When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.
I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before GOD. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer: many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering. Hold yourself in prayer before GOD, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the LORD. If it does sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that: trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to re-collect it: the will must bring it back in tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, GOD will have pity on you.
Eighth Letter (Concerning wandering thoughts in Prayer)
Paul once said the problems in our life (and the comfort that comes from God during those tough times) help us to give the same comfort to others when they are undergoing similar trials (2 Cor. 1:3, my paraphrase). Reading Brother Lawrence’s advice to another man regarding wandering thoughts during prayer had a double effect on me.
Firstly, it was good to know that I am not the only one struggling with this. It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking “Ah, you’re just a loser – see, everyone else is dealing with the problem and you’re still battling this issue.” I thank God for friends in Church with whom I am able to share the successes as well as failures in my spiritual life. It is good for many reasons: admitting that I am not holier-than-thou, sharing about the ways how God brings peace, and just getting the thing off my heart.
Secondly, Brother Lawrence gives a sound advice.
Hold yourself in prayer before GOD, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate.
For some time now (I think about a year or so) I am trying to keep my prayers short and simple. Or if not short, then still simple. Though the word “Lord” still appears quite often, it stopped being just a plug-in word and finally acquired the real meaning of a name. Same with the words and terms – I know that God knows what a proleptic way is or what is entire sanctification, I do too… But the point of my prayers is not to show to God how many smart words I know – the point is the CONVERSATION.
As I read Brother Lawrence’s words, I tried to imagine myself as a little kid at a rich man’s gate. The house behind the gate is stunning. The garden filled with noble trees and the flower blossoms of colors the rainbow didn’t even dream about. I have been invited, but I dumbly stand there in front of the gate not being able to bring myself to ring that bell. Yet, even though I have not made a sound, the gate opens. The Master is there. I stand, looking up, mouth agape, trying to guess what is about to happen. The Master moves to the side, inviting me in. I cannot believe it, but I take the step inside nonetheless because I want to be there, I feel that this is where I belong.
I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: to live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic.
Psalm 27:4-5, the Message
I am right there with David on that. Even though I love life, I love my work and friends… the promise of life eternal by His side is quite enticing. Whenever my time will come, it will be good time.
For now, however, I remain here and will continue leaning what God is teaching me.