When I browse book shops I often get a fuzzy warm feeling like the ones that warm the sides of your face when you are utterly content with what you are observing — kind of like the sensation you get that comes over you when you are one quarter of the way asleep and snuggled into the sinking grasp of the chair where you finally doze off in the wee hours of the night. Snaking through the stacks lulls me into that kind of restful peace.
I am sure that books being linked to a peaceful feeling is the mental joining of two things that only a few people experience; but if it be books, the smell of bacon frying, the sound of a distant train or rain on an old tin roof, or some other physical circumstance, everyone forms these memory associations. Most of them remain unconscious. They may seem to be random or even off the wall; but when we enter those places, smell those smells, or hear those sounds, this other feeling which is linked to it, comes over us.
We can train our minds to create links in order to direct our thoughts to where we would like them to go. For example, if you have a random thought that regularly pops into your mind, you can decide that every time this happens you will pray a certain prayer. You can also create links between places, smells, or sounds to become triggers to remind you to pray for certain people. When I was a church consultant for the state convention, one of the other state missionaries had a death in the family. It was her husband who was also the pastor of a church in a small village between here and Springfield, Illinois. I created a mental link between seeing the interstate exit sign that identifies the exit to that town so I would be reminded to pray for this family. Every month when I drove that interstate and saw that sign, I remembered to pray one more time.
Some people are troubled by disturbing thoughts, you can do the same sort of thing in this case as well. When the disturbing thought enters your mind just after you wake up or some time during the day. Train your mind — force it — to start up a prayer for your pastor, your church, your place of work, one of your friends, or a member of your family. Choose one or think of another person. Before long the Satan will start leaving you alone. He hates stimulating prayerful contact with Jesus. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
I encourage you to direct your random stream of consciousness into a practice of prayer. The purposelessness of what can be called mental rubbish will be recycled into something very useful. The Psalmist instructed as much. Israelites were lamenting the attacks of the enemy. This was what they were saying, “Since my youth they have often attacked me!” The Psalmist suggested that rather than saying that, the mind could be trained to say (or think), “let Israel say — Since my youth they have often attacked me, but they have not prevailed against me” (Psalm 129:1-2). The lament was turned into a prayer of thanksgiving followed by a petition for Zion (Psalm 129:2ff).
“We take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b)