fighting distraction in prayer

Here's how my morning prayer time went, I kid you not:

"Oh Father, I love you- help me to be more like you, God."

I wonder what color I should paint the girls' room...that cream might be too yellow...


"Lord God, I need your help. I am weak and have nothing apart from you."


What color should we paint the stairs? Should we use enamel? When in the world will we have time to paint them?


AHHHHH, good grief, what the heck am I thinking about painting for?? I'm in the middle of praying!


"Oh, Lord I'm so sorry my mind keeps wandering. Keep me focused on you, Jesus. I don't even want to be thinking about painting. Please keep the enemy from distracting me right now."


And I have to keep praying that to keep my mind from going to what I'm cooking for dinner, when I'm getting the oil changed in the car, and how the grass is looking this year.

It's so sad.

I might be the only person this ever happens to, but it took me forever to even realize it was happening, and it's still a constant battle to quiet my own thoughts when I pray.

The weird thing is that an entire side of my brain is going 90 miles an hour while I'm trying to speak on the God of the universe.

Sometimes I get so tired of wearing this human flesh.

I started thinking about the reasons why it's always so easy for me to be distracted in prayer:

1. I am a sinner. It is the sinful flesh I'm wearing. The desire in me, even subconsciously, to put anything or myself before God, is horrific and wicked, and it's what started this whole mess back in the Garden.

2. I have a very real enemy who does not want me to have fellowship with God. He hates it when I focus my heart and mind on Him. He's trying everything to take my attention away from God when I am alone with Him.

3. I've made a habit of thinking of everything else but God for many hours of the day. So when it comes time to pray, is it really any surprise that the thoughts I think all day long invade?

While I think about God and pray often throughout the day {and it's increased the more I've grown in Christ- thanks only to God}, I've still given first priority of most of my thoughts to my tasks and plans all day long. I should be meditating on God more throughout my day to make Him the focus of my thoughts. And I should be in the habit of giving Him the first place in my mind.

What's really strange to me: I'm always so surprised when I realize that I was thinking about something else while praying. It's like Jesus says, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. My heart wants to be entirely focused on God, but my mind won't let me. It's so frustrating, but I've only found one solution.

The one thing that helps me to focus on God while I'm in prayer is to ask Him to help me focus on Him.

As soon as I notice I'm distracted, I ask God to please help me not to think of anything else but Him, and that He would keep Satan back from me. I ask Him to empty my mind, and keep me from loving other things before Him.

And He does it.

He quiets my mind, and it's like all of the sudden there's a hedge around my mind. It's only the God of the universe who can quiet my mental to-do list. He alone can defeat the enemy- I can't do it with my own willpower.

I'm so thankful He can.

It makes such a difference.

I want to love Him with all of me. I want Him to make my heart pure before Him. I want to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
I want Him to be in my thoughts all day long- I long for my mind to be pure before Him. I don't want anything to come before He does.

It makes me really sad that I think of paint colors{!} or dinner plans while I'm praying. Mostly because I know nothing is hidden from Him. It's not like I can have a separate place in my thoughts He won't notice. And I keep failing Him there, over and over again.

Why does He even help me?

Because He loves me.

He wants me to be pure before Him. He died for me, while I was still a sinner. I wasn't good before He saved me, and I'm not keeping my salvation by being good enough for Him. That's what so incredible.

I don't even really get it. It doesn't make sense to my human heart.

He LOVES me, even when I fail Him. My heart is broken and ugly, but He's giving me a new one. One like His Son's, that won't fail Him.

And that's why He deserves all of my heart. And soul. And strength. And every part of my mind, too.

Oh, He is so good to me.

Thank you Father, for being good when we are not.



Do you find yourself thinking of other things in prayer too? {please tell me I'm not the only one!}

Have you seen God defeat invading thoughts in your prayers? What has helped you?

57 comments

Sarah Carletti said...

You are not the only one! I was going to write a post about the very same thing!

Anonymous said...

No, you aren't alone. This happens to me all the time. Of course it doesn't help that I have little ones asking if I am asleep. LOL I really enjoy reading your posts. :D

Leah

Leigh Anne said...

Oh this soooo happens to me too! Thanks so much for being honest & writing about it. I struggle so much to stay focused. On thing that I find helps me is my worship music. If I truly focus on him for a few songs then my mind is less distracted....I didn't say not distracted, but it seems to be less :) Thanks for the encouragement!

Red Letter Ink said...

