Do you find your mind wandering during worship? Do you read the words and sing them while your thoughts are far away on a distant shore? I suspect I’m not alone. Yesterday, during a God-honoring praise song, my thoughts were on the patio I’m planning.
The voices swelled around me and sang, “You are high above it all….” But my thoughts were: Hmmm, I wonder if I should plant hollyhocks to screen out that neighbor view? Or maybe I could try an evergreen? Bamboo grows fast but it gets scraggly…I yank my mind back to the next song as we all sing, “No other name…” But I find myself musing, would the foxgloves do okay in smaller pots than I had planned? Or do they need to be gallon-sized containers? Wow! That woman has the cutest shoes on…
How could I be praising the Creator of the universe but have my thoughts be so erratic as to resemble a fruit fly on caffeine? What’s wrong with me? Nothing. I’m human, and so are you. We all have times when it’s difficult to keep our mind on the task at hand. It’s particularly embarrassing and guilt-producing when you are in church. What to do?
When I find my mind not following the words on the screen or not lining up with the words coming out of my mouth, I employ these 3 methods to fixate my thoughts.
1. I thank God for specific times of deliverance.
I remember all the times God has answered prayers and been there to deliver me—even when I didn’t ask Him. When I was a toddler, I fell into a bonfire and received third degree burns. I could have died. I just ended up with some minor scarring on my hands. I thank God for that.
Or I remember the time I got caught in a rip current in Hawaii and started to panic. Things turned out okay. Thank you God. And I can’t forget the car that almost hit me as it careened down a hill in downtown San Francisco. My clothes and hair went swoosh as it brushed close by yet I was unharmed. Thank you God.
Mentally I rehearse all the times He has rescued and saved me. I wrestle down my wandering thoughts with specific moments of gratitude.
2. I picture a magnificent scene.
Sometimes the words of a hymn or praise song just scream for a scenic backdrop instead of the static image up on the screen. (How can you sing, “This is my Father’s World” without imagining the gorgeous scenery?) So I put one up there with my memory bank. I think about the first time I saw the majestic Swiss alps. I remember hiking up near Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. I meditate on the amazing variety of sea life I have seen deep under the ocean’s surface while scuba diving. I savor my mother’s garden growing up as a child. I purposely bring forth gorgeous imagery from my memory bank to contemplate as I worship. This fixes my mind on what I’m singing about.
3. I pray for people.
Maybe the disheveled woman behind me looks that way because it’s nearly impossible for her to get herself and her kids dressed and to church on time with a husband who doesn’t help—or isn’t even there. I pray for the pastor to be filled with the Holy Spirit and I pray for those in the crowd who need to feel that God cares about them. I pray for the teenager in front of me that I want to poke and say, “Seriously? You thought a torn-up t-shirt was appropriate for church?!” I pray for friends, family or people in the congregation around me. Praying for others takes my mind away from my petty thoughts and problems and makes my singing more single-minded.
We can all suffer wandering thoughts after the tenth chorus is sung or a suffering through a stuffy hymn. But employing these three tips will help “set your mind on things above”(Colossians 3:2). And when we do that, we will truly be singing with all our heart and soul and mind.