“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2, NKJV).
This verse brings our attention to one of the amazing facets of human existence: the ability to direct our minds. God created us with this capacity, and He invites us to use it in a marvelous way. With His help, we are able to focus our attention spans on the realm that lasts forever.
However, concentrating on “those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (v. 1) often does not come easily. Instead, we find ourselves quickly distracted by the things down here on earth: what we are going to have for lunch, what to-do items we failed to accomplish yesterday, that one comment someone made on Facebook… it goes on and on. Our minds seem to have a mind of their own.
Holy Spirit wants to encourage us today. Learning to set our minds on heavenly realities – like everything else in our spiritual growth – is a process. It takes a long, long time. So, settle in for the long haul and, especially, be patient and kind with yourself on the journey.
A helpful way to approach this is to regard our thoughts as children. Kids, by nature, are all over the place. They need to be taught and trained to sit still and listen. We work with them over many years to guide them in their development towards this kind of maturity. We do not treat them harshly for what they cannot yet accomplish. In the same way, be gentle with yourself as you gradually train your thoughts to be orderly and focused.
With fondness, I’m remembering moments in our church services when a toddler would wander up to the front of the church during the preaching. No one yelled at the adorable tyke. Instead, his parent would collect him as quickly as possible with a little smile. We all watched affectionately. Instead of being angry, we were enjoying the youngster’s innocence and curious spirit. As this child grew, he learned not to interrupt moments like that.
When you are trying to pray and you get distracted, remember this. See your distracted thoughts like that little guy. Realize that Daddy God is not yelling at you. He’s not angry. Instead, He’s watching you with affection and joy. Simply collect your stray thought as quickly as possible. Return your focus to the things above. Don’t worry if you have to do this over and over again. As you work with your thought life patiently and persistently, your thoughts will slowly mature in their ability to focus for longer periods of time.
Here are some valuable descriptive phrases that show us what to do with our thoughts as we work towards training them:
(Ps. 143:5, NKJV)
Use these, my friend, and practice, practice, practice! Set aside time to fix your thoughts on heavenly realities. You will reap a harvest in your ability to focus, if you do not give up.
Do you have any tips to share, that have helped you in developing your attention span for prayer and Bible study?