Could this post be any more timely?? Seriously. I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, praying intermittently in between "This client needs this project done, the laundry needs to be swapped out, I need to call the other moms of the kiddos coming to our little man's birthday party on Friday, shoot - we're out of milk, TAXES - I need to get everything gathered up for taxes, crud - the water I was boiling to make mac n cheese is overflowing...again, ugh - the dog just had an accident on the carpet...". Thank YOU for sharing this and making me feel halfway "normal"!!! God is SO good to us - even when we're absent minded, all-over-the-place distracted mamas. He quiets our minds & hearts ever so softly right when our minds are about to explode with thoughts. And I love that about Him!

The Birds Nest said...

I am battling this same thing right now. I try every morning to spend time with God in prayer before we start our day. Before breakfast and the kids' schooling we pray to have our minds clear of everything but the Lord and what He wants us to think. But I find myself wondering how the lesson will go and what to fix for lunch and if the runny nose of my 1 year old is just sllergies. You are not the only one who goes through this. Promise!! Hang in there, you are doing a wonderful job!

r dees said...

oh, girl, this could have been my post! haha! i struggle with the same thing. i had that tendency as an adult period, but now that i'm a mother it's worse because my mind is way more scattered in the simple everyday from just meeting everyone's needs all the time. i've lost a lot of focus, and i didn't have much to begin with! ;)

The Birds Nest said...

allergies*

Nancy said...

This is so me! Thanks for being real. I fight this every day. It helps if I journal my prayers, but I still get distracted.

Mandy said...

Oh, thank you, Sarah! And If you do write about it I'd love to read it!! :)

Mandy said...

Hehee- that's happened here too! mommy, what's wrong? lol! Thank you for encouraging me! :D

Mandy said...

oh, that's a great idea! I love worship music during the day but I've never thought of it in the morning early! thank you for sharing your idea!!!

Courtney said...

Thank you so much for your post!!! I do this on a daily basis! I've often wondered what was wrong with me, why I think of other things while praying. It is so frustrating!!! Thank you for letting me know that I'm not alone!!! I will continue to pray that He keep my eyes and mind on Him. Thank you for your blog and all you do!

Mandy said...

Oh no, thank you for making me feel normal!! I'm so glad that we are in this together- and it's such an awesome thing that God loves us mamas so much to give us grace!! Ahhhh, it's so wonderful!! thank you for sharing your day, sweet friend! I love that we aren't alone! :)

Mandy said...

You too, mama! It's so good to know we aren't alone in struggle or in grace!! thank you Jesus! and thank you for your sweet words of encouragement!!!

Jen B said...

you are not alone!!! I do it all the time- My mind can wander for a few minutes even before I realize that I am no longer praying. The devil doesn't want us to focus on God as we will then grow stronger in Him. It is a constant battle. Keep on keeping on for our Lord! :)

Jesenia Montanez said...

I have struggled with this as well. I find that playing worship music helps. I turn it on and start praising God first. I find that it helps set the tone and just changes the atmosphere before I begin to pray, otherwise I get easily distracted.

inked33 said...

was JUST having this same discussion with myself this morning while praying and try to do devotion. how refreshing it was to come across your post! and by seeing the other comments, this is obviously a trick often played by satan with a lot of people. love your reminder that only God can defeat the enemy and that we simply need to ASK.
we pride ourselves on being multi~taskers and really, when boiled down to it, it becomes a detriment when seeking relationship with Jesus.
another thing i struggle with is distractions/interruptions from my children while praying or having 'alone time with God'. a just turned 4 yr old and a nearly 2 yr old are hard to put off, although i know i am a much better mom after i've had some God time.
any suggestions??

Joy Scott said...

I just had to share this. I think the enemy alsouses the thought that we are the ONLY one to struggle
With something and I feel it is so important for us to be real and share so we know we aren't alone and share how to work on it. Thank you for the insights.

Kim said...

This is something I struggle with often. I do the same as Jesenia as far as playing the worship music first. That really does start to change my attitude even before I begin praying. I also, like Nancy, journal my prayers everyday. I do that during my morning devotion time. I try to make it a habit also, anytime I enter a different room to start up a conversation with God also, whether it's just telling him something I'm thankful for, or singing praise songs right to him as I do my laundry. That helps keep my thoughts turning to him constantly throughout the day.

Simply Shelley said...

You are not alone...this happens to me and to many others I am for sure and for certain,but isn't it wonderful...God loves us despite ourselves. He is so able to hear the true cry of our hearts! Blessings Oh,and he has the answers to those questions you were asking yourself. Even the little things matter to him...let his Holy Spirit guide you :)

Latoya @ A Peaceful Crib said...

Definitely can relate, you are not alone!

valerie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hockfrockandlily said...

