I am delighted to share an extract from Snares in Prayer by my friend, Lourine Clark. Lourine and I met in 2019 and realized we had much in common, including a passion for prayer. Here Lourine shares how distraction and agitation can be a sign of spiritual malnourishment.
Several years ago I came to understand something which has been hugely helpful. I was going through what I call ‘discombobulation,’ a state of extreme distraction and confusion where I make little progress in anything I am attempting to do. That particular day, I became increasingly frenetic, trying to bring something, anything under my control. Of course, my ability to pray or to concentrate on the Word was nil. I felt like a rat on an endless treadmill. Then it hit me! Just as my stomach signals to me that I am hungry for nourishment, this state signals to me that I am spiritually hungry. When I looked back over the weeks that had preceded that day, I discovered that I had been living on spiritual cotton candy–listening to an occasional Christian radio program, sending up prayers on the run. These were good things in themselves but not sufficient as the primary nourishment of my spirit. I ended up with occasional short sugar highs but was malnourished inside.
What I had to do became clear. I had to go the opposite direction of what I typically did in this condition. I couldn’t run faster. I had to pull away from all tasks and get to a quiet place. I couldn’t try harder to bring life under my control; I had to surrender control to the One who is Life. I had to feed my starving spirit. That particular day, I put aside my routine for the rest of the afternoon and evening. I relaxed in a hot tub, went to a quiet place in the house, listened to quiet classical music and then slowly began to feed on the living Word, psalm by psalm. Through the evening, my spirit calmed down (like the weaned child of Psalm 131) as I was drawn into fellowship with my Lord. The frantic state ended that evening. I wish I could say that I have never been in such a state again but of course that’s not true. But I can say that as soon I recognize a relentless distractedness overtaking me, I know that I am spiritually hungry. And that stopping for nourishment from my Lord is a ‘meal’ I can’t afford to miss!
Self Examination: Select one or two which is most applicable:
- Am I too busy to quiet myself with the Lord regularly? Am I a poor time manager?
- Do I resist setting boundaries in my life to keep it from becoming chaotic?
- Am I a perfectionist, trying to find perfection in myself or in others or circumstances?
- Am I currently grieving the loss of a person, job, place or dream?
- Is there an idol (ie, a good thing which has become the ultimate thing) I am worshipping alongside my God?
- Am I allowing myself to become over committed to please others or to cover over pain in my life?
- Do I tend to let the cares of this world choke out the Word’s power and help in my life?
Signs of Spirit led focus and self-control:
- In the midst of a full schedule, I enjoy a quieting, inner communion with the Lord.
- I am able to keep my word generally. I seldom forget a commitment to pray for a person or situation.
- Increasingly, I am keeping a Sabbath discipline, daily times of solitude, and other times of retreat with the Lord.
- I have a growing understanding of activities and people that drain or distract me from the most important things.
- My schedule has more margin in it, and a practical recognition of the seasons of life and of the year.
- I concentrate on the person or task at hand, with enjoyment, instead of trying to do two things at once.
Ask yourself these questions:
Where in this current season of my life do I tend to become “over occupied and too busy” or “distracted about much serving?”
What can I do specifically to refocus my priorities? Is this an opportunity to develop a spiritual discipline, eg, taking a weekly Sabbath rest?
Use this prayer:
Father God, how I need Your truth in my innermost parts today. I am distracted and rushing about as if the world wouldn’t run without me. Help me, please, to quiet myself before You. Increase my desire for You and Your ways of living. Let all the things I let distract me from You and leave me empty hold no more sway over me. I ask Your forgiveness for living as if I didn’t have You in my life. I ask Your forgiveness for believing I can’t change my ways and become a disciplined person. I claim Your truth that I am a new creation in Christ. Thank You that I John 1:9 is true, and that You have forgiven me and are now cleansing me from unrighteousness. I start anew with You now. May I walk before You with an undivided heart in Your ways and truth. In Christ’s Name, with thanksgiving, Amen.