"Attention is the Beginning of Devotion"

January 1, 2020

by Rev. Neil MacMillan (Moderator - Designate)


‘Attention is the beginning of devotion.’ For some reason, these words resonated with me and are stuck in my head. I was listening to a podcast (This Cultural Moment) which was discussing how big business, big tech and the porn industry use digital devices to monetise people’s attention. The more time we spend looking at our screens the more our hearts will follow our gaze. And where your heart goes your wallet will follow. Business understands that and so do we. 

Your story this year is part of a much bigger story that is full of wonder, drama, beauty and hope. God is at work in the world working out the story of redemption, renewal and restoration. It is a magnificent story of saving grace that centres on the gospel news of Jesus Christ, his substitutionary death and glorious resurrection.

Your role in this great drama is made clear in the Bible. In this coming year, God wants to speak to you in mighty ways through his Word. There are some significant scriptures you need to hear, ponder and pray through if you are to flourish and enjoy the story in the coming 12 months. In the course of this year, you are going to be given so many blessings to enjoy - more than you can count – but you will also encounter hard things, difficulties and sorrows. In the good and bad God speaks to us through his Word giving the wisdom from above that allows us to grow and flourish in every season. Those who delight in the word of God and meditate on it are like a tree planted by streams of water. We need his Word to flourish.

‘Attention is the beginning of devotion’ is a quote from the late American poet, Mary Oliver. As big tech captures and holds our gaze, as it disrupts our day and distracts our attention, how we give devoted and undivided attention to Scripture is becoming a more fraught problem. God has wonderful, important and transformational words to speak to you. To hear what God is saying is a massive challenge. To let the Word of God speak clearly you need to be less distracted. To be less distracted you need to be bold; create time away from your devices and the online world so that you can fix your gaze on Jesus. Time in the morning, through the day and again in the evening when you phone is turned off or left in another room is a great way to redirect your attention and make Jesus the object of your devotion.