This morning our church held a quiet day and invited the community, sort of a time out to be still. I arrived distracted and scattered by all that was in my head, thinking back about an earlier conversation with my husband and thinking forward to our dinner plans with our kids. My thoughts were everywhere but in the present tense. Wouldn’t you know, one of the readings our rector used was about being present. To use his quote from Henri Nouwen, “To be preoccupied means to fill our time and place long before we get there.”
Usually our thoughts are anywhere but the present. If you pay attention, you will notice your thoughts tend to cluster around either what’s to come or might come, or what has already been. These rob us of the peace we can have in this present moment with him. Prayer, especially contemplative prayer, can help center us in the present, where God is. In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
When God first spoke to Moses, he said, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) Out of a burning bush, God introduced himself in the present tense. If we want to find him, we need only search in the present moment. Not in the past, though he may have appeared to us in powerful ways and those memories strengthen our faith. Nor the future, though his promises are that he will meet us there, go with us and deliver us from our fears. He can only be experienced in this present moment. In the now. Which makes it all the more important for me to be fully present right now, where God is.
Today’s prayer practice: Being fully present
Find a place where you can be alone and be still with God. If this is a new practice, start with five minutes. Pay attention to your breathing. Be mindful that God is with you in this present moment. Ask for focus to stay in present tense, rather than letting your thoughts wander either backwards or forwards. If you have trouble quieting your mind, ask God to help you just notice what comes up, and either write it down or gently let it go. Try not to place any judgment on how the time goes or whether it ‘s productive. The goal is just to be in God’s loving presence, fully present in the presence.