How to pray when you’re distracted

Dear Lord, I’m so glad that I can come to You at any time. But I wish I could focus more, that I wouldn’t start my prayer and already be distracted before the end of the sentence. I hope that it doesn’t indicate a lack of interest in You. You know my heart, better than I ...

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Dear Lord, I’m so glad that I can come to You at any time. But I wish I could focus more, that I wouldn’t start my prayer and already be distracted before the end of the sentence. I hope that it doesn’t indicate a lack of interest in You. You know my heart, better than I do, but I think my intentions are good. I just can’t still my brain enough to stay on one thought for very long.

And that can’t be the way it’s supposed to be.

God, will You please help me?

Are You laughing at the fact that between writing this line and the one before it, I answered an email, forwarded another, and deleted two more? Probably not, but You see all. You know how my mind works. And You know how I struggle.

In order to go deep with You, I need to spend time with You. But I’ve cluttered my days with too many activities, lots of responsibility, and tons of unnecessary chaos.

Straightening out my priorities would help me in numerous ways. If it helps me connect with You, that is reason enough to do it, but if it helps me find peace and calm in my daily life, that’s even better.

I know that wherever You dwell, peace reigns. And that’s where I want to be. Show me tangible steps I can take in order to make smarter choices with my time. Give me determination to keep reaching for You. Strengthen my conviction that time talking with You is important and makes me better. It makes me more fully into the person You mean for me to be.

As You transform me, my mind will focus more on You and will remain more steady. My hope will grow as I believe more thoroughly that You are the answer to all of my questions. My relationships will deepen as I receive (and learn to give) the kind of understanding You have shown me. The love I show others will be more generous and compassionate because I will have been changed by time in Your presence.

And it all starts with more sustained focus on You. Please, Lord, honor my desire to spend time in prayer. Answer my heart’s cry for all You have to offer. Give me wisdom to not be waylaid by unimportant distractions. Help me forgive myself for my inability to do this on my own. And thank You that You want me to come to You in the first place. You are generous and kind. Merciful and powerful. Forgiving and full of love. You are amazing.

And I want to see You more clearly. Amen.

Still having trouble being still

I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN. But since when have I ever kept it short? As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a ...

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I could keep this post really short and sum it up in two words: SLOW DOWN.

But since when have I ever kept it short?

As I was trying to finish the manuscript for my second book, I had coffee with my friend Marcia to run some ideas past her. My new book will be a Bible study—sort of a prayer activity book, with eight weeks of prayer exercises. For Day 7 of each week, I titled it “A Day of Rest” and created short, quiet thoughts and activities for those days. Something simple, some way to stay connected and pray without ceasing, but nothing that was tiring or difficult. My thought process was this: On the seventh day, God rested. Maybe you should, too.

As Marcia and I were discussing it, I told her I was having trouble with the days of rest. Without hesitating, she said, “Oh, that’s ironic!”

I have trouble resting. Relaxation feels indulgent. I have too much to do. Not enough time. Too many things I want to do. People to see. Books to read (and write). Ask my husband—I don’t even really relax on vacation. It’s a problem.

And yet, I’ve been bombarded with messages about why we need to rest. Why we need time to be still and quiet with God. I’m the first to tell about an article I read once saying that kids need down time in order to be creative. Their minds need time to ponder, reflect, wonder, and imagine. When they’re overly busy, there’s no time to simply think.

I read this article today, 6 Reasons You Seriously Need to Slow Down: How a hurried life can destroy your relationship with God. Although I haven’t read her new book yet, I read Emily Freeman’s blog, Creating Space for Your Soul to Breathe, which is all about saying no to busyness. My go-to Bible verse is “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

And yet…I hurry. Always. I can’t go to a soccer game without a book to read and a notebook to jot ideas in. I can’t pick up my son from school without a book. I answer emails at stoplights (but not while driving, I promise). If I sit in front of the TV, it’s with my calendar and notebooks and laptop spread in front of me. I burn nearly everything I cook because I sit down at the computer to try to finish one more thing and I don’t hear the oven timer go off.

I’ve been starting to wonder why. Do I need to stay busy to feel important? Do I do a lot of meaningless stuff to avoid something else? Am I afraid if I slow down I’ll never get moving again?

I really don’t know.

But it’s becoming clear to me that I need to try.

I’m not exactly sure how. No idea what that really looks like. How do I not feel like I’m wasting time? How do I not worry about all that I’m not getting done? I don’t think I feel the need to earn God’s (or anyone else’s) approval. I know I’m loved by God first and by my friends and family, just the way I am. But I always think that if there is more that I can do, I should. If I have any talents at all, I should use them. If I have all these wonderful people in my life, I should spend time with them. And if I want to do those things, I have to cram it all in and rush rush rush through my days.

I’d love to know what you do to slow down—even if it’s just mentally slowing down. How do you justify it? Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and it comes naturally to you. If so, I’d love to hear your insights.

I’ll start by signing off WordPress and picking up my journal. My house should be quiet for a little while longer. (See, I can’t even sit in quiet without something in my hands. My excuse is that it keeps me focused and I get less distracted.) But please, comment on this post and let me know your thoughts. Do you have these struggles too? How do you handle it?

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