And so, we have come to know and rely on the love that God has for us. 1 John 4:16
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your heart.” 1 John 5:21
My verse for this year is, “And so I walk in the Lord’s Presence as I live here on earth.” (Psalm 116:9). This year my goal has been to be more attentive to the presence of God in me and around me. Christmas reminds us once again that there is very good news. Immanuel has come – God is With Us.
As believers, the Scriptures teach that God is not only with us, but if we know him, he promises to be in us. It’s not that this year God is more present than he was last year, but I’m becoming more aware that he is there. However, this involves learning to pay attention.
So let me share with you something I have learned to practice that helps me become more aware of both myself and of God.
Every day there are many things that scream for our attention. What we prioritize in our mind doesn’t always get the most attention in our day-to-day life. The apostle John warns us to stay away from things that might take God’s place in our heart.
In my life, I find the things that most often distract me from God aren’t bad things.
Usually they’re good things, important things, but when I get caught up in or rely on those things instead of God, I am bowing to a false god instead of relying on Jesus.
How do we know we’ve been serving another master? Pay attention to the tension in your body as well as your negative emotions. These can be the first warning signs that you need to reorient yourself. Perhaps you feel tense when looking at your bank balance or find yourself clenching your jaw when your spouse says hurtful words. You feel irritated with the pokey driver or hurt because you didn’t get invited to the party at a friend’s home.
False gods come in many forms but tend to group themselves around the idols of security-comfort, approval-affection and power-control. Ask yourself: What are the things that take God’s place in your heart? Jesus says when he becomes the center of our heart; we experience perfect love and have nothing to fear.
There is a prayer I’ve learned to use when I feel stressed out with life, notice my body tensing, or feel negative emotions. Remember, these things usually happen because our security has been shaken, we’re not getting the approval or affection we crave, or we have no control over a particular situation or power to change another person.
Here is the prayer:
1. Focus on the feeling in your body, becoming aware is the first step. Sink into it (tension in your chest or belly, clenched jaw, shaking hands, etc). Do a body scan and see what feels tense or upset.
This step is counterintuitive because we often reject the feelings in our body. We see them as enemies and try to fight them off. In this prayer, do the opposite. Accept it and give it your attention.
2. Welcome the bodily feeling. Our intention here is to acknowledge where we are at this moment and then welcome and consent to the Presence and action of the Holy Spirit. We want to embrace what is happening to us at this present moment (as it exposes our idolatry) instead of fighting it or trying to ignore it.
3. Reorient yourself. You are now ready to let go and you can do so by praying to God, “Lord, I let go of my desire for security and comfort right now. I let go of my desire for approval and affection, power and control. I let go of my desire to change this feeling or this situation. Right now, I will be in this moment with you Lord.
I have found it very helpful as an “in the moment” means of being aware and consciously moving toward God in a more surrendered and yielded way. Practicing this prayer has also helped me identify which idols are getting stirred and recognize that my well-being is depending on something “other” than God. How do I know this? The body doesn’t lie. We know something is “off” when we get distressed in body and spirit. Even when our mind cannot acknowledge something, (anger for example) our body language is saying something very different.
Being attentive to body tension is a faster way to resting in God then trying to mentally figure it all out. In this step we are submitting ourselves and surrendering ourselves in a conscious way to the Lordship of Christ in our body/heart.
Please don’t think that this prayer means we never take any action. But it is only when we recognize what is truly happening and give it to God, will we have His wisdom to know what the proper action is. Otherwise all we do is a reaction, and usually it causes more problems.
Try it and let me know what you think.