Continuous Partial Attention
by John Grant Share page

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

A Microsoft researcher recently suggested that many people today suffer from what she described as “continuous partial attention.” We are watching television, working on our laptop and talking on our cell phone when someone comes in to speak to us.

We then find ourselves engaged in a number of tasks, but only partially concentrating on any of them. In this crowded, confused electronic world, attentive listening is becoming more difficult.

Our God is a speaking god and He wants our full and undivided attention. He wants us to listen, for what he says is not just information, but truly imparting life itself. It brings us into the presence of God Himself.

God’s voice brings an awareness of sin, our need for cleansing and our longing to worship Him as we should. But, none of that is possible without our complete and undivided attention.

To enter into solitude and silence is to take the spiritual life seriously. It is to take seriously our need to quiet the noise of our lives, to cease the constant striving of human effort, to pull away from our absorption in human relationships for a time in order to give God our undivided attention.

In solitude God begins to free us from our bondage to human expectations, for there we experience God as our ultimate reality. Silence deepens the experience of solitude. In silence we not only withdraw from the demands of life in the company of others but also allow the noise of our own thoughts, strivings and compulsions to settle down, so we can hear a truer and more reliable Voice. Reliance on our own thoughts and words, even in our praying, can be one facet of a need to control things, to set the agenda, or at least to know what the agenda is even in our relationship with God.

It is in silence that we habitually release our own agendas and our need to control and become more willing and able to give ourselves to God’s loving initiative. In silence we create space for God’s activity rather than filling every minute with our own.

Give God your total undivided attention. Be still and know that He is God. Hear His voice and heed his ways, for no other conversation in your life can be more important.

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