Do you long for a more powerful prayer life? If you’re like me, you yearn for deeper fellowship with God and miraculous answers to prayer. But when you sit down to actually pray, it gets boring fast. I wrote this post for us, the distracted and side-tracked prayer warriors.
My mind wanders easily when I pray. Just like it did in third grade math class. While Mrs. White explained the multiplication tables, I read a book in my lap. I travelled across the United States in a covered wagon to The Little House on the Prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was a wonderful trip, but when I came back, Mrs. White tested my math facts, and I failed miserably.
Distraction did me in.
Distraction does me in when it comes to prayer, too.
I sit down to pray, but my mind travels to the moon and back before heading over to the Wild Blue Yonder. Or I get so busy that I forget about prayer altogether. Sound familiar?
As believers in Christ, our most important ministry is prayer, but most of us need a jump start once in a while.
Here are ways to fight distraction, keep your focus, and strengthen your prayer life.
1. Remember that prayer is an amazing privilege.
We have direct access to the God of the universe. The pages of the Bible are full of stories about men and women whose prayers God answered.
Luke tells a miraculous story of an elderly couple whose prayers for a child were answered after many years. When the angel of the Lord announces the birth of John the Baptist, he says something downright amazing.
God heard Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer, and He answered it to fulfill His plan of sending a messenger to announce the coming of Christ. Our prayers play a part in God’s plans.
2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to revitalize your prayer life.
Ask God to renew your vision for prayer and your confidence that He’s listening. Ask Him to guide and strengthen you as a prayer warrior. Pray that He’ll grant specific answers to your prayers. Ask Him to open your eyes to see those answers, so your faith will increase.
3. Pray God’s Word
Read Scripture each morning, and pray in response to it. As you read a passage, stop to pray over a verse that strikes you, asking God to work that truth into your heart. When a verse points to sin in your life, repent and ask God to help you change. Let the words of scripture give you specific prayer requests for yourself and the people you love.
4. Make Prayer Multi-Sensory
Maybe we find prayer difficult because we make it a purely mental exercise. Fight distraction by praying aloud. Light a fragrant candle to remind yourself of God’s presence. Draw a picture while you talk to Him. Spend time praying to the tune of a favorite worship song. Make lists of people and concerns you want to pray for, pausing to pray as you write down each name or petition.
5. Pray simply and concretely
I over-complicate prayer by thinking that I have to pray long, eloquent prayers in order for God to hear me. Those long prayers only lead me out to La-La Land. Do you ever fall into that trap? Instead, lift up short, simple prayers, trusting that God hears you.
As we draw near to God through simple steps like these, His Holy Spirit empowers even the most side-tracked prayer warriors. When we practice prayer, we grow. Our most important ministry never fails to bear fruit, in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Now it’s your turn. Do you find prayer challenging? What’s your best suggestion for someone who wants to strengthen their prayer life?
Are you facing the challenges of life on an empty tank? Need help renewing your relationship with God?
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Mary Geisen says
You had me at distracted, side-tracked prayer warrior. That describes me and my prayer life right now. I don’t even have multiplication tables to blame it on. # 1 really hit home with me- prayer is a privilege. That right there stops me and causes me to think that when someone asks me to pray and I say “yes” I have been entrusted with something special. Great post Betsy! I needed this reminder this morning.
Yes, Mary, when I read that passage in Luke, I was so struck by the phrase, “Your prayer has been heard.” So amazing that the God of the universe listens to us! Lifting a prayer for you now, friend. God still loves us in our distractions, doesn’t He?
Michele Morin says
Just this morning, I was coming home in the van and praying for my boys — I was even doing it out loud to keep my mind focused, and suddenly I realized my thoughts had traveled elsewhere. So . . . your post is timely, and I agree with your advice to keep it simple and direct. I’ve even just started blurting out the problem to God. “Here it is! Help!” This keeps me from falling into my habit of praying prescriptive prayers in which I tell God how to fix things my way. (OH, and some people think that we don’t need a savior.)
I’m kind of like you, Michele. My mind wanders even when I pray aloud. I like your way of keeping it short and simple. I figure a short prayer is LOTS better than no prayer. Blessings to you, friend.
I am definitely one of these: “the distracted and side-tracked prayer warriors.” I love your tips here, Betsy. #3 is one I’m really working on these days. I still feel so new to the Bible and am really just learning how important it is to pray the promises while studying it. I’m reading Fervent right now so your words are incredibly timely for me. Thank you :)!
I’ve started praying God’s word more than I used to Candace. It’s a way to work prayer into my quiet time, so that it doesn’t become just a time to read the Bible, know what I mean? I’m curious to know what you think of Fervent? I’d love to read it soon. Reading “The Circle Maker” now.
I’m loving Fervent! I’m only on Strategy 2, but it’s already helping me tremendously. Priscilla Shirer is an absolute gem :).
Yes, she is! Got to hear her speak in March!
Kathryn Shirey says
Reminders I need over and over. How easy it is to fall into a rut and get distracted and lose focus. Great tips to get back into a groove!
