Thank you for another day. I’m so thankful that I can know you and serve you because of Jesus. And Lord…
Wait… did I remember to sign the form for my son’s teacher? No, I didn’t. Ugh, I guess I can run it up to the school on my lunch break. Well, now, that won’t work because I already planned to pick up a few things from the grocery store on my lunch break. Okay, I’ll just find a new recipe for dinner that doesn’t involve me needing to get groceries. Let me open up Pinterest and search for a recipe…
Oh goodness, I am supposed to be praying.
Sorry, Lord! I’ll be right back with you after I get my dinner plan sorted out!”
Does this sound familiar? Maybe the out-of-left-field thoughts that bombard you while you pray are different from mine, but chances are that you have them. You aren’t alone if you find that you rarely start and finish a prayer without a major detour in between. The good news is that becoming distracted while praying is not an unusual occurrence. And it is something that can be overcome. Handling distractions is a skill that all who pray must master.
Methods for Handling Distraction During Prayer
There are many methods that you can use to stay focused while praying such as praying aloud, writing out your prayers, or using a prayer list. But, my personal favorite way to combat meandering thoughts is to use prayer prompts to guide my prayer time. I find that prompts provide enough structure that I stay on track, but not so much that my prayer life becomes rigid and robotic.
If you are unfamiliar with prayer prompts, they are simply phrases that are meant to be a springboard into a conversation between you and God. They are a tool you can use when you aren’t sure what to pray about or when you find that your prayer time easily gets off track.
How to Use Prayer Prompts to Stay Focused During Prayer
I take my prayer prompts from The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13. I wish we had time to dive into each line of this prayer here, but we simply don’t. You can check out our Bible study The Lord’s Prayer for a verse-by-verse breakdown. But, for now, I'll describe this well-known prayer in this way—the Lord’s prayer is not only a prayer we can recite word for word, it is also a guide that teaches us to pray. With this in mind, we can use its phrases as a starting point to structure our prayers. Below you will see the phrases of The Lord’s Prayer broken down with a prompt and brief description after each one.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name
Prompt: Our Father…
Description: Jesus begins by praising God for who He is. He recognizes God’s closeness (Our Father) and also His supreme position (in heaven). Begin your prayer time by praising God for who He is and who He is specifically to you.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Prompt: Your kingdom come…
Description: Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to expand and His will to come to pass. While it’s tempting to jump right into listing our requests to God, we can use this prompt to pray that God’s will be done in every area of our life—even when His will doesn’t match our desires.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Prompt: Daily bread…
Description: The Lord’s Prayer now turns from being focused on God’s nature and will to being focused on the needs of the believer. Daily bread refers to the needs we have to be sustained throughout the day. You may need peace, strength, wisdom, or endurance. Use this prompt to ask God to provide what you need today.
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Prompt: Forgive us…
Description: One daily need we all have is to confess and be forgiven of our sins. Use this prompt to confess your sins to God knowing that if you are in Christ they are completely and totally forgiven. As you rest in the forgiveness of God, remember that you are also called to forgive those who have wronged you.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Prompt: Deliver us…
Description: Jesus’s final words in this prayer are for spiritual protection. He prays that God would keep us from being enticed by sin and that He would protect us from the plans of the enemy. Use this prompt to ask God to keep you close to Him and far from sin.
The next time you find yourself becoming distracted in prayer, remember that you have a guide for prayer given by Jesus in Matthew 6:9–13 that you can use to keep your prayer time on track. This isn’t a fail-safe against distraction, but it is a helpful tool you can use to course correct quickly when your mind wanders as you pray.
For more on using The Lord’s Prayer as a guide to prayer check out Pray: Cultivating a Passionate Practice of Prayer.