Paying Attention: From the Editor
Form before function. I ran across that phrase recently and it stopped me in my tracks—literally. I’ve had a minor but nagging injury to my foot that wouldn’t heal even after several days off from running. The lack of progress over two months had been discouraging. “Form over function” suggested, however, that I first needed to pay attention to my posture and particular muscles that weren’t engaging properly before I could return to running. This idea, incidentally, fueled the barefoot running boom—and my own journey toward recovery.
“Progress, if such a practical term can be used, is not measured by the amount of ground that is covered; it is measured by the amount of attention that is paid,” remarks Robert Benson in his book Living Prayer. Regarding the journey of prayer, he writes, “We must pay attention to the seasons that surround us and we must live the season in which we find ourselves.”
If we were to look closely at our lives, we might find that there are particular narratives—perhaps associated with a loss or persistent difficulty—that give shape to our prayers or lack thereof. The pages of Scripture are punctuated with prayer, giving voice over the centuries to earnest cries, songs of praise, and words left unspoken. In the pages that follow, we consider the prayers of the psalmists, Daniel, Zechariah, and even Jesus. Their lives provide needed perspective and their prayers awaken hope. They bespeak a faithful God who does not forget his people: He is at work in us wherever we may be whether we see Him or not.
As Ravi Zacharias notes, “Prayer, in its most basic form, is the surging of the human spirit in its weakness, grasping at the Spirit of God in his strength.” Likewise, John Lennox calls to our attention “times when those of us who are believers may find the way difficult; we are faced with apparently unanswerable questions and insoluble difficulties—many of them to do with the flow of life. It is at those times that we most need reassurance that there is a world beyond this one; there is a God who is real, and He loves me.”