Do you have trouble paying attention?
Our culture trains us to have short attention spans. The average television show doesn’t last more than five seconds without changing the camera angle, the scene, or the graphics. You’ll never go more than twelve minutes without a commercial. This is definitely a cultural shift of the last few decades. As recently as the mid-1900s, gospel meetings regularly lasted three weeks-with a three-week encore if things were going well. The original Lincoln-Douglas debates of the mid 1800s consisted of 8 to 10 hours of the debaters reading their materials aloud. My head hurts just typing that sentence!
I suspect that the cultural war for a long attention span is lost, but I think we can improve individually. It bothers me how easily I lose focus when praying or listening to lengthy blocks of scripture. In school I was cautioned about using long scriptures in sermons-because “people won’t listen.” What a sad thought!
There is something to be said for the spiritual discipline of meditative reading and prayer. It doesn’t come as naturally to us as it did to previous generations-but it is now even more important to our spiritual health.
Here are a few of the Bible’s many references to investing time in God’s word:
- Joshua 1:8 “The book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night…”
- Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in his temple.”
- Psalm 77:6 “I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.'”
- Psalm 119:48 “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statues.”
If you’ve never really done it, carve out some time to make this discipline a habit. Isolate yourself from distractions-use a “do not disturb” sign if you have to-and use that time to read, re-read, read aloud, and think about the words of Scripture. When your mind wanders-it will-breathe a simple prayer for God to direct you back to his word. Think about the meaning of the text; think about the goodness of God. Time alone with God is like a breath of fresh air for your soul!