Early on in Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus waking up very early in the morning and going to a “solitary place” where he prayed. It’s worthy of note this particular morning came after what must have been a late night ministry marathon. Earlier Mark tells us the whole town gathered at the door where Jesus was staying and he healed many of their diseases and cast out many demons.
Luke sums up Jesus practice with nine words:
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. 5:16.
What if setting aside focused time for prayer is more than a “spiritual” practice? Could daily “quiet time” be a key strategy for training the brain for its ultimate purpose: to perceive the presence of God, facilitating communion with the Creator?
This is how I’m defining worship lately: “The Spirit empowered capacity to pay sustained attention to the face of God until we are able to perceive his face in the unlikely faces of people.”
David Rock, in his book, “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus and working smarter all day long” makes the following observation,
Robert Desimone, one of the key scientists at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, discovered that the brain is capable of holding only one representation of a visual object at a time. It’s like the well-known optical illusion where you see either a vase or an old woman in the same illustration. The brain must settle on one perception at any moment; you can’t see both at once. You can, however, switch between the dominant perceptions at will, which is an intriguing aspect of these illusions.
It brings to mind texts like these:
“One thing I ask of the Lord and one thing I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.
Over the years I’ve seen so many people get mired down in the legalism of maintaining a daily quiet time, as though God would not be with them unless they maintained it.
–What if we thought about “quiet time” as the kind of brain training that leads to the formation of the mind of Christ?
–What if regularly withdrawing to lonely places for prayer actually rewires the brain, developing over time the Spirit empowered capacity to pay sustained attention to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
–What if this brain training led to the ability to truly behold the mystery of the Trinity; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, looking at one God yet seeing three persons.
–What if the discipleship we see in the life of the Son of God trains us to rhythmically shift our perception back and forth between the King and the Kingdom until we simultaneously see the majesty and the mercy of God.
Though the Mind of Christ be a mystical reality, it just might require submitting to the mundaneness of simply showing up for training. And isn’t this the nature of the Incarnation, the collision of the mystical and the mundane in the glorious pursuit of “on Earth as it is in Heaven?”