Those of you who have ever encountered personality inventories will understand what I mean when I say that on the Myers-Briggs Inventory I am an ENFP. One of the things that I really enjoyed was when I discovered the personality type prayers and my prayer was:
Dear Lord, help me to concentrate on one thing…..
oh look a bird……….
at a time. Amen.
I am very easily distracted, by all sorts of things. I look out the window while I am pondering a thought for a sermon, and it is easily 10 to 15 minutes later and I am still looking out the window. I look for something on my desk and get distracted by a note that I made to myself days, weeks, months ago and wonder if I ever followed up.
This tendency to be distracted can be particularly troubling when I am praying. The other day I was out at one of my favorite spots at the lake, praying. Every thing went well, as long as I was praising God for the beauty of nature. Everything that distracted me was something else for which to praise God. The warmth of the sun. The freshness of the breeze. The wind whipped waves. The amazing blue and emerald of the water.
Those very distractions proved to be a problem when I started praying about some of the deeper issues and concerns in my life. I kept getting drawn back to the beauty of creation and lost the thread of what I was praying about. Eventually I just quit and sat back and enjoyed what God had done.
As I reflected upon that event over the last few days I began to wonder about the lesson in what happened. Over the years I have learned techniques for stopping distractions. We were taught in the class on centering prayer that when a thought took us away from the prayer phrase we were focusing on to just reach up and grab it and put in your pocket for later and then refocus on your prayer phrase.
Would that technique have worked while at the lake. It wasn’t a long list of nagging thoughts like, I need to remember to get milk, or I should do some laundry when I get home. I was being distracted by the wonder and beauty of God’s creation.
The conclusion that I am embracing regarding this incident is that there are distractions that can pull you to the greater blessing. There is that Martha side of our personalities that can at times make prayer a chore. I think that was what was happening that day. I stopped praising God to focus on important matters that I needed/wanted to pray about. But I was at the lake–the sun was warm, the wind was whipping the waves into white caps as far as I could see, the breeze was rustling the trees. I was in the presence of God and what I needed to do at that point was to embrace the Mary side of my personality and simply enjoy being in the presence of God. This was my little oasis away from the pressures of my life and work, a time that was meant for me as a source of refreshment.
Of course I need to be discerning about this. I could easily say, it’s okay to be distracted in prayer, this is a space of refreshment. I need to be honest, with myself and with God. Am I called to stop and be refreshed in God’s presence, or is this the time to pray for the deep concerns of my heart and are those distractions interfering with the source of my strength and inspiration as I seek my purpose and calling?