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“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it /
Prone to leave the God I love.”
– Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Does that describe your attention when you’re trying to spend time focusing on prayer? I was reading Justapen‘s post about distractions yesterday, and it triggered some additional thoughts for me.  Very many people who endeavor to fix their minds and hearts on God and nothing else find that they suddenly have ADD. Little sounds are strangely amplified by your super hearing. Threads of unfinished conversations tempt you to start tugging at them. Everything you forgot during the rest of the day surfaces to your memory. Often, by the time you’re finished praying, you’re left with a nagging disappointment, feeling like your prayers weren’t all that “powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

Here are some things that I have learned about dealing with these distractions.

  1. Take Jesus’ statement about going into your room literally. “But when you pray, go into your room, and close the door…” (Matthew 6:6).  Many of today’s homes have master closets the size of a hotel lobby, and I have found this to be a great place to go pray.  Sounds are muffled by the hanging clothes, and other people don’t often need access to the closet.  Whatever the case, find a room in which you can isolate yourself.
  2. Use the same room every time. This may be pop-psychology, but it works.  When you go into the kitchen, it’s hard not to think about food or drink.  If you pray in the same place every time, eventually, your mind will begin to associate that place with prayer, and it will be easier to focus.
  3. Write down what you remember. Louie Giglio, founder of Passion Ministries, was speaking about this at a conference.  He said that he was convinced that Satan loves to help you remember things you’d forgotten when you stop to pray.  In order to combat this, he brought a notepad with him into his room, calling it the “pad of forgetfulness.”  As things would come to mind, he would write them down and then stop thinking about them.  He said that there were times when it seemed that all he had done was write on his pad, but most of the time, this tactic was very effective.
  4. Take time to slow down. When I sit down for extended periods of prayer, I find that it takes a good ten or fifteen minutes for my mind and heart to really settle in to it.  For you, this time may be shorter or longer, but especially in our busy culture, it’s rare to be able to quickly focus all of your attention on prayer, and trying to force it is sometimes counter productive.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
  5. Let God’s Word help. When your mind can’t focus on something internal, it may be easier to have something external to grab your attention.  In the case of God’s Word, these are not mere words; they are “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Read them, let them work on you, and then either pray those very words (the Psalms are great for this) or let your time of reading turn to prayer, with your heart and mind focused on God.
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