We’ve all been there. Maybe daily for some of us. You make a point – finally – of setting aside some time to get alone and pray and listen to the Lord…only to have your mind racing uncontrollably about the multitude of items on your agenda for the day, or perhaps that were on your agenda yesterday but didn’t get done.
I once read this common phenomenon referred to as “jumping monkeys” that are wreaking havoc on our brains as we attempt to spend some “quality time” with the Man upstairs. I think that’s a pretty accurate representation of what it’s like to try to sit still when we have dozens of other things vying for our attention. But, there are a couple things to keep in mind when this happens:
- Your brain needs time – more than 30-60 seconds – to calm down before you try to have a meaningful conversation with the Lord.
- If you’ll sit still and allow those “monkeys” to settle down, you’ll be amazed at how clearly you’ll be able to share your heart with Jesus, but more importantly, how much more you’ll be able to listen to His Spirit.
I believe the jumping monkeys have been around since the first prayers were uttered. It’s nothing new. It’s simply a sign that our minds are on overload. Don’t beat yourself up about it…but push through it! The enemy wants to distract you from communing with your Heavenly Father. Take some deep breaths and just ask the Lord to help calm your thoughts. He’ll do it…if you’ll give Him more than a few seconds of your time.
It can be discouraging to try and develop a pattern of prayer, much less a heart of prayer, especially when it’s something new we are trying to weave into our daily lives. Keep in mind that there’s not a “one size fits all” approach to prayer. Some people find it helpful to schedule a specific time and place for prayer each day. For others, it’s an ongoing conversation throughout the day. Still others prefer to write out their prayers in a journal.
No matter what approach you take to prayer, know that your Lord desires nothing more than this time alone with you. It’s the best part of His day. And, it can be the best part of yours, too…if you can learn to tame those monkeys!
C.A. Phillips serves as Communications Pastor and Director of Men’s Groups at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga.