Monday, April 3
Prayer: wandering mind
   They didn't diagnose attention deficit disorder when I was a child, but I am sure I've got curious form of an embarrassingly short attention span.  I read four or five books at a time, unable to stay focused on one.  I work two minutes on this, and then my mind flits over to that.  I guess I'm good at multi-tasking - although who wants to be on the other end of a phone conversation with a multi-tasker?
   Prayer is hard when your mind wanders.  For years I gave myself low marks for prayer, constantly frustrated that less than a minute into praying, I wasn't praying any longer.  Then I learned a couple of things.  Prayer need not be limited to closing your eyes and talking silently to God.  You can pray out loud (which I often do in the car, so people think I'm singing or talking to myself).  You can pray typing - which I love to do; so I start an email to God, get it all typed, and I can stay for more than a minute.  I also read the prayers of others - and as a lover of reading, that helps me stick with it.
   I also have learned the surprising virtue of the wandering mind.  I read somewhere maybe fifteen years ago that, if your mind wanders in prayer, don't fret about it.  Whatever your mind wandered toward is exactly what you need to be in conversation with God about, what you need to offer up to God.  So now I try to remember: if my mind wanders, instead of giving myself a thrashing and trying to get back to my praying, I wrap my mind fully around what I drifted off toward, and share it with and ask God about it.  I hope J.R.R. Tolkien was right: "Not all who wander are lost."
   If your mind wanders, I am guessing you are like me.  My mind never wanders toward happy, peaceful scenes.  Instead, my mind wanders toward what is worrisome, what I'm fearful of or anxious about getting done or facing.  Oswald Chambers's wonderful daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, has been helping me here.  He points out that a barrier to prayer is that "we have misgivings about Jesus" and what he actually is capable of doing.  We think, "Of course I cannot expect God to do this thing."  Chambers is right, and the way he capitalizes He and Him when speaking of God helps: "We impoverish His ministry the moment we forget He is Almighty; the impoverishment is in us, not in Him.  We won't believe... We prefer to worry on."
   We hate worry - but just maybe, we are rather attached to it, and prefer to continue to worry, probably because we think it's all up to us, we fantasize that we are in control, and know nothing about God's power and what it is in prayer to yield control to God.
   Lord, I am afflicted, and maybe blessed, with a wandering mind.  Whatever my mind drifts toward, let me find the way to bring that to you, and even to dare to trust you with whatever it may be .  
Come with me to Italy in October on my St. Francis Pilgrimage!
For more on the things our minds wander to and prayer, check out my new book, Worshipful: Living Sunday Morning All Week.