The shrill of my alarm clock draws me from a deep sleep. It’s six in the morning and still dark outside. I pull a robe over my shoulders and shuffle like a zombie to the coffee pot. Usually, no one else is up this early, other than the cats. It’s a good thing too because it’s not a pretty sight. And anyone who has attempted to trifle with me at this hour did not repeat it a second time!
After fifteen minutes of sitting comatose and several swigs of joe, I manage to mumble, “Good morning, Lord.”
Next, I pick up my Bible and journal like I’ve done for several years. Then I begin to speak to God for a while before opening the Word. This has been part of my normal routine for several years.
But there’s something else that used to dominate this routine—DISTRACTIONS.
You see, it was at about this point (after the coffee had kicked in) that my mind would begin to wander and daydream.
Oh, we need more laundry soap.
I’m supposed to bring a snack to the classroom today.
Ugh, I don’t want to forget that snack or the room parent will make me feel like such a loser.
How is she always so put together?
What should I make for dinner tonight?
Before I knew it, I’d wasted a lot of time on random thoughts. Feeling guilty, I would admonish myself then attempt to cram in a few minutes of prayer and Bible reading before it was time to get ready for the day.
Some mornings were better than others, of course. On those mornings, I’d pat myself on the back. I had started out my day like a “good Christian”.
I wonder if you can relate?
I wish I could tell you that I no longer struggle with distractions from God. The truth is, I do. But now it’s occasionally rather than the norm. Over time I developed some strategies that I hope you will find helpful. The strategies are intended to be used during a segment of uninterrupted (do your best) and daily God-time. Not the quick prayers in the shower or on the way to work. Although these are great, they should not take the place of “alone time” with the Lord.
3 Ways to Fight Distractions During Prayer
1. Keep Post-It Notes or To-Do List Nearby
Because my mind seems to wander to the things I need to get done. I’ve learned to keep paper near my Bible to write things down. I cannot tell you how helpful this is! I simply take a quick detour to write down whatever it is (things for the grocery list, an event coming up, etc.) then get back to my prayer or reading.
I also have my journal handy, because some of those distractions are things I need to pray about. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Pray with a Pen
Writing something down takes intention and focus. This is exactly what I needed. I still remember the first time I decided to write down my prayer. That was over twenty years ago. The journal is not a replacement for speaking prayers to the Lord, mind you. It serves to help focus and organize my thoughts. Once I’ve written down a few things, I’m usually able to carry on with my prayers mentally and/or vocally.
A little organization goes a long way. I mean, let’s face it, there’s a lot of stuff to pray for. It can be mind-boggling. Writing down prayer concerns helps. I actually have two places I write prayers down. One is a journal for personal thoughts and prayers (pic below).
The other is a ringed notebook with tabs. The notebook has two parts.
Section one: Prayer Focus for the Day
I don’t have the time to cover many of the events that happen in this world the way I’d like to. So, I have categorized some major topics and written them in the front of the notebook where I have assigned them a particular day of the week. Under each day, I have written a prayer focus. Here’s an example:
Leadership —country, state, city, church, my home, schools/teachers, boss
Focused family prayer
Extended family, friends
Neighbors and the lost
Focused family prayer
My family and Oikos (Greek word meaning the 8-15 people I have regular contact with)
Section Two: People Close to Me
Next, in my ringed notebook, I have individually tabbed sections for each of the following: my husband, kids, extended family and friends, church and misc. concerns.
3. Pray Scripture Aloud
The disciples asked Jesus how to pray, so I decided that I would model what Jesus told them in Matthew 6:9-13 which is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. I pray the exact words from scripture but add my own as well. Using scripture as a guide helps me stay focused. I’ll give you an example. First, read the Lord’s prayer below. Then next you’ll see an example of how I pray.
“Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”
My paraphrase may look something like this:
Father in heaven, I never want to forget how holy and wonderful you are. Even though I have my thoughts on how I think you should answer my prayers, I know that Your will is best and that is what I truly desire. Thank you for how you have provided for our family. Please forgive me for the way I lost my temper with the kids yesterday. Help me with the temptation of lashing out like that today.
There are many amazing prayers in scripture that I read and pray aloud for myself, family and friends (inserting my name or a loved one’s name). Take a look at one of the apostle Paul’s prayers below.
“ I pray that from his (God) glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
Don’t you just love Paul’s prayer! By the way, I’m praying this prayer for YOU!
I’ve included some other prayers from the Bible below. These are only a few of my favorites. Just click on the verse which will take you to the scripture at BibleGateway. You may want to consider writing them on a notecard or in a journal.
More great scripture prayers!
