A ttentiveness is intimately connected to happiness. Think about it. When I’m worried, it’s because I’m attentive to troubles. When I’m grateful, it’s because I’m attentive to gifts. Where our attention is makes a huge difference.

Why do I find it so hard to unconditionally trust God? Because I am not attentive to the right things. I am too attentive to the wrong things. Prayer is attention given to God. That’s why prayer is so powerful in transforming me and helping me to trust God more authentically.

To focus attention in prayer, keep things simple. The basic assumption of Catholic prayer is the radically unconditional love of God. But being attentive to that is easier said than done. When Jesus was asked how to pray, he responded with the words of a prayer. Words are signs. They point to something beyond themselves. Words focus our attention.

The first word of the prayer Jesus taught is, “Abba.” It is a term of endearment, akin to what a little child calls her father, like “Papa” or “Daddy.” Jesus is the first person in recorded history who applied the word to God. In doing so he placed God the Father at the center of his theology and his own identity: Jesus is beloved of the Father, sent by the Father, he alone knows the Father, he returns to the Father. His relationship with the Father is precisely what he wants to share with us. That’s where our attention belongs for effective prayer. That’s the key to growing unconditional trust in God.

Try this prayer and the “making gains” action below and allow God to make gains in your life.

Prayer:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Making Gains: This week, let’s focus on a word to grow in guiding attention to God the Father. This will help to grow in trust.

Do the following this week: Kneel at your bedside in the morning and at night and pray the Our Father (the kneeling part will help…trust me. You’ll feel like a little kid. That can help!). Then at one of these prayer times, take five to ten minutes and simply repeat the words “Abba” and “Father” as you gently breathe in and out. Breathe in, saying “Abba”. Breathe out, saying “Father.” Allow whatever images come to your mind that help you to remain for a moment. For example, imagine a little baby or toddler sleeping on her father’s shoulder as he gently sings to her. Let these two words gently focus the attention of your heart. Your trust-muscle will grow.

*Bonus Supplement: If you’re looking for even more, trying mixing in an additional five minute exercise with the scene from the Baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:9-11. Repeat on the beads of a rosary verse 11: “And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is powerful. Give it a try.

 

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