One of the biggest challenges that comes with spending quality time with Jesus is distractions. We sit down to read our Bibles and pray, but thoughts, fears, and our to-do list crowd in on us. We may have other outside interruptions as well, such as texts and the needs of people in our lives. So, what are we to do? How can we make the most of our devotions? Let’s look at 10 simple ways we can avoid distractions in our devotions!
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
1. Wake Up Before Starting
The Bible doesn’t tell us what time of day we should have our personal devotions. However, I believe we should start our day by spending some time with the Lord. Why would we go through our day without ever asking for the strength we need? That would be like waiting until the end of the day and all our hard work is finished before eating. We usually eat early in the day to get the energy we need, and we should meet with Jesus early in the day to receive the spiritual strength that we need.
With that being said, I know that there are disadvantages to having your devotions when you first wake up. This is especially true for people who struggle with waking up. I definitely fall into this category. One thing I’ve found to be helpful is to get dressed before having devotions. Moving around helps to wake you up. If this isn’t enough, you could also try washing your face or brushing your teeth. Cold water is great for clearing your mind. You are much more likely to be able to focus on your time with the Lord if you take a few minutes to do these simple things to help you wake up!
Also, if you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, it’s okay to divide your devotions. Maybe you like to do Bible journaling and you have more time in the evening for that. Go ahead and do it in the evening! But, don’t let that take the place of spending time with Jesus in the morning. We need His strength all day long!
2. Have a Plan
Maybe the reason you are distracted when you sit down to have devotions is because you really don’t know what you are doing. If you just haphazardly read here and there and never know from one day to the next what your devotions will look like, then you are setting yourself up to become distracted.
Have a plan and develop a routine for your devotions. There are many Bible reading plans you can follow such as reading straight through or chronologically. You could also develop your own plans.
For your prayer time, you may find it helpful to use a journal to keep track of requests. I have a simple prayer journal here for free that you can personalize to meet your needs.
Now, as with most things, there must be a balance to planning. Having a plan does not mean that you can’t leave it if the Lord leads you to do something different. Some days you may want to pray more than others, or there may be days when you read more chapters in the Bible. But, it still helps to have a plan as your starting point so that you know what to do when you sit down in the morning.
3. Eliminate Distractions
Sometimes we set ourselves up to be distracted. To help yourself avoid these distractions in devotions, identify them. Does your phone distract you? Leave it in the other room. Do you find your mental to-do list begins to bombard you when you try to focus? Keep your planner handy so that you can write down the things that come to mind and return your attention to your devotions.
Try to turn your thoughts toward the Lord while you are getting dressed and ready for your devotions so that you won’t sit down distracted and struggle to collect your thoughts. Instead of waiting to fight the distractions once they strike, get the jump on them and ward them off before they get a chance to bother you!
4. Ask the Lord to Open Your Eyes
Studying the Bible and meeting with the Lord is not something that we can do on our own. We need the Lord’s help! When you meet with the Lord, ask Him to help you. Ask Him to open your heart and mind to the truth of His Word by the power of His Holy Spirit. I like to pray Psalm 119:18 before I begin to read the Bible. Ask the Lord to help you focus on Him and draw the strength that you need from Him.
Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
5. Identify the Distractions
We all have different things that distract us. For some, it may be children or siblings. You might have to arrange a specific time when you will have the least interruptions. For some, the distractions may be our thoughts and mind wandering. Instead of beating yourself up when this happens, ask the Lord to help you avoid distractions in your devotions and continue on where you left off.
Whatever your distractions are, identify them. Then, once you know what they are, set up an action plan for each one. If you need to, write down this action plan and keep it in your Bible. Begin to turn these action steps into habits. Make them a matter of daily prayer. The Lord will give you the grace to deal with them and have meaningful time with Him!
When the distractions come, give them to Jesus. Thank Him that He allowed them into your life and can even use distractions to draw you closer to Him. Ask Him to take care of them for you and bless you with His victory.
6. Determine Your Non-Negotiables
Your plan should include your non-negotiables. These are the things that you want to get done each day. Start with those so that no matter what interruptions come or if your time gets cut short, you will at least have gotten to do them. Your non-negotiables could include some specific prayer requests, a passage of Scripture, writing down a key verse, or whatever is best for you.
7. Keep a To-Do List Handy
Sometimes when we sit down to spend time with the Lord, our mental to-do list kicks in. We start to think of the things we need to do that day, or maybe even the things we need to do next week. Our mind wanders, and we are afraid we will forget something. This is why you might want to keep a to-do list handy. When these thoughts come to mind, you can write them down and return your thoughts to your fellowship with the Lord.
8. Plan Another Time for Thinking
We can get so busy with life that we really don’t take time to think. When you sit down in quiet to have your devotions, your mind may decide that this is a good opportunity for processing things or coming up with new ideas.
While this isn’t the time to let your mind run, you do need time for that. Give yourself another time to think, and when distractions come during your devotions, save them and remind yourself that you will have time to think about them later. If you’re afraid of forgetting them, write them down.
9. Watch the Time
While we shouldn’t rush our devotions or wish they were done, watching the clock can be helpful. If you aren’t paying attention to the time, you may be more likely to allow yourself to become distracted and your mind to wander because you think you have plenty of time. Keep an eye on the clock once in a while to make sure you are staying on track and making the best use possible of your time.
Another way time can help is if you have a busy day and are tempted to skip your time with the Lord. Commit to at least spending thirty minutes with Him each morning. Even on busy days, you should typically be able to make it a point to spend those thirty minutes, and you may be able to do more on other days.
10. Find What Helps You Focus
Maybe to focus better, you need to read and pray out loud. Just sitting quietly gives you the opportunity to let your mind run, especially when you are praying. Or, maybe you are a visual person and need to have something to look at. That’s where a prayer journal or prayer list can come in very handy. Taking notes is a way that you can do something active in devotions.
It can be helpful to look for a key verse of the day while you are reading and write it down at the end of your Scripture reading. You might want to add why that verse is meaningful to you. Some people also like to highlight or underline as they read. Just find what helps you keep your mind on the Lord and implement that into your time with Him!
Remember, the issue of distractions is not new. We have a great example of this in the lives of Mary and Martha.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
This issue has been around for a long time, and we have the same Helper they did. Let’s ask God to help us choose the good part that shall not be taken away from us!
- Ask God to help you focus and to open His Word to you, and when distractions come, take them to Him, seeking His help!
- Identify your distractions and make a plan to eliminate them as much as possible.
- Have a to-do list to write down distracting thoughts and find other things that you help you focus, such as a prayer journal and choosing a key verse.
Have you found any things that help you focus and avoid distractions in devotions? Which of these tips sounded helpful to you today? How will you implement it into your life?
Until next time, focus on Jesus and spending time with Him!