I had the same thing this morning!! I was having quiet time and going through my devotional...and had to read it like 10 times before it really registered because I was instead thinking about work, what to post next on my blog, what to pack for lunch, finding a house, etc. etc. SO silly that we can be sitting in the presence of the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE and be thinking of everything but Him! I am so thankful for His grace, strength, and power- I can do NOTHING on my own. I can't even control my thoughts without His help! :)
Thanks for sharing this- have a blessed day!
Shaina

valerie said...

Oh my word, I could have written the first few paragraphs of this blog entry. This is *SO* me! Some days I combat the distractions by praying out loud. Although a bit strange at first, it really helps! We are all works in progress. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Painfully yes...this happens to me...every time! Thank you so much for your blog and your willingness to be open & honest. These things you write about are truth! We experience this battle of the mind all day everyday! This blog is so refreshing, I visit everyday, and am continually blessed. Thank you again!! Angel M

Anonymous said...

WOW I don't know of anyone this hasn't happened to!! When I feel like that God says - "Be still and know that I am God" - key phrase BE STILL. I also have found that praying aloud keeps me more focused than anything. Thanks for always sharing your heart -

cal+claire said...

This happens to me all of the time. I find myself thinking, wishing, planning, or whatever during my prayer time all of the time. I have to close my computer, my Bible, or whatever is near me and sometimes even physically walk away to a new place. I find my best prayer life while I am exercising (running outside). I know the time will be uninterrupted by people and it is not possible for me to accomplish anything else while I am out. It's just me and God out there.
I teach in youth ministry and we are going through that verse in Luke right now. We are talking about true worship and what that means. It is really beautiful.

Rachel Leigh said...

Oh this sounds like me!!! Sometimes I get so weary of being the one who needs to think of everything~ As a mother I think that is our job and we just have a hard time shutting down the "functional" side of our brain! I'm so thankful that He knows me and sees my heart... I tend to pray all throughout the day as well in between things and even while doing things as well! Maybe that's what the Bible means about praying without ceasing? I don't know but I do wish it was easier to control my thoughts as well... Blessings to you Mandy! He is using you. :)

Amber Lee said...

I struggle with this very thing! Sometimes it seems almost impossible to concentrate and focus on God. Thanks for writing this. I needed this reminder today.

Stephanie said...

Me too! As others have mentioned I also get interrupted by my two little ones. I've found the only way to combat this is to wake up earlier while everyone else sleeps. This requires me to go to sleep earlier than usual though - I'm still working on this!

Amanda@EmbracingGrace said...

Happens to me all the time!!! I feel so frustrated and immature that I can't get my mind focused:) lol!

Alia said...

This happens to me so often, it really frustrates me. My mind is like a disobedient 3 year old. I have found that journaling my prayers helps so much! I can stay focused and write and read to The Lord.

Mandi said...

Oh as everyone else has said... you are SO not alone. I think especially as women we battle and try to multitask everything. :/ The Grace covers this and you are right - he Loves Loves Loves! Keep keeping on!

Megan said...

Thanks for posting! You are definitely NOT the only one!!!! I struggle with this daily. Thanks for the encouragement!

amecom said...

I think this is why many of us wish we had an Amish lifestyle...not that their life is 'easy', because it's a lot of work, but it is simplified. Our culture has led to our minds being pulled in so many different directions all for the purpose of being 'productive', when I actually think we become more counter-productive. I am a SAHM of four, homeschool, help my husband with his contracting business, do property management (to help make ends meet), am in the middle of moving, and have all of the standard household chores...and it's not unusual for my husband to have to leave town for days at a time for work. I have decided not to put my kids in sports or extra-curricular activities because it would be way too much...and at some point would like to stop doing property management (it can be very stressful), but for now this is where we are and He will make provision to quiet my heart, but I have to be willing to allow Him to do that. And allow His agenda to supercede my own. "Your beauty...it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." I Peter 3:3a & 4
Thank you for your post. Very timely :-)

deenakr said...

As I was reading I thought oh bless your heart Mandy you are so not alone in this struggle! I too have the same problem! The evil one is hard at work trying to make us tune out God! Praying for you and all of the other women on here today!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my...this is me! All I can say is I have been trying to be faithful and consistent in making time for prayer. I can't focus for more than 10 to 15 SECONDS sometimes! But I keep "showing up" and persevering ;) I will definitely ask the Holy Spirit to help me... Why haven't I thought of this before? Thx! Dawn B.

Anonymous said...

