: the Giver of life becomes anonymous to his own people. His image is imprinted on our very being, yet we don’t know or want him. How is this possible that "the world didn’t even notice” him?
In everyday life, our attention is rarely drawn directly to light itself. Normally, our focus is on the things that light illuminates. We take for granted the background force that makes our vision possible in the first place. Similarly, God so saturates our life that we take him for granted, forgetting the One who makes all life possible in the first place. If we assume we already know what to expect from him, we are liable to miss it when he actually shows up.
So how do we cast off assumptions and distractions to live alert to God and awake to what he is doing? In short: prayer. Christians have long seen this alertness as a spiritual discipline. The first step in prayer is simply paying attention.
“Nothing is more essential to prayer than attentiveness” (Evagrius, 4th century).
God is always present and active; the trick is to pay attention. This is part of what it means to “pray without ceasing” (as Paul instructs in 1 Thessalonians 5:17)—to strive to live awake to God, realizing our "true self” in his presence. If fact, Paul ties this prayerful alertness to being a child of God:
"But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day [of the Lord’s arrival] to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:4–6).
Today, spend 10 minutes simply being attentive to God without any agenda. Slowly repeat this prayer: “Father, open my eyes to your light.” Whatever else surfaces in your mind and heart, let it go. Try doing this everyday. Don’t focus on how the time of prayer feels. Instead, watch for how it affects the way you perceive and respond to everything else throughout the rest of your day. Awareness of God (like light) tends to make us more aware of everything else.
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Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Deeper Dive Podcast on John 1:9-13
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC