Have you ever played “The Game of Minutes”? Do not be alarmed if you haven’t. It is not well known in our modern day. This little game was first described in the personal letters of Frank Laubach, letters written to his father while on missionary work in the Philippines. These letters, eventually published in 1937 under the title ‘Letters by a Modern Mystic,’ described Laubach’s desire to be mindfully focused on the presence of God ‘at least one second of each minute.’
Do not be thrown off by the use of the word ‘game.’ The language of game is not to suggest triviality. The game of minutes describes a continuous walk with our Lord. It is a ‘silent conversation; a ‘practice of the presence of God;’ a ‘familiar friendship with Jesus’; an ‘exhilarating spiritual exercise.’ For Laubach, the game of minutes simply described the manner in which he attempted to hold onto, and follow, the presence and will of God as revealed through the course of the day. He writes, “my part is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will, to make this hour gloriously rich.’
At first glance, we may think the game of minutes is impractical. There are simply too many things before us that demand our attention! We often believe, mistakenly so, that true focus on God must occur in the absence of the regular demands and tasks of the day. We believe that in order to truly engage in our spiritual lives we must retreat; we have to escape; we must jettison all distractions from our midst. There is truth to this in some regards. Jesus often calls us to ‘come away to a quiet place and get some rest.’ It is true that we often find it easier to re-connect with God when we step away from, and put down, the complexities of the world around us. Yet to take this too far is to believe that it is only through the cloistered life of monks and missionaries that such single-hearted focus is truly achievable. We mistakenly see life as just too busy for us, making the Game of Minutes, and other such spiritual disciplines, unrealistic. If we believe this we miss out on cultivating a wonderful closeness with Jesus.
The usefulness of Laubach’s game is that it is meant to occur amid everyday existence. Rather than taking us away from the regular spaces of life, playing the game of minutes is a manner by which we attempt to bring Christ into the demands and tasks of the day. We look for the presence of God around us; we cultivate a conversational relationship with Him; we keep a scripture verse or a prayer in our minds; we view silence as a place to listen to the whispers of God. This has the benefit of connecting our outward life with our inward meditations. While we play the game in the context of living our exterior lives, the game itself occurs inwardly. In our hearts and souls, we attempt to remain in a space of devotion, thus experiencing the blessedness that comes from choosing to live in closeness with Christ.
For all the benefits of Laubach’s game, we need to clearly realize that perfect execution of the game is impossible. Laubach himself states this. In a letter dated June 3, 1930, Laubach asks himself the question “Can it be done all the time?” to which he honestly answers, ‘hardly’. Throughout his letters, Laubach frequently speaks of his own failings. Yet perfect execution, however, is never the focus. “We fix our eyes upon Jesus and not on the clock” Laubach advises. It is the effort, the longing, the soulful desire for Christ’s presence in our minds that is both liberating and fruitful for our spiritual lives. The benefit found in playing the game of minutes emerges out of the whole-hearted attempt to draw closer to Christ, and not from achieving a score of 100%.
Don’t like the ‘game of minutes’? Why not try ‘a game of people’? Try to pray for every person you come in contact with during the day. Or, how about ‘a game of places’? Whenever you physically enter a new room or space enter prayerfully, looking, and listening for The Holy Spirit in that place.