Leighton Ford masterfully weaves his experiences in learning about and observing the hours of prayer into a map anyone can follow for journeying deeper in discovering what is in one's own heart and in preparing one's heart to receive God. He calls us to pay attention to God and to pay attention to ourselves. He draws parallels between the hours and practices of prayers and the days and seasons of our lives. He contrasts those threads with the threads of activity and rest in our lives. He invites the reader to do more than admire the intricacy of the map, but to step into the map and begin the journey for oneself. The book is a guide to which the reader can refer as needed along the way.
As a lifelong lover of words, this is one of the most beautiful, brilliant books I've read. It's also among the best antidotes out there to the neurotic, hyperactivity of most of modern, ahem, 'culture'. Reading it is to rest in and learn from the stillness, depth, clarity, gentle humour and high perspective of its author, Dr. Leighton Ford.
"Often we keep ourselves busy and distracted because we fear that if we slow down and are still, we may look inside and find nothing there," sums up his cultural critique.
In a section entitled 'One Who Paid Attention: C.S. Lewis Looking Along a Beam', Ford writes of Lewis's realization of "two ways of looking at life: looking at the dancing and moving events, the happenings and surroundings of each day, and looking 'sideways' so to speak, 'along the beam' to see not only what is happening but why, and what it is that gives meaning to the happenings of our lives." We need to both look 'at' and 'along' the beams each and every day, Ford encourages us.
"Many of us now assume," he writes, "that knowledge is either 'scientific' and based on facts or 'mystical' and based on fancy, and never the twain shall meet."
Again he brings in my most favourite author on the planet, C.S. Lewis, to provide the counterargument: "God must have loved material things: after all, He made them!"
Ford writes that he hopes "this book will help us to pay close attention both to the beams that surround us and the Source that upholds us, in such a way that time and eternity, this world and the next, are always intersecting." In other well-chosen words, "that not just the experiments of the scientist or the intuitions of the mystic will save us and transform this world."
I enjoyed Leighton's description of his own 'second journey' using the observation of 'hours' as a daily marker and also a life passage marker of being attentive to and interacting with the presence of our very intimate, personal God. It gave me lots of opportunities to be reflective of my own life as I venture on my 'second journey'. It's great to walk the journey with other people of faith like Leighton.
If you have found that your life is so full of activity that your attention is habitually divided and you can be easily distracted, this book will give you practical helps to learn to pay attention. That will influence your personal relationships, beginning with the most foundational one with God Himself. It was recommended to me, and I will definitely recommend it to others. It may not interest anyone who is not ready to focus on that which is of greatest value in life.
Leighton Ford must have been writing this book for me personally. I have been sharing his quotes and observations with other Christians, especially with my prayer and study groups. I first found "The Attentive Life" at my local library and quickly found I needed my own copy to contain my homework. Praying the hours is just what I needed to focus my attention on God's work in my life right now. I'm trying to find a way to incorporate this book as part of a study for my Women of Spirit group. I was unfamiliar with Leighton Ford but will probably seek out some of his other writings.