Years ago I responded to letters within a couple of weeks and kept my correspondents happy. Then came the fax machine, and they seemed content with receiving a response within a couple of days. Today, with email, instant messaging, and mobile phones, a response is expected the same day!

“Be still, and know that I am God.” In this familiar verse from Psalm 46 I read two commands of equal importance. First, we must be still, something that modern life conspires against. In this hectic, buzzing world, even a few moments of quiet do not come naturally to us. And stillness prepares us for the second command: “Know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” In the midst of a world that colludes to suppress, not exalt, God, how do I carve out time and allow Him to nourish my inner life?

“Prayer,” writes Patricia Hampl, “is a habit of attention brought to bear on all that is.” Ah, prayer . . . a habit of attention. Be still and know. The first step in prayer is to acknowledge or to “know” that God is God. And in that attention, that focus, all else comes into focus. Prayer allows us to admit our failures, weaknesses, and limitations to the One who responds to human vulnerability with infinite mercy.