The Ministry of Paying Attention

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions

These words lodged in my heart at the beginning of Lent this year and they haven’t let me go.

So I started what I called a “prayer experiment.”

Intentionally holding people in prayer without a specific request in mind,

Just waiting and listening.

Sometimes the words come fast and passionately.

Sometimes not at all.

Sometimes they seem a perfect fit for situations I know about.

And sometimes I’m praying hard for healing and I don’t know why.

It’s a learning process, this experiment.

I’m learning that the Holy Spirit does, indeed, help me in my weakness.

And that listening can be exhausting.

And that my motives aren’t always completely pure.

And that I better be ready to do hard things when I step into the listening space.

And I’m learning the power of paying attention.

I don’t have words to wrap around this idea in quite the way I’d like.

But here’s what I know.

Learning to pray in the Spirit means paying attention.

Maybe not listening harder, but listening differently.

Listening with a heart that sees divine fingerprints inside brokenness and hears a heart’s cry to be loved inside pain.

Maybe not seeing better, but seeing differently.

Seeing with a heart that can hold faith and fear, belief and doubt in tension.

A heart that is honest and hopeful.

I know people who have done this well for a long time.

I am not one of those people.

I like to blame this on my introversion.  Or my task-orientation.

I want to pay attention, but people are so needy.  So exhausting.

And yet, the words, the Spirit won’t leave me alone.

Calling out my selfishness and fear for what they are, they pulse and throb still.

Keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

I want to skip to the end.

To the part where I’ve exercised my listening muscles and this comes easier, more naturally (is that a thing?).

But I’m not there yet.

Here I am so clumsy and unsure of myself.

Never quite sure if this new way of seeing and hearing is just for me or if I’m supposed to spew some prayer words at you right here and now.

Here I am so clumsy and unsure of myself.

And yet so hungry to grow, because I know this is holy work, sacred work

This ministry of paying attention.

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