[ This is the introduction to my Bible Study on praying when your thoughts run out of control. ]
Do you struggle to focus on God when you open your Bible?
Do you fight to calm the chaos in the background of your mind?
A million thoughts churn in your head. A never-ending to-do list weighs heavily on your mind. The worries of life crowd out the words in your Bible or the prayer you’re attempting to articulate.
This can’t be right. This should be easy!
I get it.
So many times I’ve sat down to read my Bible or connect with God and I can’t get past the thoughts in my head and move into what I think I’m supposed to focus on.
I often feel guilty because I can’t concentrate on God. As a result, my time with God doesn’t leave me feeling refreshed or peaceful.
I end up frustrated with myself, angry at my inability to behave like a “good Christian.”
God recently showed me two important teachings during my quiet time with Him. In doing so, He showed me how to end the focus struggle AND deepen my relationship with Him.
I recently worked through Dannah Gresh’s new study on Habakkuk. In it, Dannah tells us to not be afraid of the thoughts that bombard us when we sit down to spend time with God.
When I read this, I felt like she was talking right to me!
I’m glad to know I’m not alone in the struggle of pushing my thoughts and worries aside when it comes to reading my Bible and praying. I’d always assumed that if I had more discipline, I could simply switch off those thoughts and get right into it with God. Or maybe if I had more faith or was more “godly.”
Instead, Dannah says, “[These thoughts] may be the very thing [God] wants you to bring to Him during your time together.”
It was a lightbulb moment for me!
Suddenly it made sense!
The things that weigh heavily on my heart – whether it be finances or the struggles of parenting or messy relationships or stuff on the news or social media – also weigh on God’s heart because they take me away from HIM.
He wants us to bring our concerns to Him.
If He cares for me that much, He wants to hear everything I have to say.
As my mind lingered on this realization, I wondered, How will I do this without getting stuck in the mire of my mind?
Before you continue, read these laments from the Bible:
[ ] Job 13:14-25
[ ] Psalm 13
[ ] Psalm 88
[ ] Habakkuk 1:2 – 4 and 1:12 – 2:1.
(Then of course there’s the 5 chapters of Lamentations, almost smack dab in the middle of the Bible.)
By definition, a lament is an expression of grief or sorrow. (Dictionary.com)
This expression is usually made in the form of a song or a poem, sometimes called an elegy or dirge, both of which are typically reserved for mourning the dead.
Biblical laments have a bonus. When we believe in God, we can lament to Him. We can tell Him all our sorrows and/or our difficulties. Anything that worries us.
When Christians lament, we are able to have hope in the midst of our struggles.
Jesus, our perfect role model, also lamented.
[ ] Read Matthew 27:46.
When we feel afraid or overwhelmed or angry or sad, God wants to hear from us.
Rather than complaining to our best friends or venting on social media, why not take our worrisome thoughts, our overwhelming problems that won’t let us think about anything else, to the Lord?
Another Biblical role model we can look at is David. Paul referred to him as a man after God’s own heart in Acts 13:22. The Psalms are full of David’s laments. Before we go further, consider this promise and truth about God, penned by David himself.
[ ] Write out Psalm 145:18.
Does it seem counterproductive to try to pray when we’re struggling to…pray? Maybe you think, “I’ll just try to pray – or read my Bible – later…”
Don’t let that happen. Don’t let the devil win.
Stay with me as I show you the steps to lament.
If you don’t have one already, start a prayer journal.
Actually, this will be a Lament Journal.
If you want to keep your laments and your other prayers separate, that’s up to you. Either way, get some paper to write on.
As a writer, I find that taking pen to paper works better than typing when I’m trying to express my deepest emotions and uncover my subconscious thoughts. However, this is only a suggestion. Try a few different methods to see what works best for you.
The next pages contain the steps God taught me to use when I struggle to focus on Him.
This is how I lament when I’m fixated on my problems.
This is how lament brings me closer to Him.
If you like what you’ve read so far, my Bible study, “Lament Like This: How to Pray When Your Thoughts Run Out of Control” is available now.
Join Parakos, my free Facebook Bible Study group, and work through this Bible Study, one short unit at a time.