This summer I spent two months teaching English in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it was an exhilarating experience. As a thoroughgoing homebody, I’m normally not one for travel, but this time I was traveling with a purpose: to teach English to people who were hungry to learn, and to represent Christ while doing it. It was thrilling to wake up every humid morning knowing I had an essential role to play in serving a distinct people group.
Fueled by this pressing sense of purpose, I inhaled everything: the soggy air, the pungent carbohydrates, the cultural knowledge, and most importantly, the interactions with Thai people.
I became a temporary extrovert. I’m normally one to lodge myself in a nook with a good read and only hang out with people when obligated or ambushed. But in Thailand, I was the one doing the ambushing. (Literally- I threw a surprise party for someone.)
I was more than just social. I was a social convener.
Because I was trying to wring my two-month stay for all it had to offer.
Having a limited time frame bred a peculiar sense of urgency in me. I was quick to reach out and seize each opportunity as it flew by. Every experience was sacred and precious to me- even the unglamorous parts like being drenched in rain, or my own sweat, or an amalgam of the two.
I was heartbroken to leave the place. And when I got home, I crawled back into my hole.
But after a couple weeks of moping, God woke me up to the idea that although the place was enrapturing, I wasn’t just missing the place. And although the people were beautiful, I wasn’t just missing the people. I was missing the intentional, wide-eyed approach to daily life that I adopted while I was there.
So I made a decision. I chose to extrapolate that intentionality from my trip to my every endeavor back home, whether it was grabbing coffee with a friend, meeting with my life group, or talking on the phone with my boyfriend.
When I chose this, my joy was revived. And I was reminded that even in the mundane moments, I am supercharged with purpose.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says this:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
The Greek word for “time” here is “καιρός” (kairos), not to be confused with the other Greek word for time, χρόνος (chronos). “Chronos” refers to the sequence of time as it passes in hours and minutes. “Kairos,” on the other hand, connotes not sequential time, but a limited window of time, or a fleeting opportunity.
This is how we’re called to treat time- as a succession of fleeting opportunities. To walk with intention is to “make the best use of” each teeming moment.
So how can we actually adopt this mentality and start living with intention?
3 Steps You Can Take to Transform Your Spiritual Life Today
1. Become a Prayer Warrior: Praying Sets Intention
Yes, I know, it’s a painful church cliché, but it’s an accurate depiction of how it feels to attack every waking moment with prayer.
Praying about things gets us thinking about things. And the more we’re thinking about something, the more we treat it with intention. It’s less likely to slip through the cracks of our consciousness.
I like to think of it this way: imagine we were about to deliver a message about Jesus to an auditorium of thousands of people. Leading up to the event, we would saturate it in prayer. And during the event, we would be pretty intentional about our words and conduct.
The funny thing is, our God has a heart not just for the thousands, but also for the one (Luke 15:1-7). So the way I see it, even if I’m just grabbing coffee with a friend, I should be praying just as intensely over my interaction with her as I would if I were Greg Laurie about to step on stage for the Harvest Crusade. This may sound extreme and unrealistic, but it’s something to strive for. An intentional prayer life lays the foundation for an intentional life.
2. Get Present: Being Present Makes Each Moment Intentional
Presence opens the door to intention. Being present means tuning in to the moment and asking ourselves what we need to give and what we need to receive.
My time in Thailand consisted of a lot of giving. I was teaching and therefore giving knowledge to my students. I was giving my friendship. I was giving my time. My attention. My money in some cases.
But my stay was also filled with ravishing moments in which I wasn’t giving anything. I was purely receiving. I was absorbing the rich beauty of a place, or a person, or a group of people, or a steaming bowl of Panang curry. I was savoring.
God may want us to receive a specific word or lesson, or He may want us to merely drink up His glory and rest in awe of Him.
3. Give Thanks: Thanks Sets Us Up for Future Intentional Moments
My prayer journal from Thailand is filled with gratitude entries. I’m convinced that gratitude journaling is more than just a Pinterest mom thing.
God doesn’t call us to savor the moments as they come and then move on with our lives. He calls us to pause and give thanks- like Daniel after receiving vision (Daniel 2)- and sometimes even to physically monumentalize something, like the Israelites after crossing the Jordan (Joshua 4).
So that we can boast of His goodness to others, and so that we can have these memories for our own souls to fall back on when times get tough.
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. – Psalm 34:1
Praise isn’t limited to thanking Him for His most extravagant miracles. It can be the little things too- the things we have to tune into so we notice:
- The way He works in our relationships over time.
- The way He answers those little prayers we nearly forgot we prayed.
- The way He opens doors for us that were once closed.
Praise reminds us to keep going so we can have more intentional moments that transform our lives for Jesus.
With fervent prayer, attentive presence, and copious gratitude, we can live with intention and watch God’s wonders- both the stunning and the subtle- unfold in our lives. This is the road to radical intimacy with Him.
Erica Baker works as a freelance blog post and devotional writer, helping churches and faith-based businesses put their ideas in writing. She is passionate about pointing women to God’s Word and empowering them to take fierce ownership of their discipleship to Jesus.