So easy to slide, isn’t it Kathryn! You’re great encouragement to me in this area!
Debbie @ Bible Fun For Kids says
Prayer really is ‘an amazing privilege’! Shorter and to the point(s) really work best for me. Thanks so much for sharing these great reminders!
Short and sweet is always good, isn’t it Debbie?
Amen Betsy! It seems I think of more things for the grocery or “to–do” list when I settle down for some prayer time with my Savior. Prayer is so important to me because it’s prayer that has brought me through everything. I totally agree that is as privilege to have access to Almighty God through prayer. I also love your ideas on #4.. I usually mute my phone during this time but my sister told me about “Prayer Mate” . It’s a free app for your phone with Prayer Scriptures and a place for you to list your own personal requests. This helps keep me focused and not forgetting anyone or anything I want to pray for. Thank you for sharing these fantastic tips about something as important as breathing for every Christian….prayer Have a wonderful week and God bless!
Wow, I had not heard of that prayer app. Sounds really good. And yes, that grocery list always seems to become about 10 times more important in my mind when I try to pray. A friend told me once he just jots stray thoughts, list items down, so he can forget about them and get back to prayer.
Kristi Woods says
Good list, Betsy. I think many of us can relate to the distractions. Walking helps me in prayer as does praying God’s word. And on that note, just a reminder that I’m praying for you – especially the next few weeks.
I’m a walker too, Kristi! Helps me to connect with God and stay focused. Thanks for your prayer, friend. I so appreciate you.
Crystal Storms says
Beautiful reminders, Betsy. And I so relate to the math class reading. : ) Praying God’s Word helps me as does worship music because it prepares my heart.
Math Class! You too? Praying for you now, Crystal, that your times with God would be sweet.
Lisa Appelo says
This is an area I’m pressing hard into….deeper, more believing prayer. I’ve been praying through Psalm 103 and God’s benefits!
I want to say I’m pressing hard into it too, Lisa! But I get so DISTRACTED. (Often before I even start!) But I’m making some progress, really want to grow in this area. Praying for you now, friend, that God will draw you close to Himself.
Dianne Thorntonnton says
Oh, how distracted I can be in prayer. Betsy, you have so many helpful tips here. I love asking the Holy Spirit to renew my prayer life and help me see His answers. And I love love love praying simple prayers. I, too, can get lost in my own words. But just lifting the need before the Father is sufficient. Thanks so much for this!
You’re welcome, Dianne. I’m learning myself. Sometimes I really do just say, “God, my faith is so low right now. Would you have mercy on me and show me some concrete answers to prayer this week?”
Holly Barrett says
Whew! You stepped on my toes today, friend. But that’s a good thing! I struggle with this all the time but have committed to learning to sit in the quiet presence of God and redirect myself anytime I get distracted. I may have to try that prayer app. Grateful that I am not alone in the struggle and that God always wants me to come to him. Love your idea to pray for the Spirit to strengthen our prayer life.
Blessings, Holly! I didn’t mean to step on any toes. 🙂 I know what you mean. I’m really pressing in to grow a stronger prayer life myself. I love what someone said on Facebook, that she’s a prayer WIMP instead of a prayer WARRIOR! 🙂
Lois Flowers says
Betsy, I love what the angel said to Zechariah … it comforts me to think that our prayers don’t have an expiration date. I’m guessing they stopped had stopped praying for a baby years before because it just wasn’t biologically possible anymore, but when the time was right to fulfill God’s purposes, the answer came. Almost gives me chills to think that, as you say, our prayers play a part in God’s plan! The only way I can keep from getting distracted when I pray is to type my prayers, so that’s what I do. 🙂 Great post today!
Wow, Lois! I never thought about how Zechariah had most likely stopped praying that! I just read something in the book The Circle Maker. Mark Batterson tells about a time when he walked Capitol Hill for 3 hours praying for his church. He says God has been answering that prayer for the last 15 years.
I love to pray scripture…and, I like to think it pleases God, too. 🙂 Prayer is something that’s so near to my heart. I like to think I’m a pray-er, but then, I think about people like Mother Theresa, etc. and think—no, Brenda, you can pray more. What an honor to have the ear of the the Lord. THE Lord. We’re so blessed. Thanks for sharing these tips. Hope you had a nice birthday. I saw where you’re leaving the states again soon. Prayers for you guys. ((xoxo))
Thanks so much for your prayer, Brenda! I want to grow in this area too, praying scripture is helping me to see my quiet time as fellowship with God, not just a Bible-reading time.
Prayer is one of my favorite things! I do find that I can get distracted though! Great helpful tips to stay on track, Betsy! I really loved the multisensory suggestion. I am definitely going to use that with my kids too!
What a great idea to use that for your kids, Alisa! I hadn’t thought of that, but I’m sure it would help kids connect with God.
Ellen Chauvin says
Multi sensory. That’s just pure genius! Thanks, Betsy!
You’re welcome, Ellen. Blessings on your prayer life, friend!
