Do you find when you set aside time to ‘mullinate,’ (to pray and ponder in the Lord’s presence) that you are bombarded left, right and centre by all sorts of distracting thoughts? The first thing to remember about these inevitable distractions is that we are on our Father’s side, just as He is on ours. But as surely as the Lord loves to slip in precious impressions, the enemy is at pains to plot and plan to see if he can slither in distractions and delusions in order to side-track our focus. He knows that if he can do that, it will diminish our energy and even our incentive to seek the living God.
Some of these disturbances are so intensely directed against us that they can feel all-consuming. It is as important to identify and deal with them as it would be to repel boarders from a ship! Or the powers of darkness simply draw on one of their plentiful supply of little ‘nothings’ in the attempt to fritter away our time.
May the Lord increase our ability to be still in the Lord’s presence – and to be quick to bring ourselves back to the Lord’s presence when our thoughts drift. This is a matter for discernment as well as resolution. With experience we learn to sense when something is a distraction, and when it is rather a sign that we would do better to be more lenient towards ourselves. We cannot possibly hope to get the balance right every time, any more than we can operate at 100% intensity the whole time. Focused meditation, like everything else, benefits from proper breaks.
Whatever it is that we are engaged on, discernment enables us to sense when we need to go the extra mile and push harder, and when we are wiser to take time away from it. Even just a few minutes can leave us feeling renewed and refreshed.
With these things in mind, and drawing extensively on themes that my great uncle, Bishop Frank Weston, addressed in some of his retreat talks and writings, we are offering this meditation to help us to overcome distractions, and to enrich our ponderings with the Lord, so that we can unite our hearts and minds more fully with His.
Lord in the midst of so much inner and outward noise,
I want to still my mind to pay attention to You and to You only.
In You Jesus, I cultivate the gift of internal stillness as well as external silence.
You are the Eternal Power, the ultimate force in the whole Universe –
and You make it possible
for each one who puts their trust in You to dwell with You,
and to walk with You in active partnership.
In Your name, Jesus, I shut out from my mind every distraction.
Deliver me from evil –
and from every fiery dart and flash of flame from the enemy’s magnifying glass that would have me direct my focus on things I don’t need to be steamed up about.
I want there to be more room in my heart for You:
to make it a sanctuary of prayer and worship;
a reflection of Your love,
and a mirror that shines with Your compassion for people.
Forgive me the many times I allow my heart to burn for that which is not of You,
For every time I do this I give You that much less room and opportunity to let Your love triumph in me.
Come deep within and do the work You need to do.
I long to pursue You with vigour and joy –
and the calling that You have spoken over me,
Keep me from sickness and slackness,
and from lingering in guilt over all I fail to do.
In Your holy name, and by Your great grace,
let me spend each coin of time that You give me wisely and well.
More on overcoming distractions
We must let our times of ‘mullinating’ grow their own fruit – but tend the fruit by getting into the habit of talking to the Lord at different times throughout the day.
It is the Father who willed that we, who live in a busy and sinful world, should become His temples. He knows all about the specific difficulties that we face, and He fully intends to renew and redeem our minds so that we can pray and respond to them in the power of the Spirit.
So long as we are prepared to continue the struggle against distractions there is no reason to be worried. We are giving the Father all He expects, and He values our prayer precisely because we are struggling not to succumb to the things that come our way.
I am not speaking of the times when we are lazy, and give up; but when the Lord sees us struggling against the distractions that daunt and dog our steps, we are not to be afraid of them. The Father thrusts us out into a world full of distractions and bids us to redeem it by our prayer. This is what gives prayer true meaning in His sight.
To the end of our lives we will never be completely free from difficulties and distractions, but as our will becomes slowly purer, and our desire stronger, we will find that their power over us is lessened. Little by little, we bring all the details of life into the Lord’s presence, so that all becomes one vast desire in our union with Him, as we fix our heart, mind and will on Him. We are in a great ‘school’ of His Sacred Heart, and it is His delight to teach and lead us, so that prayer becomes all the Father intends it to be as He moves through us to fulfil His will and purposes.
May we not be downhearted about our distractions, therefore. Where they are the result of past sin, the Lord Jesus forgives us as we bring them to Him – and when the devil taunts us with the reminder of them may we be quick to remind him that You have forgiven all that we have confessed to You in the past.
Where distractions come as a discipline that You need us to bear,
enlarge our heart to do so with a willing spirit, Lord!
Where the cares of the world are pressing in hard,
give us grace to turn away from them,
and to trust that You will find a way forward for us, through and beyond them.
But where they stem from the wiles of Satan,
empower us to show great resilience to resist and overcome them in Jesus’ name.
No matter how much we are hurting, may the Lord keep us from looking inwards, and convincing ourselves of our worthlessness. May we not focus our eyes too long either on outward circumstances, lest we find our faith faltering and daunted by the size of the challenge and by the seeming hopelessness of some situation. May we rather look up to His face, and remember the power that He has placed within us. Nothing is too difficult for Him.
It is fear and pride that hold us back from co-operating with His power – that dreary self-sufficiency which causes us to think that everything depends on our own wisdom and resources.
Lord, because You have chosen us, and I have responded to Your call, I open my heart now to meditate on the secret power of Christ at work in me. Your power outweighs all weakness, pain and cowardice, and enables me to keep on walking. That is why You urge us to “Lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Little by little, we find ourselves caring ever more passionately for others, as His concerns become ever increasingly our own. For His sake, we find an ever deepening concern for the well-being of the Church and for whatever other sphere He lays on our heart. His direction will be quite different from one person to the next.
Because we are learning to seek God about everything that comes across our path, prayer itself becomes a profound oneness with Jesus. Grant us the willingness to go whatever extra mile may be required in any situation, as well as to respond to those who have an obvious claim on our time and wherewithal.