I’ve recently received several emails from readers with variations of this question:
I want to be still in God’s presence, but it’s so hard! I can’t seem to stop the buzzing thoughts in my head, and it’s frustrating!
I like the idea of spending 5 minutes in stillness before God, but I cannot just not think about anything. Any time I try to quiet my mind, I start singing a song or thinking of a Bible verse. Am I doing it wrong?
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to worship God when we’re coming to Him with open and sincere hearts. And I think different methods will work in different seasons of life. I know for me, personally, it was hard to quiet my mind enough to find stillness, but it’s something I cherish now.
I think it’s important to remember that the goal is not a zen-like meditative state where our minds disconnect from our bodies. That’s not in any way biblical. Rather, the goal is to allow the peace of God to rule in our minds and hearts by submitting all we are to Him, and allowing His stillness to refresh our souls. In this fast-paced world, we rarely get to experience stillness and peace, but so many Scriptures speak to the importance of resting in God’s presence.
Here are some ideas that might help:
Begin with a few minutes of praise and prayer.
Recite verses about God’s goodness, sing praise songs that lift your heart toward heaven and orient your mind on God. Then pour out your heart and tell God about all the things going on in your life, and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Picture yourself physically taking one burden after another, and with both hands placing them at His feet, and letting them lay there. Then rest.
Meditate on a passage.
When I have a hard time quieting my mind, I like to meditate on Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God”). Focus on one word at a time, letting your mind linger on that one word for a few seconds before moving on to the next word. (Here’s another passage you may find helpful.) Gradually increase the time frame between each word, until you’ve reached the end and your mind is at rest.
Use your imagination.
I find it helpful to imagine God seated on His throne, using passages like Revelation 4-6 to inform my imagination. As I see Him high and lifted up, I kneel down and bow my face to the ground, picturing myself in the heavenly throne room, joining the angels and the elders in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and then being still in His presence. Other times I imagine myself crawling into Abba Father’s lap and laying my head on His shoulder, much like my two-year-old does when she just needs a hug.
Jot down distracting thoughts.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to quiet down my mind, I start to remember all sorts of things like birthday gift ideas, spring cleaning tasks, and meal plans. If that happens to you, grab the pen, write it down, and then return your attention to the Lord. Release those thoughts, knowing you can come back to them later.
Recite a prayer of stillness.
Asking God to help calm your mind like Jesus calmed the storming sea. Acknowledge your racing thoughts and ask the Holy Spirit to rule over them and help your mind rest in His presence. Here’s a prayer for stillness I wrote a few months ago that I still use today.
Begin with 30 seconds or a minute of stillness. Then build up to 5 or 10 minutes. It’s in this place of quiet communion that we quiet ourselves enough to hear what the Spirit would say to us in His still, small voice, words that we often miss in the rush of everyday life. And while 30 seconds may not seem like much, as you begin to incorporate this practice of stillness into your spiritual life, you’ll find it gets easier as the years go by.
The greatest blessing connected with stillness is that we can hear eternity; we can hear the voice of the Eternal One as He speaks to our conscience. (O. Hallesby)
Those are some of the ways I’ve begun to practice stillness and rest in my quiet time. I’ve found such refreshment and joy in just a few moments of stillness with God, and as a busy mom, that’s what often helps me get through the rest of my chaotic day.