I grew up in the Pentecostal Christian tradition. This meant that I was privy to plenty of flag waving, loud preaching, and crying folks running around the sanctuary. I know this sounds bizarre to the uninitiated, but to us, it was very normal. Those services certainly had their moments where I'd scratch my head and wonder if we'd missed the point, but to this day I'm thankful for it because there was a freedom of expression and it was, as Planet Fitness says about its gyms, a "no-judgement zone."
I'm ever-prone to distraction, and while I wasn't diagnosed as a child with ADD—looking back—those church services didn't do me a lot of favors when it came to setting my mind straight in prayer or worship.
Because of that, I began a practice that I still finds me much help in the "prayer closet." I have to first sit and go completely quiet. At the house, I'll sometimes even employ ear plugs so that I can focus on my breathing and come down off the hill of never-ending noise. And then I just sit and rest, and do nothing.
I described that practice recently as sitting on your living room couch, watching a little Scottish Terrier run around in circles and circles over and over again until he finally wears himself out. It's kind of like that. You can't always will the distracted mind into submission, you just have to stop feeding it for a second.
We're all that little dog to some degree. Yes, our current culture has replaced money with attention as the real commodity worth everything, but it didn't just happen in the last twenty years. Nope, we've been distracted since we got here.
As the hymn says,
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
The practice of quieting before prayer is one of pragmatism. I'm not sure if everyone else can just close their eyes and start speaking to the everlasting God of all the universe, but I certainly have to come back to the realization that this is a holy moment. One to be approached like Moses: with the dirty sandals of the day's distraction set aside for this infinite interchange.
So in my moments of intentional prayer, and moments of the everyday mundane, I'm praying that God would rescue from a mind of busyness and to pause and know that He is there.
And I'm praying the same for you.