My guess is that I’m not the only person who’s ever struggled with being distracted while praying! Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had trouble with this. I’d start to pray, then I’d start to think about whatever I was praying about…next thing I knew, I was just thinking about my concerns, not actually praying about them. I know that God still heard the cry of my heart—but my focus was going from surrendering the matter, to taking it back in, internalizing it, and dwelling on it rather than giving it up to God.
Thankfully, none of us are the victims of our wandering minds. Scripture tells us that we are capable of leading every thought captive—even those prayers that want to get away from us. Below are four methods that I’ve found personally very helpful when it comes to having a clearer, more focused prayer life:
Get Down on Your Knees
Though this practice has been somewhat hijacked by mockers as well as marketing companies looking for an easy way to make a buck on poignant prayer-related posters, the actual action of kneeling in total surrender before the Creator of Heaven and Earth can have a powerful, focusing effect on one’s prayer life. It requires us to stop whatever else we’re doing, put ourselves in a position of genuflection to God, and stay there until we’ve brought our supplication before him.
Speak Out Loud
Ever heard someone say, “That sounded better in my head?” Our thoughts tend to wander every which-way before we say them, but actually speaking aloud forces us to really think about our thinking. Praying out loud can keep us on a single subject, without that thought leading down a rabbit hole. Praying out loud isn’t always an appropriate option if you’re in a public place or a sleeping house, but it certainly has its applications in other cases, like in the car while driving to work. The next time you find yourself struggling to stay focused while praying, try doing it out loud!
Pray a Recited Prayer
Christians vary widely in their estimation of recited prayers. Some believe them to be no more than a rote repetition of syllables; others consider them the only way to pray with proper reverence and choice of words. Thankfully, all debates aside, God looks on the heart; for those who struggle to know what to pray for, how to pray, or how to keep their focus when praying, reading along to the Psalms, Proverbs, the Lord’s Prayer, or even the prayers found in many Prayer Journals can be a great launching pad toward learning to focus and expand their own prayer life. “Praying along” with the words—truly thinking about them, internalizing them, and making them your own as you offer them up to God—can be incredibly useful in discovering a deeper vein of focus in your prayer life.
Journal Your Prayers
This is another helpful technique to keep the mind from wandering while praying. Similar to speaking out loud, writing prayers down can help us to stay in the moment so that our minds don’t wander to other things that derail our actual praying into just thinking about the things we’re praying for. An added bonus to this method of prayer is that we can open up these notebooks years later, read the things we prayed about, and truly see the marvelous and oftentimes unexpected ways these prayers were answered. It’s one thing to read the way God answered prayers in the Bible—it’s another entirely to have the inexorable proof right in front of our faces of how He answered ours! Journaling of any sort is also a method widely used to combat stress, anxiety, and even panic disorders, all of which can get in the way of our prayer life. Taking the time to write out a prayer first thing in the morning, right before bed, or even in a few moments of respite during a busy day can be a great focusing technique!
Prayer Takes Many Forms—Find The One That Works For You!
These are just four examples that can help with focusing the mind and taking control of our thoughts during prayer. Different methods work for different people! One of the most wonderful aspects of prayer is that it doesn’t have to “look a certain way”. Prayer is not reserved for a church pew on Sunday; it isn’t required to be verbal, written, or simply “thought”, and we don’t have to be down on our knees to do it. To pray is simply to “ask”, and everyone goes about that in a different way. God looks on the heart and desires whole-hearted relationship with each of us—He hears us whenever we pray, no matter if it’s spoken or unspoken. And the wonderful thing about prayer is that the more we do it, the easier it becomes—and the more we train our focus, the more readily it comes.
Always remember that God is a God who meets us where we are at; He is willing to help us along to becoming better prayer warriors and better people all around! All we have to do is ask!