Let’s face it: we are distracted. We busy ourselves with many things. We get lost in our work and projects. We entertain ourselves with media or whatever. We allow ourselves to be carried along by the tide of what people want from us.
And perhaps most of what we do is good — but still, we are distracted.
The good is the enemy of the best and as Jesus said to Martha who was busy and distracted with the kitchen work, “Only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42). The one thing that is needed is to sit at Jesus’ feet as Mary did. Always the best thing for us to do is to worship the Lord and listen to him.
We get Distracted
Why do we get so distracted? Why do we let various good things keep us from the best thing?
Because the first thing we are likely to feel when we sit down at Jesus’ feet is empty. Deep in our souls there is a void that we don’t want to feel. It’s a certain discontentment or restlessness. We may describe it as feeling unloved or insignificant.
We don’t like experiencing this void so we divert our attention away from it. We keep busy. We keep ourselves stimulated with noise. We keep our minds occupied.
Thirsty for God
The Psalmist continually returns to sit at the Lord’s feet in prayer. For instance, in Psalm 143 David feels this inner emptiness and describes it as a dark pit, a place where the Lord’s face is hidden from him. He prays to the Lord, “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah” (Psalm 143:6).
He sits in the darkness and waits for morning to bring him word of God’s unfailing love. He feels the emptiness inside and lifts up his soul to the Lord. He yearns for the Lord’s unfailing love and he cries out to see his face. He knows that his soul without God is a parched land and so he does not allow himself to be diverted from thirsting for the Lord and the living waters that only come from him.
What does it mean to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to him and worship him? Certainly, it means to gather with other Christ-followers for prayer or to set aside quiet time to meditate on Scripture and share our heart with the Lord. But the point of fellowship and quiet time is to stoke a fire in our heart for God and keep it burning as we carry on with daily life.
I have no doubt that Martha learned to worship the Lord while she did her kitchen work. We can too — if we’ll sit down in the empty void in our souls with Jesus until it becomes a sanctuary filled with his presence.
Try Praying with your Hands
Try using your hands to help you offer David’s prayer from Psalm 143. Imagine your soul as a parched, desert land. Spread out your hands, palms up, before the Lord. Wait on him, ready to receive whatever he has for you. Then pray:
O Lord, I spread out my hands to you /
My soul thirsts for you like a parched land…
Selah. (Psalm 143:6)
Try Praying with your Breathing
You might try this as a Breath Prayer to help you to be still, meditate deeply on God’s word, and contemplate the presence of Christ within you. Practice breathing in and out, slowly and deeply. Make your pattern of breathing as a prayer of longing for God, receiving from him, and letting go of the things that distract you.
Then as you pray the first line above, wait to breathe — feel like a parched land longing for the rain of God’s Spirit. As you pray the second line, breathe in God’s refreshing love. As you breathe out the word “Selah” let go of the things that are stressing you or preoccupying you because the one thing you need is Jesus.
If you put enough time in practicing breathing a simple Scripture prayer you’ll form a habit of your heart. You’ll find yourself praying a Breath Prayer when you hadn’t even intended to. This helps us to keep our minds and hearts engaged on God.
More Soul Shepherding
“Chasing a Rabbit” gives further explanation on why we distract ourselves and how we can invite God into the empty places in our soul.
More Breath Prayers
To pray a short verse or paraphrase of Scripture as a Breath Prayer is refreshing and empowering. It helps you learn to practice God’s presence all day and stay in tune with the peace of Christ. I’ve selected key verses of Scripture and developed step-by-step instructions for meditation, breathing rhythms, and prayer in “Breath Prayer Guides.”