Are You Feeling Distracted During Worship?

by Sep 20, 2019

Are You Feeling Distracted During Worship?

by Sep 20, 2019

This past Sunday morning, one of our prayer team members approached me after worship service and said, “Just wanted to let you know that we were praying for you this morning. We know that Sunday mornings can be distracting for you as you need to manage issues that arise during worship service.”

I really appreciated the specific prayers for myself as Sunday morning responsibilities can preoccupy and replace my worship of God. And it also got me thinking that a lot of us on Sunday mornings face multiple preoccupations ranging from family emergencies, unresolved issues at work, and the constant news feed alerts that pop-up on our phone.

Some of us may think that distractions that keep us from worshipping God is a new problem with modern technology. But that is not the case. 17th century Christian, Richard Steele wrote a book entitled, Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in the Worship of God, based on the phrase in 1 Corinthians 7:35, “so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.”

Steele’s book was a rallying cry for Christians to take purposeful action against the temptation of being preoccupied as we worship God. Too often we think about being preoccupied in worship in passive terms, quickly blaming social media or technology for distracting us.

But we are not off-the-hook from allowing these circumstances to consume us. Allowing distractions to overwhelm us is an active choice that we all make to escape something demanding. Let us not remain slaves to our distractions anymore, especially at a Sunday morning worship service. Steele argues that preoccupations should be fought because God demands undistracted worship (1 Samuel 12:24).

Here are four ways Steele suggested that we can focus our eyes on heaven amidst surrounding distractions.

1. Be Encouraged by your Discouragement

When we recognize our struggles of preoccupation and discouragement as it prevents us from our true desire to love Jesus more, that is the mark of a maturing faith. Don’t let your discouragement of being preoccupied in worship bring you down. But be encouraged that you realize that something is keeping you from fully worshipping God. And hopefully you will do something to combat this discouragement.

2. Lean on God’s Strength

Steele encourages Christians to claim the promise found in Philippians 4:13, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” When we realize that followers of Christ have faced these same struggles of preoccupation getting in the way of true worship, yet they overcame it through relying on God’s strength. We, too, can be encouraged by other Christians who have gone before us and proactively relied on God’s strength to help them stay focused on worshipping God, and God alone.

3. Preparation for Battle begins the night before

The battle for focus on Sunday morning starts the night before. Steele reminds us just by doing some simple things like getting a good night’s sleep and having breakfast before going to church will help our bodies to be less preoccupied during a Sunday morning worship service. Along with getting our bodies ready for worship, we also need to prepare our hearts. Before entering the worship area, start with praying and asking God to prepare you for the message He wants to teach you.

4. Cry out to God for Help

During the actual worship service, there will be times that preoccupation will creep up on you. It might be an alert popping up on your phone as you are tracking with the sermon passage. When these opportunities to be distracted come up, pause and plead with God for help in staying focused on worshipping Him.

Now what happens if we mess up and stumble for a moment of preoccupation during worship service. Don’t give up. Thank God for whatever grace of attention and engagement you had in worship this week and then ask God for more next time.

May God give us focused minds and hearts when we gather for worship this weekend. And as we get more aware of fighting against the temptation to be preoccupied, then we can rejoice with the psalmist, “I follow close to you; your right hand holds on to me.” (Psalm 63:8)