Have you ever heard of the term ‘EVOCATION’? It is an idea introduced to me in the Tim Keller book on prayer that I keep referring to.
Just read it – he says it much better than me!!
Not original to Keller I think it is a term from days gone by to communicate the idea of gathering your thoughts and focussing them on the Lord. We talk, don’t we, of smells being evocative – we even say things like “It took me right back – I was there in my grandmother’s garden” – or whatever. Keller suggests introducing a time of evocation before digging into the passage of the day or a list of people to pray for. He suggests several verses of scripture that will be evocative for us – grabbing our mental and emotional attentions and focussing them on the Lord. Borrowing from the patterns of the reformers, Keller encourages us to spend a few minutes reflecting on what it is to fear the Lord, the nature of the one we approach, and on our own disordered loves and muddled thinking, and then finally delighting in the Lord Jesus through whom we can approach our Father boldly.
This period of evocation has been a great addition to my times with the Lord. Transition is important to me whatever the situation. I don’t tune into things quickly. I like a time of settling into a moment, almost nesting. For example, in a cafe I like to place my bags neatly, put my coat somewhere and arrange my things on the table. Before this has happened my attention is not on the menu, or the conversation. I am there, but I haven’t fully arrived. Walking through the door of a quiet time – particularly first thing in the morning – it is as if my thoughts and emotions scatter to escape and explore the day, (or to hide from it!). So the first thing that is needed is some patience with myself, a recognition of what is happening and a prayer asking the Lord to help me round them up. Secondly they need to settle in and get focussed – hence the time of evocation. Only then are they (more) ready to get down to business with the Lord in whatever passage I am meeting him in that day. I also find that the way is then well paved for meditating on that word, praying it in and also continuing in fellowship with the Lord throughout the day.
On a linked thought – what do we think of the time just before a church service starts? There used to be a much stronger tradition of coming in and sitting quietly in order to settle in and get ready. More recently though the trend seems to be towards chatting and catching up and welcoming and screens with notices etc. My problem is that I want an element of both! To all come in silently and sit individually seems a far cry from a family gathering and also unwelcoming and secretive to the visitor, not to mention impractical/off putting for families with young children. BUT without that time of quiet I do find that my thoughts and emotions are then playing catch up as we go through the service. This is particularly tricky in a church like ours where we use lots of liturgy (set words for the service). Our brains tend towards autopilot – or mine does anyway. If I can do something on autopilot – I do. So I often fly along without pausing to consider what I am missing out on by not actually being present in the moment. It is not that the liturgy is incorrect or unlovely, but it is rather full of exits for our concentration to escape out of!
So what do we think – chatty family gathering or quiet settling in of heart and mind?
Of course any form of parenting or leadership make both of these options quite hard to achieve.
I think I am going to go for a convenient BOTH. Convenient in that I don’t need to make a choice, but inconvenient in that it takes time to add in a period of gathering. Perhaps we need to turn back to Mary’s example of extravagance and be more generous with the time we give to our family gatherings. Not easy when you have three back to back services to fit in – but then who said it was going to be easy!