Sometimes “quiet” time with God feels more like trying to read a book in a mosh pit.
I’ve experienced it before, and I bet you have, too. You settle down for some quality time with your heavenly Father—eyes closed, journal out, Bible open—when the onslaught comes.
Sometimes it’s physical: Your stomach grumbles, your phone buzzes, your dog barks, your kids cry. With a little bit of training, it’s often possible to plan past these distractions: Bring a cup of coffee or a snack, silence your phone, and plan for early morning or late night.
For me, the physical distractions often aren’t the problem. The mental distractions are.
I’ll sit down with my Bible, journal, and Jesus when the floodgates open. Did I wash those dirty dishes yet? I need to remember to email so-and-so today. Remember that one time when….
The list goes on. Ten, fifteen minutes will pass before I realize I haven’t even finished the chapter I’m reading in my Bible. Every prayer feels like I’m starting from square one. God doesn’t feel close; on the contrary, He feels quite distant.
Social media-paced culture can be dizzying, distracting, even enslaving. The onslaught of thoughts, texts, and tweets can be overwhelming.
Make the Most of Distraction
Personally, I’ve tried many ways to keep myself focused during devotional times. Below are a few ways that have helped me keep focus.
- Pray out loud. If it won’t disturb the people around you, try praying audibly. Saying the words that come to mind keep our minds from wandering. This also helps to keep our prayers succinct.
- Journal what you pray. Sometimes, when I have a pen and paper, I’ll write my prayer. Occasionally, I’ll write my prayers, word-for-word. However, more often than not, I find it most effective to create a bullet-point list of prayer requests on my mind.
- Keep your distractions separate. I remember a coworker who would always come to prayer with her Bible and a notepad. She would use the notepad to keep track of the daily tasks that came to her mind while she prayed.
- Be devoted. It may be redundant, but devotionals require devotion. Commitment—choosing to stay in one place and focus—is hard. But when we commit, more often than not our prayers get prayed.
Finally, after all that work, I need to clarify: The goal of “quiet time” with Jesus is not quiet. The goal of “quiet time” with Jesus is Jesus. If your mind is pulling you in a hundred directions or you’re distracted by the day’s tasks, remember that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Jesus isn’t rating your quiet time. He’s patiently waiting for you to make an intentional, devoted, imperfect, probably distracted effort to meet with Him.
And all those distractions, all that chaos that comes by choosing to slow down life to be with Him, is in the end unquestionably worth it.