Lord, Teach Me to Pray When I Am Distracted - Part 1
Q: I know that prayer is important, but when I sit down to pray I find myself distracted and consumed by my to-do lists and concerns for the future. How can I focus on conversation with Jesus when I catch myself in a whirlwind of thoughts?
First of all, know that you are not alone in feeling distracted! This happens to all of us - often!
I usually begin my prayer time with a simple prayer routine which starts out with entering into silence by focusing my heart and mind on being in the presence of God. This habit can take time to form, but has really helped me get to know God better.This simple act makes me aware of God’s gaze upon me, that the Lord is holding me in His embrace, and sitting with me.
Some days, prayer time can just be simply resting in His loving gaze and remembering that you are a daughter of God.
Before I explain more about some steps I use to pray with more focus and avoiding distractions, I want to share a reflection which my mom sent to me, and it comes from the devotional book, Jesus Calling. It serves as a great introduction into praying:
LET MY LOVE seep into the inner recesses of your being. Do not close off any part of yourself from Me. I know you inside and out, so do not try to present a "cleaned-up" self to Me. Wounds that you shut away from the Light of My Love will fester and become wormy. Secret sins that you "hide" from Me can split off and develop lives of their own, controlling you without your realizing it. Open yourself fully to My transforming Presence. Let My brilliant Love-Light search out and destroy hidden fears. This process requires time alone with Me, as My Love soaks into your innermost being. Enjoy My perfect Love, which expels every trace of fear.
Once you place yourself into His loving presence, I recommend following this acronym ARRR: Acknowledge, Relate, Receive and Resolve.
Acknowledge: Once settling into Jesus’ presence, take the time to acknowledge all of those thoughts and feelings which are distracting you. Give them to Jesus, give him the messy. Jesus does not require, or even want a polished and tidy list of what is on your heart. He wants to hear about your reality.
Relate: After spending a few minutes acknowledging everything going on in your heart and mind, spend some time relating this to Jesus. If you are angry, tell him. If you are sad, tell him. If you are joyful, tell him that too! When I am facing discouragement, this portion of my prayer is one big unloading session. I don’t mince words and I try to give each of my struggles to Him, bearing it all.
Receive: Now is the time to receive. In prayer, ask “How is God loving me right now? How is he loving me in this moment, in my life? What is he trying to say to me?” He might not always respond in words, He may just fill you with a sense of peace and warmth. He might also give you a word, phrase, or point you to a particular Scripture passage. If He does, take some time to write about it in your journal. This step is my favorite part of prayer, and it is usually where I spend the most time.
Respond: The final step is to make a resolution. Be purposeful about how you are going to respond to what Jesus has shown you in your time of receiving. For me, my resolution usually means journaling about what I have received from Jesus in the previous step.
I hope these steps bring new life into your daily prayer! I know they have in my own life, and the process never gets old. Jesus is always showing me and teaching me new things, I just need to take the time.
Susanna Parent is a Wisconsin native who begins her morning brewing French press coffee in the home she shares with her husband in charming old Saint Paul. When the sun sets, you’ll find her with friends enjoying a glass of red wine, preferably outside underneath twinkly lights. When not exploring all that the Twin Cities has to offer, she is indulging her wanderlust spirit and writing about it later on her blog fiatandalily.