Maybe some of you have the luxury of walking around with a naturally quiet mind, but not mine. My brain pretty much never stops whirring.
Those memes about brains that have 14,763 tabs open at once? Yea… they were written about me.
At any given moment, I usually have a dozen mental dialogues running in simultaneous operation. Imaginary conversations, possible ways things might play out in multiple scenarios, things I’ve said (or might say someday) that should have been (or might need to be someday) expressed differently… It’s my mental reality.
And it’s exhausting.
On top of that, when some situation gets more intense and I don’t have logical solutions then my brain tends to get stuck on replay. The same familiar fears, thoughts, worries, doubts — repeating over and over and over again.
If you’re into Myers-Briggs, and you know anything about introverted intuitive thinkers, you might have heard of the Ni-Fi loop. It’s when you experience overwhelming feelings, can’t find thoughtful or rational answers, and so you mentally start to shut down and get lost in your head. It’s a real thing. It’s happened to me more times than I can count.
My mamma just calls it spiraling. “Honey, if you don’t take action now, you’re gonna spiral, and it’s not good for anybody including yourself.” My mamma is wise like that…
Here’s the thing though — spiraling, being lost in your head, getting sucked into a Ni-Fi loop — whatever you call it, it’s so much more than that. When that happens, you’re not just fighting yourself, you’re actually battling spiritual warfare and taking part in the controversy that exists between good and evil in our world. Your brain, your free choice, your decision to worship God and live for Him — it’s the ultimate commodity under attack.
Fear is a foul spirit.
More often than we might like to think, those crippling fears aren’t just coming from inside you. Scripture tells us that fear is a spirit, and it isn’t from God. In fact, Jesus wants to replace the spirit of fear in your heart with a spirit of holy power instead. (2 Tim 1:7)
Lucifer wants nothing more than to gain control over your mind, your heart, your soul. Unlike God, who refuses to violate your free will under any circumstances, Lucifer is totally fine with exploitation, terrorism, coercion, and trickery. Whatever it takes to get access to your identity, game on. That includes torturing you with his spirits of fear and confusion. Which means when your mind is exploding with stressed-out thoughts that won’t calm down — it’s entirely possible that you’re experiencing spiritual attack. In fact, it might have become your baseline, your normal.
Prayer is the weapon for spiritual warfare
Earlier this spring, I felt some intense discouragement coming on.
This time, instead of wallowing like I have sometimes before, I made an intentional choice to handle things differently. What can I do to avoid this slippery slope, God?
I messaged two girlfriends with a unique request:
Let’s do 40 days of prayer together. Praying out loud, on the phone, every single day without missing even ONE. No bargaining with God about what He’s going to give us if we stick with it. No tradeoffs or self-serving vows. Just intense time with Jesus in community, every day, for 40 days straight — and mostly focusing on praise and gratitude.
They got on board with my big idea in a matter of minutes. I love those girls!
Over the next several weeks, some interesting things happened. First of all, we grew from praying for a total of 10 or 20 minutes all together, to praying for anywhere from one to three hours every day. Second, we realized quickly that we have pretty much no clue how to pray in praise. It was a humbling experience to acknowledge just how ingrained our begging habits are. Mostly we default to asking God for stuff.
After working on our praise muscles, we realized God was bringing up some buried stuff in each of us that needed to be dealt with. That led us to shift our focus to breaking old cycles and asking God to let the generational curses and inherited tendencies end with us. You might be surprised just how much junk is stuffed under your surface, if you start asking God to dig it up and deal with it!
Silencing the Mental Noise
One of the most incredible side effects though? During those weeks of prayer, my mind became much quieter than “normal”. It wasn’t so much that my internal critic dialogue changed, as that it just … went silent.
One day, I was driving in my car and my brain started having a conversation with itself. It wasn’t long before my emotions were building up inside, not based on reality though. Just based on the imaginary discussion in my head. With a shock, I realized “This is out of the ordinary! Why is my mind on fire about this? It’s not even real, it’s just a worry!” And then it hit me — this didn’t control me anymore. Instead, I’m the one in charge of my thoughts, not my thoughts ruling over me. They haven’t been running away with me for weeks now.
You know why? Because my brain had become so filled with prayer, and so connected to God’s word, that my critical inner voices didn’t have enough oxygen left to stay conscious. And when they tried, I had started learning to silence them by speaking God’s truth instead of listening to their worried lies.
I told one of my prayer girls what happened. Turns out, she’d been experiencing the same thing. “My thoughts are being increasingly replaced by prayers and recalling scriptures,” she said.
For both of us, the inner critic cacophony had been silenced in direct response to the amount of time spent in prayer and study.
Easy Isn’t a Goal
Now, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that sacred ground is hard-won in the Christian life. Which means there’s absolutely no space for sitting down and zoning out, unless you want to slide backwards. In spiritual warfare, life is not about getting to a plateau where you can relax into your personal definition of “easy”.
Instead it’s about gaining maturity and growing closer to God’s heart at every step of the way — no matter how difficult, or noisy, or heart-breaking the path may be. But along that path, you can still tell your harsh inner critic to shut up.
You just gotta spend more time with Jesus than you spend listening to yourself think.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear (or confusion, or worry, or doubt, or whatever you battle) — but of power, and of love, and of a clear mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7