The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Paying attention to God

Spiritual discipline needed to see 'kingdom'

Our attention spans seem to be getting shorter and shorter.

Once thoughtful letters are now brief e-mails; lengthy phone conversations have become instant text messages; sermons must be short, witty and clever or our minds wander; politicians respond to complex issues with 10-second sound bites.

It is understandable why someone has referred to “paying attention” as a spiritual practice. In our harried lives we do not easily pay attention to God. Prayer often becomes our hurried attempt to inform God about our needs and wants. Yet prayer is first a posture of being open to God—paying attention to what God desires for us to hear, believe and do.

With familiarity and ease we say in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come.” (See "Jesus and the kingdom of God.") How will we recognize and receive the kingdom of God for which we pray if we are not practicing the spiritual discipline of paying attention?

In his meaning to the second petition, Martin Luther reminds us that “God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.” He goes on to say this comes about whenever through the Spirit’s grace “we believe God’s holy word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.”

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