By Derek Maul
[The Lord] lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths. Psalm 23.
There’s more than one reason why I walk the dog. First, Scout Labradoodle has turned into a couch potato; if I don’t get her moving she’d likely remain content to – other than the occasional stretch – lay on the floor in front of the storm door and watch the world go by. Then, I certainly need the exercise. If I’m not careful I get rooted to my chair. And it’s not just my rear end that gets rooted to the chair, it’s my brain and my imagination too. A 15-minute walk can do wonders for a stuck brain.
I don’t walk all that far, but – like Thoreau contemplating Walden Pond – there’s a world of inspiration in my standard half-mile loop. So the walking gets a little oxygen to my brain, the seeing connects me to the constant miracle that is the world around me, and the listening engages my spirit to pay attention when God speaks.
And God speaks so clearly all the time, if only we pause to pay attention.
The listening part is possibly the most significant element of prayer that we tend to forget (or – more accurately – fail to even consider) when we live as disciples of Jesus in the day-to-day world.
It’s always important to invite God into our consciousness, and it’s certainly helpful to articulate our adoration, our concerns, our requests, and our struggles as a part of the process… but at some point we need to stop, to shut up, and put ourselves in a place where we can listen.
I don’t know about you, but it helps me to move away from my desk, from the work at hand, and into some quiet; it helps to take a few deep breaths, and to still the other insistent voices – and to allow my attention to become attuned to the source of creativity, and of wonder, and of peace.