Spiritual Practice

Paying Attention

Wes Vander Lugt

When we are watching a good movie, talking with a close friend, or reading an exciting novel, we pay attention. We pay attention to what we believe is worthwhile or interesting; we pay attention to what we value.

So why do we struggle to pay attention to God? Maybe we value other things more than we value God. The Israelites had the same problem. When God commanded them to pay attention to God and to God’s law, they worshiped handcrafted idols instead. (Read about the law and the golden calf in Exodus 32.)

How can we learn to value God so that we pay attention? What are some practical ways to pay attention to God?

factory smokestack TSP 164547886Shutting Down our Idol Factories

Our hearts are like idol factories, constantly producing idols that compete with God for our worship and attention. Most of us are not tempted to worship a golden calf, but we do have our idols: computers, sports, friends, clothes, social networks, popularity, money, good grades. What consumes your attention? What do you value more than God? To pay attention to God, we need to work on shutting down our idol factories.

Bible Reading Guy2 TS 137299797Paying Attention to God’s Word

One way to pay attention to God is to pore over God’s word. Reading the Bible helps us to know God and to become more like God. The Bible is not a boring book of rules but an exciting drama, involving all kinds of surprises and fascinating stories. When we give the Bible the attention it deserves, we witness God’s Spirit working in our hearts and minds, we discover new insights, and we fill our imagination with good things. One way to pay attention to God is to value God’s word.

teen smell dogwood FTR TSP 480492329Paying Attention to God’s World

Another way is to pay attention to God’s world. We can learn volumes about God by observing God’s creation. Just as Jesus used birds and flowers to illustrate truths about God (read Matthew 6:25–30), we know God better by noticing details in the natural world. When we pay attention to one another, we also catch a glimpse of God because human beings are created in God’s own image. Paying attention to nature and to other people is actually a way of paying attention to God.



Practice paying attention to God. Go on a hike. Be quiet and pay attention to details in nature that you might normally overlook. Take time to look carefully at a flower or to watch a bird. Write down what you notice and what you learn about God. After your walk, read aloud Matthew 6:25–34. Pay attention to what Jesus is saying. How does paying attention to God’s world help you to pay attention to God’s word? Once a week, spend thirty minutes outside, where you can be quiet and pay attention to God’s voice and God’s presence in the world.

Wes Vander Lugt is studying theology and theatre in St. Andrews, Scotland.

—from devozine (September/October 2010). Copyright © 2010 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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