5 Strategies for Staying Focused During Prayer
Your Senses Are Key
I Can’t Stay Focused
I close my eyes, fold my hands, and begin my prayer, but I quickly become sidetracked.
My mind has a million options to occupy my thoughts rather than communing with God. Anything from reviewing a movie, rehashing conversations, creating a to-do list, a shopping list, worries… and on and on.
I can get so caught up in my mental sidetracks that when I open my eyes, I am surprised to find myself on my knees. It’s frustrating!
Has this happened to you?
Actually, there is a scientific explanation for why we can’t stay focused when we pray.
The Scientific Explanation
Your brain processes about 800 words per minute. The average American speaks about 125 words per minute. That means that your brain has a lot of space to think about a lot of other things while you are praying.
This same thing happens when we are talking to a friend. We hear what they are saying, but we are also thinking about what we are going to say next, or we may be worrying about the time, or thinking about what we are going to have for dinner…or many other things. Which is not a problem… until we start paying more attention to those mental sidetracks than the conversation at hand.
Keeping our mental sidetracks from taking over our prayer/conversation requires energy, discipline and concentration. And here’s the real issue. Our ability to discipline our minds and stay focused on any conversation is determined by how emotionally attached we are to the person we are speaking to.
Can I say something really shocking?
It is hard to be emotionally invested in a conversation with God because I can’t physically see or touch Him. I don’t receive any visual or audible feedback—no audible voice, no facial reactions, no body language.
That was scary to actually write down. It sounds heretical… Or sacrilegious… Or maybe unchristian?
It almost feels like a catch-22. I need to pray to develop a relationship with God, but I can’t stay focused and pray well because I don’t have a close relationship with God.
But there is hope! Let me share a little-known secret that has revolutionized my prayer life.
Involve as many senses as you can while you pray.
The more senses you involve in prayer, the more focused your mind will be because it has less room to think about other things.
How do you do this?
Here are five simple strategies to involve more senses in prayer and stay focused.
1. Write Your Prayers
Whether you use pen and paper or computer and keyboard, you have lots of sensory input: your eyes read what you write, your fingers move the pen on paper or type on the keyboard, you hear the pen scratching or the keyboard sounds: sight, touch, sound, and movement.
Plus, should you get sidetracked, it’s easy to see when you got distracted and pick the conversation back up right where you left off.
2. Pray Out Loud
Not like the hypocrites who wanted to be sure that people both saw and heard them while they prayed. Jesus made it clear that being seen and heard was the only reward they got for their prayers. God never answered or rewarded their prayers.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:5-6 NKJV
Pray just loud enough that you can hear yourself. This engages your mouth and your ears and can be quite effective in helping you stay focused when you pray. This is great when you don’t have access to paper and pen or your computer.
3. Draw Your Prayer
Do you love to draw or doodle? Then sketch what you are praying about. It doesn’t have to be showcase worthy. This is just between you and God. But use your talent to stay focused and grow your relationship with God.
4. Sing or Put Your Prayer to Music
Are you a singer? Compose a song out of your prayer. After all, David, the famous Israelite singer, did this all the time. That is where we get the majority of the Psalms. So why shouldn’t you?
Or simply sing your prayer to a tune you love. Pick tunes that have the same mood as what you are praying about. Feel free to change the tune as often as needed.
Be creative. Enjoy communing with God!
God gave you the talent of drawing, singing, or playing an instrument. Use it to commune with Him. He will enjoy it just as much as you do.
5. Sign Language
If you are blessed to know sign language, you can pray out loud and translate what you are saying into sign language. What a wonderful way to get total body involvement and really stay focused on your conversation with God.
Pick one of the ideas above to involve more of your senses in prayer, or experiment with all of them to find the right fit for you. Then, let me know what it does for your prayer life by leaving a comment below or replying to one of my emails.
Previous blog posts in this series:
Why Bible Study and Prayer Are Key to a Living Relationship with God
Change the Focus of Your Bible Study and Prayer
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