Exodus 33:13, Ephesians 1:15-23, Philippians 1:9-11, Psalms 51:1-8, James 5:15, Psalm 63 (the Psalms are filled with many prayers)
Don’t beat yourself up about distractions during prayer. Beat the distractions with a little organization!
My friends, the Lord looks for persistence rather than perfection. Keep on seeking Him!
THE LORD LOOKS FOR PERSISTENCE RATHER THAN PERFECTION. KEEP SEEKING HIM! https://t.co/GrNytKnxGZ pic.twitter.com/wPXVt3lhyH
— Beckie Lindsey (@BeckieLindsey_) September 26, 2016
I’d love to hear from you. Do you have suggestions that have helped you stay focused during prayer?
This post is linked to #LMMlinkup: http://www.foreverjoyful.net/?p=1283
I love this! I have been struggling with prayer lately since college started again. I also get overwhelmed easily. I really love how you organized your prayer focus daily! I think another good tip is to not look at our phones first thing in the morning. It’s a struggle, but I know it hinders me.
Emily, Great point. I read my First Five App in the morning and then NO MORE phone or internet until after my alone time with God. Thanks for commenting. Praying for a great school year.
This is so good Beckie thank you! I’m gonna share with the girls on Sunday. 🙂 I use the some of the same tips above. I like praying for specific things on specific days, think I’m gonna borrow this.
I also like to pray in God’s Creation. There is something about seeing the birds of the air that brings Matthew 6 to life. There something about feeling the velvet touch of a flower and visualizing the truth of Isaiah 55:10. There’s something else, I did a Bible Study on on 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice. In this study Mark Virkler recommended slowing your breath and visualizing Jesus while you pray. This has helped me so much to quiet the business of my mind and allow The Holy Spirit to speak.
Thank you so much for this post!!
Eve, You shared such a wonderful point about praying in God’s Creation. I wrote a post called Prayer Walking-Taking Your Prayers on the Road. Maybe I should repost this. Here’s the link:https://beckielindsey16.com/2015/11/02/prayerwalking-taking-your-prayers-on-the-road/
I’m going to check out the Bible study that you’ve recommended. It sounds wonderful. Thanks, my friend, and sister-in-Christ!
Beckie, I copied your prayer ritual in hopes that I can stay this organized. I so often find myself settling for those arrow prayers sent up, but don’t have a routine set in place. Knowing me, this will be so helpful. How much the Lord still needs to teach me when I’m willing to listen!
Thanks, too, for all your kind words about my writing. If you would like me to send you bookmarks, with my website included, to pass to church friends, feel free to email me through my website with the number that you would like, your home address, and I will send them to you.
Martha, I’m so pleased this post was helpful. I’ve written a lot on prayer because it’s so dear to me and I’m always learning more. God is so good! There are some posts here on Spotlight from Oct. and Nov 2015 you may find helpful too.
I will email you for those bookmarks. Thanks so much!
Hello Becky:) I jumped on WordPress while cooking dinner, and have been distracted at least 5 times!! Coming back to successfully read your wonderful post! I too, cannot start my day, WILL NOT start my day, with my Jesus time and a cup of coffee. I can’t do it…don’t want to do it, will fail miserable throughout the day without a “little talk with Him”. Love your journal and organization. I journal, generally every day, and enjoy going back to see how He has answered my concerns and heartaches. We are similar, waking up very early to the cats, and one dog. Once their settled, it’s my time:) Agreed with the ladies above, safest way to guard this precious and needed time before starting the day, is to avoid the cell, TV, internet first thing. Keeps my mind open, and ears to hear before the clutter of the day. Blessings on your lovely post:) denise
Denise, I agree with you about starting the day off right with God and coffee! Like you, I love to look back at my personal and prayer journals to see how God is at work. It builds my faith seeing how faithful He is.
Thanks for taking the time to comment despite the interruptions! Blessings to you, dear sister-in-Christ.
Excellent advice, Beckie. I pray with a pen all the time. I literally write my prayer as you stated in this read. Wow! Thanks for sharing. You such a gifted and insightful writer. Love the mantle/ teaching gifting in you. Blessings!
Shira, Writing our prayers in a journal can be a legacy to our loved ones as well. Thanks for taking the time to comment, sweet sister!
You’re Most Welcome.
What great and helpful tips to get through the distractions rather than unsuccessfully try to just ignore them. I especially love “pray with a pen.”
Molly Jo, I’m so pleased the tips were helpful. As a writer, I’m sure “praying with a pen” is doable for you. Thanks for stopping by Spotlight and taking the time to comment.
Blessings to you, my friend!
Wonderful advice! I keep a prayer list on my phone. Since I always have my phone with me, whenever the Lord puts something on my heart to pray, I can add it to the list on my phone. Then I can keep praying for it until the need is answered. I’ve been using the app called CLEAR. It’s a great list app. Thanks for this great post. Prayer is so important!!! Blessings!
