For years I have been impacted by John Donne’s words below. I circle back around to it so much that I have actually made it mine. Not in a plagiaristic way, but in that this spiritual reality now resonates in my own life. Donne is talking about our focus on the Lord and how we can so easily become distracted by even the most common of things. My prayer life is particularly attacked by the enemy through means of various distractions.
Distracted by Distractions
“I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and His angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and His angels for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door; I talk on in the same posture of praying, eyes lifted up, knees bowed down, as though I prayed to God; and if God or His angels should ask me when I thought last of God in that prayer, I cannot tell.
Sometimes I find that I had forgot what I was about, but when I began to forget it I cannot tell. A memory of yesterday’s pleasures, a fear of tomorrow’s dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine ear, a light in mine eye, an anything, a nothing, a fancy, a chimera in my brain troubles me in my prayer.”
In my early Christian life, I struggled to keep my attention and focus on the Lord, which gave me much anxiety. I would come to pray already anxious about not being able to stay focused. I felt I could lose the presence of the Lord I so desired to experience simply by being distracted. Since then I’ve learned that mental gazing is something you do in rest and not through striving.
Crisis Around Distractions and Being Distracted
So why is my focus such a crisis? Because if the devil can pull my gaze off the Lord, then he has my heart. We look at what we worship. Our gaze is fixed upon what we love. If it is not on the Lord, then it is misdirected worship and focus. This is why it is so vital to keep a single-eyed devotion on the Lord. Distractions come and go, but our choice must be to remain stable and fixed on Jesus Christ. The alternative is to live diluted and ineffective.
1 A snippet from Sermon LXXX preached at the funeral of Sir William Cokayne, KNT., Alderman of London, December 12, 1626.