Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind. Be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I Peter 1:13
I have to credit St. Nikolai Velimirovich’s homily for July 5th in the Prologue of Ohrid as my inspiration for this article. With repentance and humility, it is important to approach prayer with the right frame of mind. Sobriety means more than not being intoxicated, or freedom from an addiction. The Apostle Peter calls us to “gird up the loins of your mind.” If we are to be in God’s presence, our thoughts should be directed to Him.
This sort of sobriety can be very challenging as we have so many thoughts that demand our attention. Some mornings, my attention span can be weighed down with a project for work, chores on my days off, weather, traffic, my wife’s needs, bodily pains. Evenings are sometimes worse with the same worries with added imaginations of how I just want to escape from everything and everyone. Intentionally misguided and randomly wandering thoughts are not just the result of using alcohol or some other substance. Nor are they necessarily evil.
However, our minds must be trained to concentrate on the presence and will of God. This is especially true as we spend time in prayer. Indeed, if we are mentally drunk at such a time, what does that say about us throughout the day?
Don’t just “jump right in” to your prayers. Pause for a moment and take a breath. Set aside all of the daily issues so that you can focus on the better thing to set your mind to (Luke 10:42). Some use incense as the odor reminds them of the prayers in the Church. Listening to or singing a chant or song can also be helpful in separating regular activity from time with God. Reading or reciting a scripture is also a good idea.
Don’t be discouraged if you sometimes fall into distractions during your rule. Be consistent in your time and ask your spiritual guide for advice on achieving and maintaining mental sobriety during prayer.