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One Way to Focus in Prayer

Front row seats can be expensive. My husband and I discovered this when we bought tickets to a U2 concert. So we chose to sit a bit further back. Still, we had an exciting time.

An ordinary-looking man stood right in front of us. We noticed how many people who passed by stopped to say hello and shake his hand. Turns out, it was Bono’s brother.

Being up close is often where the action happens. But, being up front and close to Jesus can look completely different.

With Jesus, it’s where the lessons and listening begins.

One woman, in particular, Mary the sister of Martha, encourages us to be on the front row with Jesus.

Jesus came to Mary and Martha’s house. Although women didn’t have the same opportunities as men to learn or to be taught by a rabbi, Mary seized the chance in front of her.

Whatever meal preparations she was involved in, Mary left them behind and sat at the feet of Jesus, the proper place for a disciple to be. There, Mary could listen to Jesus and learn from Him.

Martha, however, a woman more comfortable having an upfront role and making the action happen, was preoccupied. Although she opened up her house to Jesus, she had a hard time letting go of her responsibilities and being in charge.

Martha nearly missed what was in front of her.

Being able to cook is not one of my strong attributes. I feel I have no control over what happens in a frying pan. Luckily for me, my husband loves to cook and is good at it, too. So, I’ve always thought it easier to identify with Mary rather than Martha.

Recently, however, I realized I have a bit of both Mary and Martha in me, especially when it comes to prayer.

When I try to concentrate on prayer, my mind wanders to my worries, “to-do” list , and more. You know how it is.

I’m just like Martha. Pans bubble away on the stovetop of my heart. I get flustered and distracted.

But I want to be like Mary; to focus my attention and spend time with my Lord.

Each one of my distracting thoughts is like one of those pans. I need to turn off the heat under each one, just for a short while, so I can press in closer to Jesus.

So, I imagined turning off the heat under the anxiety about my son’s performance at school. I extinguished the burner under my worries about our finances. When it came to the results from a recent doctor’s appointment I was waiting for, I hesitated. For this, I turned it down to a simmer.

All these things could wait a while.

I breathed a bit easier after going through these actions in my mind. Suddenly, my thoughts cleared. And in the space came the realization of the day — it was Easter Monday.

Then I heard Jesus whisper to me,

I am alive! Isn’t that wonderful?

I would have gone my whole day and missed this beautiful truth. We need to make space in our minds for Jesus to speak.

Is Jesus gently chiding you to forget about the action and, instead, take the front row at His feet, to sit, and to listen?

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One Way to Focus in Prayer
  • Rachel tears almost filled my eyes as I read this. I loved how you chose to use frying pans as comparison. I love to cook and so does my husband so we make a good team and it seems our kids do too even though they married spouses that didn’t but have learned being in this family. It’s like Good Friday again today reading this.

  • Rachel,
    Good morning Rachel, Always lovely to stop by your place! I attempt to pray while I walk as well…I so want to be Mary, but end up like Martha going down rabbit trails that lead to nothing productive. We’ve been having some gloriously sunny days here in the South and like you said, sometimes I just need to go for a walk and thank God for being alive. I find that when I start with the gratitude first, my walks take on a whole new demeanor. Joining with you in wanting to sit in the front row at Jesus’ feet!
    Blessings friend,
    Bev

  • Oh boy, can I ever relate to distracting thoughts interrupting my quiet time! I love the thought of visualizing turning each one off! Thanks for inspiring me today! Cindy

  • Definitely Jesus is asking me to take less action. At last night’s bible study I felt Him nudging me to just two scriptures. “Try this out Lynn…just two..you don’t have to learn everything at once. You have plenty of time!” So often my mind travels way ahead, onto the next thing before fully absorbing what is right in front of me. I’m glad He nudged you into breathing in the beautiful day on Good Friday.

  • Rachel, I lost my focus this morning during my prayer time (as I do many mornings!). Then I thought about what is necessary – not my to do list, or all the chaos swirling. But sitting on the front row, at the feet of Jesus. Thank you, what a beautiful post!

  • I recently wrote a blog post called Mary, Mary. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed but I knew that I had chosen what was important and it would not be taken from me. I can leave my laundry folded and put it away later, I can get back to prayer and study. The best place to be is at Jesus’feet. The Holy Spirit is always there, so in a way, we’re there.

  • Rachel,

    Thank you for the beautifully written reminder. I’ve always identified more with Martha – busyness, a major struggle. I needed this reminder today to take a front row seat!

  • Sweet ponderings here, Rachel. While there’s much value in service, it’s important to take time in stillness before Him. Thank you for sharing this valuable reminder with us at Grace & Truth!

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