“Mom, I have a problem,” my daughter Ester said to me the other day. “When I’m trying to focus in, my mind wanders.”
Welcome to the human condition, dear. I’m chuckling as I type that. I didn’t actually say those words, but I might as well have. Isn’t this a battle that we all face? Does your mind, like mine, seem to have a mind of its own?
I have found great comfort in the truth that Daddy doesn’t expect us to have a perfect attention span. He never, ever is mad when our attempts at prayer seem feeble because our mind is scattered rather than focused. He has taught me to simply redirect my thoughts, gently and consistently, back to Him, again and again, and again… as many times as are necessary. Very gradually, over many years, we learn to hold a more consistent focus in prayer.
He is ever extravagantly patient with our fumblings. By the same token, He does intend for us to grow in this area. Just like we want to keep the lawn mown rather than allow the grass to take over everything, we want to learn to exercise our God-given dominion in our thought life. In the above verse from Ezekiel, His messenger gives the prophet three instructions that are pertinent to this learning process:
- “Look with your eyes.” Right now, you are choosing to look attentively at your screen to read this post. In the same way, every waking moment of your life, you decide where you will set your mind’s eye. Choosing to look in the right direction is an essentially vital component to growing up in God. For this reason, the Bible is full of directives calling our attention to where He wants us gazing, such as these: “…We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor. 4:18, NKJV), “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” (Heb. 12:2a, NIV), and so many more.
- “Hear with your ears.” Daddy wants to train us to listen for His voice. The book of James enjoins us to be slow to speak and quick to listen (Ja. 1:19). Above every other context, this admonition is of the highest importance in the context of prayer. In our time alone with God, we should do more listening than talking.
Of course it is a dialogue, and He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him. However, are we giving Daddy adequate space to share His thoughts with us too? He has so much to say, for those hungry hearts who will carve out time to lean in to hear what’s on His heart. I find that journaling the first wisps of what He begins to whisper opens up the flow to hearing more of the depths of the content that He wants to share with me.
- “Fix your mind on everything I show you.” This, too, is a choice. We hold the sacred responsibility of directing our mind. We are called to relentlessly turn our mind to things above, to set our deepest affections on God’s realm… to make His presence our most passionate focus. While it is much easier to just let our mind wander around wherever it wants to, a true disciple of Jesus is summoned to a higher standard. Even in the midst of our daily routine, we can train our inner being to continually look to Him.
Mercifully, there is lavish grace available for the learning journey. As long as you are moving forward towards Jesus, do not be anxious about the rate of your growth. Entrust that to Him, the Author and Perfecter of your faith. Just keep looking up to Him. When you get distracted, simply give your heart a gentle pat and redirect it. Again and again and again, gently and patiently shift your thoughts and your gaze back onto Him. Little by little, your focus will grow.
“If then you have a new life with Christ, give your attention to the things of heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your mind on the higher things…” (Col. 3:1-2a, BBE).
This song, very pertinent to today’s devo, is one of my new favorites. Check it out and tell me what you think: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh8fpj3OtD4
Do you have any tips to share that help for keeping focused during prayer, worship, and throughout the day, on the Lord?