We live in a fast-paced world that continues to accelerate. As a result of living in such an environment, we have become exceedingly good at multitasking. It’s almost become natural for us to have our minds scattered across several things at any given time. Granted, in older, more primitive times, splitting our attention was vital to our very survival and the ability remains both useful and valuable today. However, we are stretching our finite cognitive resources further than ever before and there are consequences that necessarily arise. Though the human mind is as vast and mysterious as the oceans, like the oceans, it also has boundaries and limits. The greater the area over which the mind is spread, the more shallowly it must be applied. In short, ill-managed multitasking impedes our depth of thought.
This becomes especially troubling in matters of faith and religion. We must dwell on the truths of the Bible in order for them to soak into us and transform us. In order to abide in Christ (John 15:1-8), we must spend time digesting and being nourished by Him, by the True Vine. This should not be equated to punching our time cards each week with church-related activities, for without taking time to dwell on God, on Christ, on the Bible, etc. these are like so many unopened books which never do us any good for having them. There is much to be gained from taking time to slow down and really attend to and be present to God.
Here is an exercise to help cultivate a habit of slowing down when we spend time with God:
Start by finding a place where you are able to concentrate. Generally speaking, this is a place where you can find some level of mental solitude (i.e. it doesn’t have to be devoid of people but you should be able to be undisturbed and able to focus entirely on one thing).
Pray and ask God to help you to slow down and focus on Him, to help you to listen to Him and what He has to say to you.
Take some time to just focus on your breathing. Take relaxed, full breaths. Become aware of the air as it passes into and out of you. Try not to think about anything else. It may be handy to have a paper and pen nearby as sometimes we can bothered by thoughts of what we are going to do after this. Writing them down on the paper allows us to set them aside for the time being without risking forgetting them. Feel your body begin to relax. Continue in this until you feel calm and still.
Once you have reached a calm, clear state of mind, read Psalm 4. Take your time and fully register everything that you read. When the Scriptures say “Selah”, pause from reading and reflect on what you have just read. After this, return to the psalm and continue, pausing at the next “Selah” to reflect as before. When you have finished reading the psalm, take another pause to reflect on what you have read, dwelling on what the Scripture is saying to you. From there, you may wish to repeat the reading again or perhaps there is a particular thought that has arisen from your reading that you wish to spend more time with.
Conclude the exercise with prayer. Pray out of the time you just spent in God’s word. You may thank God for some blessing you have received or recalled during the reading. You may ask God for forgiveness for a sin that came to mind. You may ask for His help and grace to stand up under some trial or temptation that came into focus or the Psalm spoke to. After praying, tuck away a bit of the quiet from this time into your heart and mind to carry with you throughout the rest of your day.
(Note: You can use this sequence when reading any selection of Scripture.)