Day 3 – Friday
Wandering Thoughts and Uncertainty
Yesterday, we talked about time and sleepiness as obstacles to a good prayer time. Today, we’ll take a look at two more obstacles to praying for an hour a day—wandering thoughts, and uncertainty as to what in the world you’re going to do for a hour!
Every one of us has wandering thoughts when we’re trying to pray. You’re trying to focus on God, and instead, your mind is racing with things the day’s events and where you left your car keys. It’s normal. There are two different kinds of wandering thoughts. One kind is sinful, and the other is just a distraction.
The enemy of our souls sees us praying, and he hates it. Just as he did when Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness, he will tempt you with all kinds of sinful thoughts. Whatever your particular area of difficulty is, whatever your pet sin or vice might be, that thought will occasionally come up in prayer. Just use this as an opportunity to confess your sins to God and let Him cleanse you. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
The other kind of thought is just your run-of-the-mill, garden variety distraction, like “Did I leave the coffee pot on?” (Of course you did—what’s a prayer time without coffee?) The way you deal with these distracting thoughts is by simply recognizing them, smiling at them, and then returning to prayer. Or, better yet, if your distracting thought is, “I’ve got to write that proposal and get it to my boss today,” then use that as a reminder to pray for the proposal you have to write, and to pray for you boss as well. Don’t let distracting thoughts pull you away from prayer—make them a part of prayer.
One way to do this, without making them the subject of your prayers all the time, is to settle into your chair before you really journey into prayer, and TRY to think of distracting thoughts. These may be confessions, tasks for the day, or anything. Don’t focus on it any longer than it takes to exhale. As you exhale, give that thought to God. As you inhale, breathe in His grace. Try to think of something else before it’s time to exhale again, and when you breathe out the next time, give that to God as well. Keep this up for a few minutes, letting go of a distraction with every exhalation, and breathing in God’s grace with every inhalation. Soon, you’ll reach a point of clarity where you can’t think of any more distractions. Try it—it works for me.
Now, about uncertainty—“How am I going to possibly pray for an hour?”
I’d find this difficult, too, if I only thought of prayer as clasping my hands together and murmuring for an hour. But prayer is an adventure with God—one that can take many forms. Start a prayer journal, where you write your prayers down—not just in a list format, but in paragraphs. Really elaborate when you write. You’ll feel it more. In fact, really elaborate when you speak to God as well. Don’t let it be, “Lord, bless him. Lord, be with her. Lord, heal him.” You should really let God know how you feel.
Some other ways to pray adventurously--we'll talk about each in detail, later:
- Praying the scriptures.
- Singing the Psalms to your own music.
- Praying through the songs in a hymnal, or just singing to God.
- Simply sitting and listening.
- Meditating on God’s word – we’ll talk more later.
The main point is this: Don’t get bogged down thinking of prayer in only one way. Vary the way you pray. You’ll find yourself looking at the clock and asking, “Where did the time go?”