Jean, I like the prayer list on your phone idea. I’ll have to check out the CLEAR app. I’m not familiar with it. Thanks for taking the time to share.
Blessings to you and yours too!
Got to agree with all you say. The other thing that helps me is some set structure – so I use a book of Offices – Celtic Prayer from the Northumbrian Community (Morning Prayer service) and Stories OMartian’s Power Of books to pray for my family.
Yes, I love Stormie Omartian’s books! And you are so right about a set structure.
Thanks for stopping by Spotlight and taking the time to comment.
Beckie, I love, love, LOVE this post. It’s very “user-friendly” and applicable. Thank you for sharing your lessons learned.
Beckie, this is excellent! I love how you have a prayer focus for each day of the week. I started writing out my prayers once each week and then adding to that list each time I prayed if there was something else. A week later, I begin the whole process again, going over the previous week to note tanks for answered prayers and to continue to pray over unmet requests.
I am the same way, I get easily distracted! I’m preparing to teach a class in November on effective prayer, so specific tools/methods have been forefront on my mind lately!
Elihu, Oh how I wish I could attend your class. I know from your writing what a marvelous teacher you are. I’m glad that your brought up reviewing your prayers and answers.
I’m so pleased that you found this article helpful. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Praying the Lord blesses your upcoming class.
Loved this and found the post it notes near you at prayer time a great thing to prevent me from getting up and succumbing to distractions. Love ya!!
Heather, Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found it helpful.
Love you too, friend!
Awesome post! We all struggle with distractions. Thank you, Beckie, for your transparency on this topic. I know that I need to be more focused with my quiet time. Bless you for linking at The Loft.
I’m honored to link up with the many godly and talented writers at The Loft. I’m so pleased to offer a few tips that I’ve found helpful.
Blessings to you and yours!
Oh, I can relate! I already use most of your strategies for focus, and they really do help. I’m glad you shared them. My organization in prayer is very similar to yours! My problem is in getting started. I sit down and do one short thing after another until my time has gone. The only help I have with that is to grab my prayer cards and go outside on the porch where there are fewer distractions. I also do better typing my prayers (if I don’t get distracted by everything else on the computer) than writing in a journal since typing is SO much faster and can almost keep up with my thoughts. Thank you for your post!
Heather, I find some peace in recognizing that the Lord knows how our minds jump from one thing to the next. Many times He’s told me to just “be still and know He is God.” To sit quietly and not do a thing but concentrate on Him is the biggest challenge, but also the biggest blessing!
I’m so glad you agree with establishing a little organization to draw closer. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Thank God I came across your blog. I’ve been struggling with distractions. Earlier I used to keep pen and a note believing that I will hear God and write. Never days I stopped it. May be I have to start again.
I love your writing. It’s simple to understand.:)
Mary, I’m glad you found the writing easy to understand. I truly strive for that. I cannot not begin to tell you how helpful keeping a prayer journal and person journal has been for me. I can get easily distracted which makes me discouraged! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I visited your blog too. I enjoyed it very much. Keep letting your light shine, sister!
I am pretty amazed to see you replying. I thank you for taking time to read my blog. Please do give me some tips as I am new to the blogging world.:)
Mary, I do my best to respond if people take the time to comment on an article. It amazes me how God can use our technology to connect, encourage, and teach the body of Christ. As writers and bloggers, we are being used by HIM to spread the Good News to those all over the world! It’s so exciting! Keep doing what you’re doing, Mary. Shine that light 🙂
God bless you and yours.
Reblogged this on Life Less Ordinary.
Beckie — this article is so helpful, as are the wonderful strategies shared in the comments. I’ve kept a prayer journal in the past — I’m going to restart that practice. Thank you and all the prayer warriors for the much needed advice and encouragement.
Dorcas, Like you, I appreciated the comments and suggestions from the prayer warriors too. I’m glad you found this article helpful. I’m praying for the body of Christ to abide in Him daily through the Word, prayer, and worship.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Wishing many blessings on you, your family, and your call to write.
I thought of something I needed to do last week, as I was doing my quiet time. I wrote it down! Then proceeded with my time with God. Thanks for that suggestion!
Katy, Yay God! I’m so happy this was helpful for you. My list that I keep beside my Bible looks like chicken scratch because I just want to scribble it down and move on with my prayer 🙂 But it really does help me stay on track.
So helpful! Love this
Neli, I’m so glad you found these tips helpful. I thought I was the only ADD person who couldn’t concentrate during prayer—WRONG! The Lord has patiently helped me develop some strategies that allow me to stay on track.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Blessings to you as you shine your light!