Overcoming Mental Distractions When Praying

Prayer is supposed to be a user-friendly activity. When done, I should know something good has happened. However, sometimes I find it difficult to feel positive. The issue is with me—not God.

I realize I can pray anytime…anywhere…about anything; but when I really want to focus, I have discovered I need a quiet time. A time in the day when the statistical chance for an interruption is reduced. For me, the best time is in the morning before anyone in my family wakes up.

I have also learned I need a comfortable place. A place I have designated for the purpose of praying. My favorite spot is on the couch in our game room.

Last, I need a designated amount of time. There is nothing wrong with praying on the move, I do it all the time; but for me to feel spiritually healthy I need some days within each week when I have a designated time to pray. I’ve learned the optimum amount of time for me is 30-45 minutes.

Even if I get my personalized-focused-prayer-time-checklist checked, I still encounter some problems that make my prayers seem…well…like a waste of time. Here are my 3 most common obstacles:

  1. I feel panicked about my life and begin to rapidly spew thoughts, feelings, complaints, and desired outcomes to God. When this happens my words can’t keep up with my brain. It is not a loss of focus. I know exactly all the needs, troubles or challenges I need to pray about; and I want to pray about all of them at the same time. I imagine it looks like a fire hydrant that has been hit by a car. All the pressure in my life is released at once shooting 30 feet up in the air. I’m not saying God doesn’t listen or care when this happens. I’m saying it doesn’t feel like a productive time for me.
  2. I can’t focus—much less finish a thought. This is the opposite of what I described above. When this happens I pray about an issue for about 2 seconds, and then my mind jumps to some random thought that is totally unrelated. I feel like Dug, the talking dog, in the movie UP. Again, I’m not saying God gets frustrated with me when I do this. I’m saying I get frustrated with me.
  3. I don’t know what to pray. In other words, I’m at a loss for words. Maybe this is a guy thing. I find myself sitting comfortably on the couch with no interruptions and don’t have clue what to pray. I think nothing. I feel nothing. I just sit there and spiritually twittle my thumbs. I feel awkward and dense. I know God loves me just as much in that moment as in any other moment, but I feel like it is a huge waste of time.

Part of the activity of prayer is to mentally stay focused and communicate with God. I can’t make Him speak to me, but surely I can be disciplined enough to speak to Him. These obstacles mess with me and I need a plan when I run into them.

While reading the Bible, I had a thought that turned into plan of action. Here are the verses I read:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.1

This was my thought: I will study this prayer and use it when my mind will not focus. In other words, when my mind is busy, wandering or blank; I will by default use this prayer and let it be the focus of my prayer time.

As I began to study this prayer, I learned the meaning of some key words:

“love may abound” – I need God’s love in me to grow. I need more unconditional love for others.

“knowledge” – Random love for others is not enough. I need to know how to love others the best way.

“discern” – I need to know what is best to love in others. It is not a choice between good and bad, but between good and best.

“pure” love – I need a sincere love for others with selfish motives filtered out.

“blameless” love – I need a love that will not cause others to stumble.

So…when I’ve marked off my personalized-focused-prayer-time-checklist and my mind won’t cooperate, this is an example of what I discipline myself to pray:

Lord, I need Your unconditional love to grow inside of me. Who do you want me to love on Your behalf? [He generally brings someone to mind. I focus on them and continue to pray] Lord, how can I love them the best way? Show me what to do so that they might be attracted to You. [I let God guide my thoughts and give me creative ideas or subtle nudges…I continue to pray] What do you love about them Lord? Show me how to love them so that the best You put in them is developed. [Again, I listen and let Him guide my ideas between what is good and what is best] Teach me to love this person with no selfish motives. [It is here God points out what needs to change in me.] Please don’t allow my actions to cause them to stumble. [Here I am counting on God to let my love be received in a way that accomplishes His purposes].

If you are struggling to stay focused during prayer, I encourage you to try this. It works for me.

1-Philippians 1:9-11

One Comment on “Overcoming Mental Distractions When Praying

  1. We sometimes forget that pastors struggle with the very same spiritual issues we all face. Do we need practice talking to God? I do. I am refreshed after venting/sharing with Him my life issues because I know He always hears and will answer in His timing. On the go, in the moment, in my quiet place, always there.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: