4 Ways to Deal With Distracting Thoughts When Meeting With God

A Few Take-Aways From Lunch With Ron

I had lunch with Ron at a nice restaurant in Brea, CA last week. We caught up on life, family, jobs, and spiritual “things.” That last item probably wouldn’t have taken place a few years ago. Ron’s in a different place. So am I. We had a meaningful and encouraging conversation. What a difference a few years makes.

I say that because it was just two guys sharing life together. I wasn’t trying to force some spiritual insight into his life as in days past when I was his pastor. He wasn’t trying to influence me in some way. Yet, in the relaxed conversation meaningful issues arose.

In the course of conversation, the topic of his morning devotional routine came up. He told me that he had a special place where he’d sit with his coffee, read 3-4 devotional books with his Bible, and then pray for his family whose pictures lined the mantel in front of him. He often struggled with distracting thoughts and with sleepiness.

I figure some of you can relate. His description might be a summary of your morning “devotions.”

Perhaps unknowingly, he’d ventured right into my bailiwick. I asked him, “Why do you read so much?” “I’m trying to make up for lost time,” he replied. (Ron came to Christ in his late 40’s.) All the reading didn’t seem to be benefitting him much, however. So, I encouraged him to spend less time reading and more time in quiet with God. “This time isn’t about gaining more information as it is simply being with God,” I said.

Then he asked a wonderful question. “What about all the crazy thoughts that come to me then?” I shared with him these ideas:

  • Say a prayer like, “Lord, have mercy” when distracting thoughts come. This will help you refocus on God.
  • Write down items you know you can’t forget – things to do today. Then you can forget about them since they’re written down. But, don’t do this too often. This is not a time to plan your day. You will be able to remember truly important items later.
  • Dismiss random or bad/ugly thoughts. Don’t dwell on them. These “birds” will fly over but you don’t have to build a nest for them.
  • Lastly, I encouraged him to place a candle along with a cross or picture of Jesus on a table in front of him. This would give him a physical object that would help his focus on God. Light the candle saying, “Lord, have mercy” or a prayer of devotion to God. (He really resonated with this idea.) Develop a routine or ritual that you do everyday. Let it be filled with God.

Ron is a great guy who is seeking to know God better. I get to join his journey. Together we become what we couldn’t become as distinct individuals.

Thanks be to God!

What is your take-away from our conversation? Share it below.

Dr. K

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “4 Ways to Deal With Distracting Thoughts When Meeting With God

  1. I think your suggestions about distractions are so helpful and right on. I practice them and they work. I read Keith’s ebook about “Seven Days to Stillness” and the suggestions there. I have since been regularly lighting a candle to begin my prayer time and saying, “Lord, have mercy,” as well as the other suggestions Keith makes. Very good stuff.

    • Hi Tim. Great to hear from you. I’m humbled by your engagement with my experiences and material. The ebook in its final form will be offered soon. Be looking for it. You are a good friend. Thanks be to God for all things. Keith

  2. The bird analogy is wonderful. I sometimes use an image of a helium balloon to the same effect, just watching it sail up to heaven, taking with it bad thoughts.

    • Thanks Aimee! We can’t prevent the bad thoughts from coming but we can train ourselves to dismiss them as you’ve done. Blessings to you! Thanks be to God for all things! Keith

  3. Good to hear from you again, Keith. I agree that “being with God” is different than “having devotions.” It is much harder, I think. However, last week I finally experienced that stillness you talk about. It wasn’t first thing in the morning when I logically expect it. I had planted some flowers and then came into the quiet of my office. Before I could turn on the computer, I sat in the stillness and sensed a peace that I believe was God. So I resisted the urge to pray, read, journal, etc. and just tried to stay in that space. I had to keep my eyes closed to avoid distractions. It was very refreshing. I haven’t been able to repeat it again, but I’m still learning. So I hope your friend will also hang in there and learn a new way to connect with God. Thank you for encouraging us all in this pursuit.

    • Thank you Lois for sharing your experience. God is always with us. But it is refreshingly meaningful when we actually experience His presence as you did. Your experience is an example of moving from “head to heart” where God resides. May you continue to experience God’s presence on your journey. Thanks be to God for all things! Keith

  4. Does the moving wick(burning) of the candle cause your thinking and praying to energize your meditation on His Living Word you have just read that has encourage your soul in the Holy Spirit? I find my thoughts are not his thoughts or my ways his ways but his Word is His Word to me in meditation. Sincerely, Mother

    • I don’t think it is either read your Bible/devotional books or sit in silence. It can be both. Your comments reflect the exercise of the mind/thoughts/thinking, etc. and I am challenging Ron and others to relate to God with the heart. There are hundreds of helps for our thinking and little help for our hearts. Scripture is very important to our relationship with God. Yet, the term “Word” is usually a reference to Jesus Christ in Scripture (with a few exceptions where the term could refer to both). We can read and think all we want but God does not dwell in our thoughts. He dwells in our hearts. I need to learn to relate to Him there. Thank you for reading and engaging. Thanks be to God for all things. Keith

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