My mind moves at a cheetah's pace most days. To-do lists, meal prepping, mama duties, meetings, current events, projects at work, and church commitments fight for real estate in my thought life. Distractions during prayer time can sometimes feel like an early 2000's internet browser with pop-up after pop up. The more that I try to close out these "pop-ups," the more they appear. How do we cultivate a life of prayer amidst such distraction? How do we quiet our busy minds?
Remember Why We Pray
"God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for this food."
Growing up, prayer was introduced as the gateway to dinner time. We said the same prayer every night before dinner. My brother, sister, and I would take turns. If we were extra hungry, the words would smash together–almost to indistinguishable gibberish. Sometimes we can approach prayer in the same way as adults–as a means to an end. We forget that prayer is a divine privilege. Hebrews 4:16 reminds us that we can approach the throne of grace with boldness. Why? Because we have been called sons and daughters of the King.
Through Jesus's death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, He offers us a new name: child of God. Prayer is conversation with our Father, the One who is ready to offer grace and help in our time of need. As distractions seek to steal our attention, let us be reminded that prayer is an undeserved gift. Our best deeds are but filthy rags, yet the God who crafted the stars and governs the wind readily listens and yearns to comfort us.
Be Honest With God
God is not surprised by our distraction. We can entrust our busy minds to the God who graciously gives us peace if we humbly ask. Maybe there are underlying feelings of stress and overwhelm bubbling beneath the surface of your heart. Maybe a consistently distracted mind reveals an idol you haven't yet banished. Maybe distractions are serving as a scapegoat for you, conveniently delaying a conversation with God that you know you need to have. We can submit our plans, our worries, our weaknesses, and our to-do lists to God in prayer, knowing that God upholds the world perfectly so that we do not have to. Name your distractions and lay them before God's throne. Who is God in the midst of your distractions? What does His Word say about your worry? He promises to give perfect peace to those who are dependent upon Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Here are a few examples:
"What if my toddler doesn't eat his dinner again tonight?"
-God, You are His Sustainer.
"I am nervous about a conversation I need to have this afternoon."
- God, You go before me and prepare the way.
"My kitchen is an absolute wreck right now."
- God, You are not afraid of my mess. You've already conquered it.
By focusing my mind on the majesty of who God is in light of my circumstances, my distracted thoughts flee. God's grace and sovereignty trump all of your fears, stressors, and doubts.
Submit Your Expectations to God
If we expect every prayer time to be perfectly polished, we will disappoint ourselves over and over again. We are messy beings, so our prayers will follow suit. God already knows our heaviest sin. He is well acquainted with both our past and future failures. And yet, Jesus has conquered them all. Prayer should be the one place we can come and be our raw, true selves. Go to the Lord needy. Go to Him hungry. Go to Him broken. God does not expect perfect diction or beautifully crafted prayers. God simply wants our attention and our affection.
Prepare to Pray
Time in prayer renews our strength, refocuses our eyes, and reorganizes our commitments. We can strategize and prioritize our prayer time in our schedule because we know there is no better use of time. Try these tips to minimize your distraction during prayer:
- Ask Jesus to settle your mind.
- Turn off your phone.
- Find a time of day that is most conducive to focused prayer. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you.
- Write down your prayer requests, or even make an outline for your prayer time.
- Try journaling your prayers.
- Pray Scripture.
- Find a book of liturgies and prayers. Sometimes, when you don't have the words to pray, others' prayers can give you the words to pray.
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