The shrill of my alarm clock draws me from a deep sleep. I pull a robe over my shoulders and shuffle like a zombie to the coffee pot. Usually, no one else is up this early except the cats. It’s a good thing too because I’m 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. This has been part of my normal routine for several years.
But there’s something else that used to dominate this routine—DISTRACTIONS.
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. These strategies are intended to be used during a segment of uninterrupted (do your best) 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 a deeper time with the Lord.
5 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. I still remember the first time I decided to write down my prayer in a journal. 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 and people 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 on the inside cover 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. Put Away Your Phone
I know, I know. Many of us even use the Bible on our phones. But I have found that after reading a devotion or Bible app, I’m tempted to read emails and check social media. Sometimes I even use the excuse of posting a Scripture meme. Gasp! If you have this problem too, then let me encourage you—just put away the phone, and get your paper Bible out for goodness sakes.
I have a self-imposed rule of leaving my phone in another room (yeah, I can’t have it nearby) until after I’ve had my designated amount of time in prayer and Bible reading. Then if I want to read an additional devotion on the phone, it’s gravy.
4. Pray With Thanksgiving
Let’s face it, sometimes it isn’t just distractions. Our scattered thoughts can prevent us from knowing where to start. When this happens, I begin saying aloud (or writing down) all things I’m thankful for. My mom called this “counting your blessings.” As I thank God for people or things, I naturally say a prayer for them, too.
5. 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.
See there? I just specialized the Lord’s prayer for my particular situation. What could be more in line with God’s will than to pray His own words back to Him? 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).
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.
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!
Have something to add? Need prayer? Let me know in the comments below.
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