Training the Wandering Mind

“And the man said to me, ‘Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you…’” (Ezek. 40:4a, NKJV).

“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:

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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).

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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?

26 thoughts on “Training the Wandering Mind

  1. A very good write on this perennial problem that we all face. For me it is about being creative in how to beat the distraction bug. I tend to write a lot of notes while reading my Bible, and to this I write my prayers too. My prayers are addressed directly to Pappa. Thank you sister.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds like a wonderfully solid approach, Alan. I love making notes too, and agree, it does help a lot with staying on track with focus. I sure do appreciate you sharing! And thank you also for the encouragement 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I will confess my mind wanders in prayer but when it does I sure ask the LORD to forgive me……oh how the flesh is in a battle with the spirit! Loved what you said here and thank you for giving us those solutions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am pretty sure every last one of us (including the greats who have gone before and are now blissful in glory with HIm) has had to deal with this issue as we grow in grace! I am sooooo grateful for how amazingly patient He is with us, right where we’re at on the journey of learning to focus more and more 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am very grateful for this post and others who commented. Having a focus in Prayer was a few years ago easier for me because I knew GOD called me in prayer for the Islands of the Pacific. I know with the printed map before me and my heart’s longing for all the people in the area of the cyclone I did not lose focus. Most times now I look up and even cloud formations distract but sometimes I believe HE says ‘Just come unto ME’. We should not be too hard on ourselves. He does not desire ritualistic crafted prayers. It a heart’s longing like a child to connect with a Father. Father, I Come.; Thank you for this post.

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  4. Oh, Jennifer I have several strategies that work for me now. Firstly, I first write my morning pages and empty my brain of it’s general morning chatter and make notes of points arising and things to remember to do later, thoughts etc. Then, with a now prepared and more focused mind, I use a kneeling stool to prevent discomfort or dozing… and I focus on a cross and a candle… I also have written down names and specific things requested for prayer, in case I want to refer to it or forget… I jot down specific things that come to me during my designated prayer hour and have a separate piece of paper to jot down ideas, memories, instructions, words, or other things given or popped up…
    I hope others may find some useful tips amongst that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! You have really added richness here, Dawn. Praying at home on a kneeling stool is something that had never occurred to me, but I love it! Where did you buy it? Everything that you have shared here is wonderful. I do the same thing, jotting down distracting thoughts and “to do” items so that they stop rattling around in my brain. And I also write down the ideas that come from Him as I spend time in His presence. Thank you so much for sharing all of this!

      Liked by 1 person

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