We live in a world filled with opportunities for distraction. Phone calls, text messages, social media, news, movies, music, radio, podcasts, and a host of other potential diversions all cry out for us to turn away from our present activity to give our attention (even if just for a moment) to another activity.
While it is rarely wise to reflect on the “good ole’ days” as if our time history is unique (Eccl 7:10), it does appear that our generation is unusually susceptible to what we might call “the fragmented mind.” The ability to rivet our attention on a given topic, project, or assignment for extended periods of time has gradually (but certainly) weakened.
This weakening of our capacity to focus is due, in large measure, to the way we’ve allowed ourselves to yield to multiple distractions throughout the day. Often our phone is the culprit, but it can just as easily happen as you work on your computer and give in to the urge to check your email or the news or Facebook every few minutes, or when you attempt to “work” while watching television. Prolonged concentration is a skill that we are slowly losing.
While the loss of this skill will likely have ramifications in our professional lives, it is even more important that we recognize that our inability to maintain sustained focus on a given task will also undermine our walk with Christ.
The two primary means by which we are to dwell near to Jesus are biblical meditation and prayer (Ps 1, 119; John 15:1-7; 1 Thess 5:17). Both of these practices, however, require the Spirit-enabled discipline of prolonged concentration. If our time in God’s Word and in prayer is constantly delayed, interrupted, cut short, or otherwise distracted, it will become increasingly difficult to cultivate a renewed mind (Rom 12:1-2) and combat the encroaching enemies of our souls (Matt 13:18-23). We need a plan for action. Long-time pastor Albert Martin puts it this way:
With a thousand things that clamor for the focused attention of our minds, there will be no day and night meditation in the Word, no resolution or prosecution, no sense of expectation or perseverance, apart from a commitment to a structured and consistent pattern for the devotional assimilation of the Word of God.Albert Martin, The Man of God, 254
The fight for time in the word and in prayer is truly a fight for our lives. Our flesh, Satan, and the world oppose any kind of intentional, well-ordered time in personal devotion. But neglect here will lead to a slow but steady decline in our spiritual vitality.
Developing a mind that keeps its focus on God’s Word and prayer requires Spirit-enabled effort. For the sake of our souls, we must push against flesh that longs for ease, resist an enemy who looks to exploit our love for easy entertainment, and rebel against a culture that sees nothing wrong with dabbling in a multitude of seemingly harmless diversions throughout the day, so long as it keeps us from setting our minds on things of highest importance.
But you must not yield to any of these sources of temptation. Cry out to God for help, take up your weapons of biblical meditation and prayer, and fight for your lives.