Missionary J. Hudson Taylor found that the hardest part of a missionary career was to have undistracted regular, prayerful Bible study. "Satan will always find you something to do," he would say, "when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind."
Wandering thoughts often plague us during our devotional times. We seek to concentrate, to be open to the Word. We read a verse, then reread it, and suddenly discover our mind is on the phone call we need to make. We turn two pages in the Bible and realize we've read nothing.
We will not be able to read the Bible with the same intensity every time, but there are some things that can help us to focus. Rather than being afraid of distractions, the Lord wants us to learn how to manage and even overcome them. When memories or thoughts arise during our Bible reading, we can allow these distractions to become a part of our dialogue with God. For instance, if our minds wander to someone we are concerned about, we can turn the scripture into prayer for that person and then our time will not be wasted.
I often find it helpful to keep a things-to-do pad with me and simply jot down the tasks that are vying for my attention. I can then return to my reading and focus on the Scripture. Usually I end up with a list of things to do I might have otherwise neglected.
If we determine to give our whole attention to what we read, we'll find that the Holy Spirit gives us grace to refuse to chase every thought that beckons. "Set your minds on things above" (Col. 3:1), Paul says implying that it is possible for us to do that.
Dear Jesus, give us grace to read so we hear Your voice.
"Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled" (1 Peter 1:13).