by: Jaime Hampton
You sit down to pray. You close your eyes to all distractions, and begin to speak to God. You start pouring your heart out to him and then…
you remember you forgot to get milk at the grocery store earlier that day.
You begin again. You’re on a roll now, praying for your pastor’s recent health concerns…
when a picture of the unpaid electric bill you’ve been meaning to take care of flashes through your mind.
Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe not the exact details, but do you ever find when you’re trying your best to clear your mind and focus on God, the distractions come flooding in one by one, like little relentless attackers?
If so, we have good news: it’s actually okay for your mind to wander when you pray. It’s perfectly normal, and you are not a failure at prayer if you are easily distracted. Let’s say it again, because you really need to know this:
You are not a failure at prayer if you are easily distracted!
This is so important, because the feeling that you’re a prayer-failure is one of the biggest blocks to becoming the prayer warrior God is calling you to be! Satan would love for you to begin to pray, encounter distractions, and give up.
But did you know that you can actually use distractions to your advantage?
I like to think of it as “prayer jiu-jitsu” (“prayer-jitsu”?). Jiu-jitsu is a Japanese martial art in which you deflect the attack of your opponent by using their momentum against them. If we think of distractions as our opponent in “prayer-jitsu” we can create a strategy to actually use the momentum of our distractions to fuel our prayers. Alana has a prayer journaling technique that works like a charm, and I wanted to share it with you today. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Anticipate the Attack (Expect the Distractions)
Let’s face it, we live in a fast-paced world. Words and images flash past our screens more quickly than our poor brains were probably designed to handle. We have been trained to multi-task as a way of life. Is there any question why it’s so hard to quiet our minds to connect with God, or to create white space for meditation and reflection?
So stop expecting that sitting still is going to come easily right away…because it’s not.
Expect the distractions to come…because they will.
Anticipate the attack.
Step 2: Engage the Attacker (Embrace the Distractions)
So now you know the attack is coming. What are you going to do about it? In prayer-jitsu, you’re not going to fight the distractions head-on. You’re going to embrace them as they come at you! Just as in jiu-jitsu you engage the attacker, using his momentum to your benefit, you’re going to embrace your distractions…by writing them down, then continuing to pray. You’ll need to be armed with a journal or even just a scrap piece of paper and a pen, and when you think about the milk you forgot at the store…
Write it down.
As the picture of the unpaid bill flashes through your mind…
Write it down.
The mere act of writing your distractions on paper captures them, robbing them of any power they might have over the rest of your prayer time. They’re captives on your list, to be dealt with only when you decide to deal with them - on your terms.
Step 3: Leverage the Attacker’s Energy (Utilize the Distractions)
Since we’re practicing prayer-jitsu, we’re not going to be content with simply taking our attacker captive. We want to use his momentum to our benefit. This is where we use the distractions to actually fuel our prayers.
Here’s how it might look:
You’re praising God and remember the forgotten milk. You jot a note down so you remember to put milk on your grocery list for next time, and shift into praising God for providing the means to buy groceries for your family. This might remind you of the homeless shelter you volunteered at, and the woman with three young children who was interviewing for a job the following week. You go with it, and pray for God’s provision and for the interview to go well.
You move on to praying for your pastor’s health, and get distracted when you realize you haven’t paid the electric bill. You write down a reminder to remember to pay it later, and then shift into asking God to provide for the physical and financial needs of your pastor and his family, like utilities and housing.
By doing this, not only are all of your distractions dealt with immediately, but they are actually fuel for your prayers! And an added bonus is that it actually trains your mind to shift your thinking to prayer in many different, seemingly non-spiritual circumstances.
So what do you think, would Alana’s prayer-jitsu help you leverage distractions to fuel your prayer life? Try it, and let us know!
If you want to hear this week’s full “Coffee Break” episode where Alana and I talk more in-depth about what to do when you keep getting distracted while praying, you can listen on Libsyn, iTunes or Stitcher now. We can’t wait to see you there!