Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Even the Disciples Lost Focus

Today is Spiritual Journey Thursday, a day to spend some time turning toward God.  Please feel free to join me on this journey each Thursday with Holly Mueller and friends.

For the next several weeks, our topics will be each other's one little word   Today's topic is Holly's word - focus.  I had a post ready to go, but another idea surfaced the other night as I was reading Spiritual Hunger by Gari Meacham.  I was reading a chapter on engaging God with prayer.
This particular section was "Lack of Stamina or Staying Power in Our Prayers."

I am a cradle Catholic, so most of my prayer life has been ritualistic, traditional prayer.  I can say a decade of the Rosary with no problem.  But it isn't long before I am rote praying, and my mind easily becomes focused on everything but the Our Father or the mysteries.  It is easy for me to lose focus when praying this type of prayer.  Or as Gari puts it, I have "...Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to prayer."

As I kept reading, I realized the disciples, Jesus' closest friends, struggled with staying focused while praying.  

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray."  He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them.  "Stay here and keep watch."

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  "Simon," he said to Perter, "are you asleep?  Couldn't you keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

The last line is key to understanding that sometimes no matter how much we desire to be focused on God and want to have engagement with him through prayer, we are still weak.  He knows we wander and through His grace continues to center us.


  1. Leigh Ann, this is right on target and resonates with me. I go to church and often find my mind has wandered. I am quick to turn back to the Lord but am ashamed for my lack of attention. I have been on a campaign to stay focused at church but now have to invest the same determined stance during prayer. Focused has become a powerful word for me as I LISTEN to life. I see that your OLW, turn, is taking a very positive turn.

  2. When I go to the funeral home and the rosary is about to be said, I rush out. Not that I am against the prayer , but I don't know it. I feel uncomfortable with everyone around me mumbling, even small children. I feel left out. However, I love the rote prayers that I do know because they are comforting and allow me to focus. My mind does wander, but the words help me wander back.
    When my father-in-law was dying, we had an awkward priest. He was young and unsure. I told him, "Just pray The Lord's Prayer." He did and both of them found peace in the moment. I understand what you say about losing our focus, but these prayers have purpose and meaning. We just need to tune in to them.

    1. Margaret, I like the thought that your mind does wander, but the words help you wander back. That gives me hope that my wanderings will lead me back to my focus. Thanks to both Leigh Anne and Margaret for a great start to my day.

  3. Your last line, "He knows we wander and through His grace continues to center us" is a beautiful one. I often take comfort in the disciples! ;-) They were so imperfect, and they had Jesus standing right before them! I just read Margaret's post and comment - it's interesting that she can focus better during traditional prayers, and you have a hard time. I can relate to both of you. My favorite traditional prayer is definitely the Lord's Prayer. It makes me feel calm and peaceful. However, I enjoy spontaneous, Spirit-led prayer, also. I'm fortunate that our Presbyterian church does both, which suits me well. We also have different kinds of services. Our early service is traditional - it's held in the sanctuary, our pastor wears robes, and the music is traditional hymns. Community prayers and readings are included. The later service, the one I attend, is contemporary. We meet in the multipurpose room, the pastor changes into jeans, we drink coffee, and the music is up on the screen and is contemporary Christian songs. The choir is changed out for the Praise Band. I love that the members of the church can choose what best suits them. Anyway, thank you for the FOCUS on prayer, Leigh Anne. I need to check out that book! I'd like to do more spiritual reading this year to help me FOCUS. What are your favorite spiritual books/authors?

  4. I loved your last line too! What an inspiration. I know my mind wanders and I lose sight of Him too. It is so good to know He has grace for even this. Thank you.

  5. I was raised Catholic too. I now attend a Methodist church. My praying life looks completely different now. I was so intimidated and scared. People were offering prayer requests out loud during the services!!! What?!?! When I asked about that a friend told me that praying is a conversation between me and God. It's taken me years to feel comfortable with it, but I love praying now that I feel like it's a conversation. My problem is listening! I don't always listen. My mind wanders too. Have you ever heard of Praying in Color? It's a great book about coloring your prayers. This helps with focus because you are engaging both parts of your brain. I bet you'd like it. Thanks for a wonderful post. I LOVE your new blog!!!

  6. Wonderful last line - "We are still weak. He knows we wander and through His grace continues to center us." Reminds me of the hymn - "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love." Thank goodness for His grace constantly reaching out to us.

  7. My comments will echo the ones before: "He knows we wander and through His grace continues to center us." This brings me so much comfort! Thank you!

  8. THis is wonderful. The decade. You're so right when it becomes rote. I recall a burning meditation I once did where the intent lined up with lines in the Our Father. All those years of rote recall suddenly became passionately true.
    Makes you wonder about the Disciples though. How patient must they have been. How hard did they have to keep their focus, not only in the presence of Jesus, but after his death. May their cat naps were to prepare for the future?
    Praying is hard to keep focus. Isnt that why we are called to prayer more often in times of trouble, because of our focus?