March begins today, concludes the season of Lent, and ends on Easter. As God’s set-apart people, these concluding weeks of Lent mark a time for us to reset the rhythms of our lives and to reorient ourselves toward the Giver of all life, Jesus Christ. And as leaders of God’s people, Lent marks a time where in our own inner lives we once again turn our attention more fully to Jesus, and as a consequence become better able to help others do the same.
There are many ways to turn our attention to God, but I have found three ways particularly helpful in recent months. The first is a simple exercise suggested by Anthony Bloom in his little classic on prayer, Beginning to Pray. Bloom recommends that we regularly take 3-5 minutes simply to intentionally do nothing in the presence of God – during our devotions, or when we have a few spare moments of pause in an otherwise busy day – and I have found it very helpful. Bloom says: “Sit down and say, ‘I am seated, I am doing nothing, I will do nothing for five minutes,’ and then relax, and continually throughout this time (one or two minutes is the most you will be able to endure to begin with) realize, ‘I am here in the presence of God, in my own presence and in the presence of all the furniture that is around me, just still, moving nowhere.’” Bloom then recommends that during this time we must absolutely resist the urge to do anything – answer the phone, reply to a text, neaten up the room, or to do something that has been left undone for months or years but which suddenly appears urgent. Just do nothing and intentionally sit in the presence of God in the very place where you find yourself. Try it and see how it feels!
Second, simply take time when you meet with another Christian sister or brother to pray at the beginning of your time, and begin that prayer by saying something like this: “Lord, thank you for this time together with You in this place. We want to begin our time together by pausing quietly before you, for the first and the last word always belong to you, Lord.” Then simply wait quietly before the Lord for 30-60 seconds – you’ll be surprised by how much this simple exercise changes the character of your time together.
Finally, when you meet together as a group, be sure to do something like the above, only longer. The fifth “W” in the “Seven W’s” is Waiting and Wind, and it is truly the case that if we do not leave quiet space in our small groups to simply be together in the presence of the Living God, our tendency will be to fill our time with more of our own words and activity. God is alive and is present with His people when they gather. Be sure to leave space in your groups to intentionally pay attention to Jesus – His presence is indeed our greatest treasure when we meet together, so let’s not miss encountering Him simply because we weren’t paying attention.
Finally, may every one of you more deeply know the riches of the Lord’s presence as you take time in your lives to pay attention to Him.