When Your Mind Wanders in Prayer

Written by Craig Denison

The feeling is all too common. I’m sitting down in my favorite chair spending time with the Father, meditating on his goodness and experiencing his presence, then all of the sudden my mind takes off like a run away freight train. By the time I catch up with it I feel like I’ve lost my place–lost my sense of communion with God.

For years these unwelcome musings have been a source of great frustration for me. I have journal entry after journal entry voicing my frustration with myself for not being able to focus longer than what seems like a few fickle moments. On one such day this past week however God stepped into my frustrations and spoke something that’s been producing real fruit in my time with him this week.

Maybe these wanderings aren’t so random. Maybe my mind brings to the surface those things that trouble it. Maybe these musings could actually reveal something about myself that goes deeper than what I’m willing to admit—deep enough to unveil a picture of what I truly care about—of what my priorities might be.

Rather than scrambling behind my thoughts trying to clean them up, maybe I need to take some time to investigate them with the help of the Holy Spirit. And maybe I have a God who’s good enough to enter into my mess with love and grace, and help put the pieces of my thoughts together to form something beautiful.

As I’ve stopped getting frustrated at my wanderings and instead allowed them to serve as a window into my heart; I’ve seen amazing and scary things. I’ve seen that I care way, way too much about what people think. I’ve seen that I’m easily wounded by situations, words, glances or unfounded beliefs about those around me. I’ve seen that I seem to care a lot more about my reputation with others than I do the perspective of my heavenly Father towards me. And I’ve seen that I’m a lot more scared to disappoint my fellow man than my Creator.

No wonder I got so frustrated with my wanderings before. For the most part they sure aren’t pleasant to look at. But what is far more life-giving than trying to shove them all back in the junk-closet of my subconscious is bringing them into the light and being empowered by the Holy Spirit to throw most of them away once and for all.

Take some time this week to look at your wanderings. What are the things you’ve been shoving back for far too long? What are the fears, desires or misconceptions that are bubbling up to the surface? Spend some time journaling about them with God and see what you find. You might just discover that peace was as close as a few silent moments, a journal and pen, and a quiet conversation with an all-knowing, all-loving God.