Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dealing With Wandering Thoughts

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7)

I have been thinking a lot in recent weeks about the statement the Lord Jesus made in John 15:5, "apart from me you can do nothing."

Surely He Doesn't Mean That
Nothing is a very big word. It's one of those all-encompassing statements which the Lord Jesus was so fond of making to His listeners. They challenge us to the core if we have the nerve to stop long enough to consider them seriously. Did Jesus really mean that we can't do anything without Him. Paul certainly seemed to think so - the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Gal 2:20).

A Hare-Raising Example
I had a perhaps seemingly trivial example of how dependent we are on the Lord while we were holidaying with my parents. A wild hare has taken up residence in their garden. Or so I was told. As the week went by, everyone had seen the hare - except me. I was beginning to wonder if the hare really existed of whether the whole story was concocted by my family as part of a joke at my expense!

So when I was told, yet again, that I'd just missed seeing this elusive creature a little cry of frustration rose from my heart to heaven, "why haven't I seen the hare?" Immediately there came a reply in the form of a thought that popped instantaneously into my mind, "because you haven't asked me." So I responded simply, "please can I see the hare."

Within a couple of hours my youngest son came to search me out to tell me the hare was in the middle of the lawn nibbling at the grass. To my absolute and somewhat childish delight I was able to look out of the window and enjoy watching the hare as it munched it's way first through the grass and then through the weeds on the patio.

Turn Everything Into Prayer
That little episode showed me how absolutely dependent we are on the Lord, even for those things we take for granted. The Lord wants us to live a life of prayer, bringing everything to Him as Paul so eloquently reminds us in that well known Philippian passage. And this is where we come to how to deal with the wandering thoughts we all know so well when we're trying to pray.

You know the kind of thing I mean: I must remember to get those batteries when I go shopping; I wonder if she realised she offended me by what she said; what am I going to give the family for tea; I've nearly finished that book, I wonder what I could read next. And so it goes on. Our brain has a seemingly limitless supply of such distracting thoughts which can, on occasion, fill the whole of our time alone with the Lord.

The source of these thoughts may be our own mind, but we're also suspicious that some of them are planted there by the one who doesn't want us to pray. But what if it's the Lord who's reminded us about the batteries or wants to deal with the offence we feel? What if He desires to be so intimately involved in our lives that He wants to share in conversation about meals and what we choose to read?

Getting The Victory
It really doesn't matter where these thoughts come from, the Lord wants us to turn them to prayer. Whether it be a request for help, a repentant heart, a minor decision that needs to be made or thanks to be given, these apparent distractions can actually add to our praying as we begin to present all of our requests to God instead of thinking there's some of these things we can handle by ourselves. Then, instead of beating ourselves up at the end of an unconstructive Quiet Time because our thoughts have been all over the place, we will have the peace Paul talks about in Phil 4:7.

Prayer College Assignment
This one is so simple, but such a joy. When faced with wandering thoughts in your Quiet Time, turn them to prayer. With some of the stuff which passes through our minds we might have to be creative to think of a way to turn them to prayer. But with a little bit of imagination, and as we acknowledge our need of the Lord to help us pray, it can be done.

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