Carmen Horne says
Oh my goodness, did I need to read this. I am making a list with your prompts. I am so glad I am not alone in this mind wandering craziness. Thank you for once again teaching me about deep spiritual disciplines in a simple, compassionate way. I just love you friend 🙂
Thanks so much for your encouragement, Carmen. I appreciate you, friend. Glad to know I’m not the only one who takes occasional trips to La La Land while praying. Good thing God loves us so much!
Such great tips, Betsy! One of the ways my prayer life has grown is in the realization that prayer doesn’t have to be confined to my closet. Of course that kind of prayer is appropriate, but learning to pray as I go about my day and living that pray without ceasing mentality has served to really grow my prayer life. Many blessings, my friend!
YES! That is such a great tip, Liz. I love that! Pray as you go. I think that’s part of making it short and simple. I find that helps me too.
Sarah Koontz says
Betsy, I am so easily distracted. This is why I journal my prayers, it keeps my hands moving and my thoughts flowing. I think this is why the Bible Journaling has really taken off because it is a multisensory approach to prayer and studying God’s word.
Prayer is a privilege, and I really appreciate your tips because although it is a practice that is important to me, I have so much to learn.
Yes! I was going to write on Bible-journaling, but it got to be too long! That’s Part II to this post, coming up in a few weeks. 🙂 I think you’re absolutely right. Glad it works for you.
Lisa notes says
Thanks for these great suggestions to improve our prayer life. I think all of us would love to see improvements, myself included! One thing that really helps me avoid distraction is when I write out my prayers or when I say them aloud.
Yes, I often write something out as well, Lisa. Even if it’s short, it helps me focus, and later I can pray that same prayer again. I remember to pray later if I write it down in the morning.
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
I’m right there with you…well actually here one minute…gone the next lol. Great concrete ideas. Praying God’s word out loud helps me because it’s hard to daydream and have my mind wander elsewhere if I am reading His Word aloud. The dog thinks I’m nuts, but I’m okay with that. Singing my prayers along with worship music really helps too! Why are we all so distracted all the time?? On this note, I’m going to put on some praise music and sing along…thanks!!
Sarah Donegan says
yes! These are great, but my favorite is number 4! 🙂
Thank you Sarah! Appreciate your stopping by here today!
Ginger Harrington says
I am writing about spiritual distraction this week as well. I’m going to add your post as a link in my post as it ties in perfectly. Love your 7 tips. The multi-sensory one is something I hadn’t thought of, and I love keeping it simple. Was praying for you this morning and hoping your upcoming transition is going well. I’ve been out of touch with my bloggy friends due to a busy schedule, so it’s nice to catch up a bit this morning!
Thanks so much for your prayer for our transition. I’m glad to catch up with you as well, Ginger! Look forward to reading your post.
(another) Betsy says
Hi Betsy, thanks always for your encouraging posts. I’ve found The Book of Common Prayer and other well-written, well-thought out prayers to be helpful to me. They seem to cover all the bases, so to speak, and I have a hard time doing that on my own. As a side note, I’d love to get in touch with you over email, but I don’t have yours.
Hi Betsy! The Book of Common Prayer is a great idea too. I have another friend who uses that quite a bit. My email is email@example.com. Feel free to contact me.
Just recently I was searching for examples of the various ways of learning and found these 2 items. They are not about prayer but seem to fit in with this discussion.
Not hearing is not as good as hearing,
hearing is not as good as seeing,
seeing is not as good as mentally knowing,
mentally knowing is not as good as acting;
true learning continues up to the point that action comes forth
[or, only when a thing produces action can it be said to have been truly learned] – Chinese wisdom
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand. –Confucius
This is so true, Nann. I think we learn so much about prayer when we DO it. Not so much when we read about it or think about it! Blessings! Thanks for such a thought-provoking comment.
Jennifer Clarke says
Wonderful truths here, friend. I think your first point is probably the most important one. Treating prayer casually is the first step toward a declining prayer life, because it shows that we’re taking this precious privilege for granted. Remembering the glory and majesty of the One to Whom we’re speaking is an important first step; remembering the high price that was paid to secure the privilege for us is an equally important second one. Thank you for being part of our Grace & Truth community!
That’s an excellent point, Jennifer. Remembering the high price that was paid to secure such a high privilege. I’m thanking Jesus now. Praying for you too, that He’ll draw you ever closer. 🙂
Linda Stoll says
Yeah, distraction is a challenge, for sure, Betsy.
I don’t beat myself up, I just head back to the conversation with the Lover of my soul. I agree with what He’s doing in the lives of those I lift up to Him. My striving in figuring out what He should do is ceasing the older I get.
Prayer has become more of a peaceful resting, a leaning into all He is …
Regina A Hart says
Thank you for these suggestions to strengthen my prayer life. Distractions are my biggest blockers. My mind wanders about daily tasks or videos on the internet. Sounds crazy, huh? It’s true. I have a weakness to be entertained with movies. Again, Thank you. I will use this post to help me. God bless.
So glad if this helps you, Regina! I know what you mean about being distracted by daily tasks or the internet. I’m writing a book right now about how distracted women can spend meaningful time with God. Thanks for your input here!