Archive for March 28th, 2021

Singleness of Focus


Written by Eugene Peterson (1932-2018), an American theologian, minister, author, and poet best known for The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.  This is an excerpt from his book “God’s Message for Each Day.”

God is not one among many. When we pray we are not covering our bases. Prayer is not a way of checking out a last resort of potential help. We understandably want to explore all the options: we write letters, make telephone calls, visit prospects, arrange interviews. We don’t know who might be useful to us at any one time. Of course, we cultivate God. But not in prayer. We try it, but it doesn’t work. Prayer is exclusive. Prayer is centering… We can’t pray with one eye on the main chance and a side glance for God. Prayer trains the soul to singleness of focus: for God alone. The Psalms were not prayed by people trying to understand themselves. They are not the record of people searching for the meaning of life. They were prayed by people who understood that God had everything to do with them. God, not their feelings, was the center. God, not their souls, was the issue. God, not the meaning of life, was critical. Feelings, souls, and meanings were not excluded — they are very much in evidence — but they are not the reason for the prayers. Human experiences might provoke the prayers, but they do not condition them as prayers.  

The Israelites didn’t think they could sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. But they did. My, how they did! How did they do it?… They immersed themselves in Torah-meditation: before they knew it they were praying. They were trees. Transplanted to Babylon they put down roots, put out leaves, and produced fruit.  We all suppose that we could pray, or pray better, if we were in the right place. We put off praying until we are where we think we should be, or want to be. We let our fantasies, or our circumstances, distract us from attending to the word of God that is aimed right where we are, and invites our answers from that spot.  My soul waits. Another will is greater, wiser and more intelligent than my own. So, I wait. Waiting means there is another whom I trust and from whom I receive. My will, important and essential as it is, finds a will that is more important, more essential…I begin to pray by attempting to manipulate the will of God. I end by putting myself in a position to be moved by His will. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.  


This prayer is from a 6th century collection of prayers.

Bless all who worship You, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same. Of Your goodness, give us; with Your love, inspire us, by Your spirit guide us; by Your power, protect us; in Your mercy receive us now and always. Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer: Charlotte Church. The performance was recorded live from Jerusalem in 2001.

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