When we hear the word "focus", some of us cringe because we struggle with focusing on anything, especially in the midst of way too many distractions. Many of us have mental disabilities: ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, and others, which have often remained undiagnosed, especially in older folks, leading us to think we just aren't trying hard enough. As strong as our faith may be, our attempts at engaging in the traditional disciplines of prayer, inspirational reading, meditation, and devotionals are too often met with frustration and guilt.
We hear many of our fellow believers offer prayers, smoothly saying just the right words. When we try, we stumble and bumble and end up feeling quite foolish, so studiously avoid being asked to pray out loud in front of a group. As members of a church family, we are constantly urged to engage in regular devotionals and reading the Bible in order to grow in our faith. Again, some of us find such exercises tedious to the point of torture, which we dare not share with fellow Christians out of fear of disapproval.
From the time we were toddlers, my parents taught my sisters and I to pray every night at bedtime. It was a wonderful tradition that I have always been grateful for and continued well into adulthood, looking forward to sharing all my thoughts and feelings with a loving God. But somewhere along the line I found myself increasingly struggling with concentration, to the point where I was actually falling asleep about two thoughts into it! As a teenager I forced myself to read the Bible from cover to cover. While it proved to be a worthwhile exercise, only parts of it actually "stuck" and made sense. Over the decades, I have participated in many classes and Bible studies, gaining valuable knowledge and insights, and also at times nearly falling out of my chair in boredom.
Thankfully, God has our weaknesses and disabilities covered!
If the usual kinds of exercises in growing our faith just don't seem to work for us, God will always help us with less obvious means. He has many "tools" in his toolbox, including other people, who don't even know that something they've said has been just what we needed to hear. Hanging out with fellow Christians, attending events that are Christian oriented, regular attendance at worship and numerous other similar activities can also serve to help us grow in our faith.
When praying, we don't have to make a speech, follow menus and stick to proscribed times and places. In fact, we should "pray without ceasing" throughout our waking hours, whenever the thought occurs to us, even in the bathroom! Mrs. Pifari, fourth grade Sunday School teacher here at LCPC in the 1950's, suggested we should picture Jesus residing on our shoulders at all times, knowing everything that's happening to us, every feeling, every need. Yes, it's nice to use words, mostly to help us clarify our thoughts. But mental vignettes work equally well, and frequent prayers of just a few seconds are as effective as long-winded ones!
While we should never abandon more conventional focusing on spiritual matters when we are able, neither should we beat ourselves up when we find our imperfect brains betraying us. God knows and loves each of us and will always help us find paths to greater faith and understanding.