“If You Feel Distracted in Prayer, Don’t Worry—It’s a Good Thing”
By Joshua Rogers, September 24, 2018, at: http://www.joshuarogers.com
So many times the same frustrating thing happens when I try to pray. “Heavenly Father,“ I say, but almost immediately I get interrupted by my own thoughts.
I really hope I don’t have to work late tonight.
I try to correct course and refocus on God, but another distraction comes to mind.
I wish I hadn’t yelled at the kids this afternoon.
By that point, praying feels like a lost cause. I’m obviously more interested in worrying than spending time with God. Even so, I pull myself together and give it one more go – it’s hopeless. I’m distracted again.
Our mortgage is too high. I wonder if my wife could get a higher paying job.
When those distractions keep coming, I’m tempted to feel guilty, but then I remember this invaluable advice from Paul Miller, author of “A Praying Life:”
“Come [to prayer] overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy. … The very things we try to get rid of – our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness – are what get us in the front door. That’s how the gospel works. That’s how prayer works.”
What a relief. When I find distracting thoughts interrupting my prayer time, I shouldn’t resent myself for it. Instead, I should pay attention to what those thoughts are and talk to God about them.
I often notice that my distracting thoughts are related to the deepest fears and anxieties that subconsciously pull me away from Jesus throughout the day. When I pray, He is letting them come to the surface so that I will give them to Him.
We don’t have to feel guilty about the thoughts that distract us during prayer – we should notice them, name them, and tell Jesus about them. He’s been waiting to hear about them all day.
St. Bernard was traveling with a poor, uneducated farmer, who boasted, “I’m never distracted when I pray.” Bernard objected, “I don’t believe it. Let me make a bargain with you. If you can say the Our Father without one distraction, I’ll give you this mule I’m riding. But if you don’t succeed, you must come with me and be a monk.” The farmer agreed and began praying aloud confidently, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name . . .” Then, after pausing for a moment, he asked St. Bernard, “Does that include the saddle and the bridle, too?”
Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I Peter 5:7 — Cast all your anxiety on God because he cares for you.
Psalm 55:22a — Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.