Hear Brandon Booth read this post to you:

We’ve all heard that it’s important to be a witness, but it occurred to me that before we can tell someone what we’ve seen, we have to see it.

“Um, thanks, Captain Obvious.” You might be saying.

I know, I know. Bear with me.

Attention is the fundamental spiritual discipline. All the practices, all the skills—indeed prayer itself—begin with directing our attention to God. Consider how often people in scripture are listening to, looking at, and abiding with God. Even Jesus, the example par excellence of the faithful life, only did and spoke what he heard the Father do and say (John 5:19; 5:30; 12:49).  

Which means that distraction is the greatest weapon of the great enemy. He’ll do anything to keep me from looking at, listening to, and abiding with Jesus. “Keep’m busy!” He says, “And when they aren’t busy, keep them entertained, hungry, lustful, outraged, or zoned-out. If that’s not enough then at least make sure they are looking at and listening to themselves: slap them with anxiety, fear, or envy….” You get the idea.

“Yep, got it.” You might now be thinking, “So I gotta focus real hard on God. Thanks for nothing, Mr. Abstract. Come on, give me something I can work with!”

My pleasure. Here’s the thing, “attention” is different from “focus.” Focus is what we do after something has caught our attention. Attention, has more to do with that mysterious state of being aware, open, and receptive. Look up “attend” in any dictionary and notice the similarity that collects all the various meanings together: presence.

To attend to something is to be present to it—to be present to its presence with me. To attend is to see what there is to be seen and hear what there is to be heard. It’s a simple matter of receiving.

Try this: steal 5 minutes away from the world right now. Close the door, silence your phone, take a few moments to breathe deeply and talk to God as if he’s right there in the room with you (which he is!) and then receive whatever the Lord has for you in Psalm 123:

I lift my eyes to you,
the one enthroned in heaven.
Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand,
like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand,
so our eyes are on the LORD our God
until he shows us favor.
Show us favor, LORD, show us favor,
for we’ve had more than enough contempt.
We’ve had more than enough
scorn from the arrogant
and contempt from the proud.

[Incidentally, I recorded a podcast with the brilliant theologian, Dr. John Kleinig, that touches on this very topic. You can listen to it here.]

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