Mandy,
You are not alone. I think we will always have this concern while we are here on earth. I appreciate what you said about asking God to enable us to focus on Him. He will indeed. One thing that has helped me, is that I keep paper and pencil available to write down things I think of, so I can put them out of my mind. Another is to write down my prayers or to pray out loud. I keep a prayer notebook also which helps me focus, as I read the name of a person I'm praying for or look at a picture of them, or write down a scripture to pray or my thanksgiving response... God bless us as we seek to keep our hearts and minds on Him more and more.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, it really encouraged me today. I too struggle with this and thought something was wrong with me or my heart wasn't right. I have never heard anyone share this before. You are such a precious blessing Mandy! Jamie Mann

Angel said...

You are definitely not alone! I have harbored so much guilt over the past few months when my mind wanders or I let my children distract me while I'm praying! I look forward to the ten minute drive I make twice a day where I have alone time with God and can focus on Him {and He in turn helps me focus on the road better!} I listen to worship music and can feel Him surround me as I lose myself in Him.

{I often feel bad for falling asleep while praying at night. But sometimes that's the only way I manage to get any sleep is when I concentrate so much on the peace God brings. Please tell me I'm not alone in that!}

Thank you for posting this...I can already feel the guilt slithering away! You are such an inspiration!

Kenzie @ Life of Swan said...

You are SO not alone! This happens to me all the time--sometimes I get so far off track that I forget I was praying altogether and get up and do something else. I've found that it's much easier to focus if I write my prayers down in a journal, if I pray while reading His word, or if I sit and close my eyes to block out the world around me. Different moods/states of frenzy require me to try different things (Satan's a craft fellow--he knows how to get around obstacles), but there's always SOMETHING that will work!

lifeofswan.com

Jen said...

I find that the age-old suggestion of keeping a pen and piece of paper nearby while praying really helps. I'm able to jot down a couple of words to remind me of what I need to deal with later, and then I can let that thing go without the worry that I'll forget. That doesn't mean something new doesn't come along, but at least that first thing is gone!

Seaweed and Raine said...

Firstly I could say "get out of my head" (in a joking kind of way). You're not alone. What is even worse is when I am trying to talk to him first thing as I wake up in the morning, only to find 30 mins later that I fell asleep - obviously mid sentence!!!
Keep asking for that hedge - I know I will.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mandy, thank you for writing this! I thought I was the only one! This morning I found myself thinking about my day and even mentally complaining about something I'm not looking forward to while reading the Bible! I felt horrible! And I can't tell you how many times I get distracted when I'm praying before bed! I usually get through the first topic of prayer and then immediately start thinking about my day. I don't even realize I'm doing it. Many times I end up falling asleep before I even finish my prayer and I feel so embarassed when I wake up the next morning and realize just how rude I must seem to God. So imperfect.

Karli said...

Ugh, I struggle with this as well. 2 Corinthians 10 tells us that we have weapons not of the flesh, but of divine power to destroy strongholds! Satan knows a time of struggle is with prayer and God can destroy that stronghold he has on us. Oh, how wonderful a thought that is! Also, I know the habit of having a prayer list helps me as well. Thank you for your God-timed post to encourage me through my very bleak prayer life.

Ulrika said...

How about not fighting this so hard but rather hand the thought over to God when it happens? He knows about all the stuff going on in your life. So when your mind wanders to painting projects and daily chores just include those topics in your prayers asking for the Lord to guide you. That way you invite God into your everyday life with all the tasks you need to get done on a daily basis. Being in prayer is not all about setting aside a big chunk of time when you don't allow any other thoughts, but rather to stay connected to God in everything you do. And when you set aside time to just pray know that God knows your every need so focus less on not thinking of anything else but God and just let God into every thought you have. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

It's definitely something I've struggled with too. The one thing I find that helps me is to write or type out my prayers. It seriously is the.only way I can stay focused and actually spend more time in prayer!

Anonymous said...

That's an awesome way to think about it.

Bethany said...

Your words really touched my heart. I feel like I have ADD when praying and talking to God. Thank you so much for this post. It's nice knowing that I am not the only one.

Jana said...

I struggle with this SO much. It breaks my heart each time, and I feel so unworthy of His love when I can't even finish a prayer to Him without being interrupted by the enemy.

Anonymous said...

This is very good - but I'm laughing as I was getting distracted while scrolling down and reading it because of all the ads on the right hand side of the page. LOL! Oh Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner...

Jen Manginelli said...

Thank you for sharing this! This very thing has been heavy on my heart for quite some time and it makes me feel like I'm so unworthy to even be praying at all. However, God is more than amazing - He's a forgiving and loving God and He knows my heart. He wants me to pray. I find if I'm alone in my house, I'm less likely to be distracted, but it still happens because I'm surrounded by to-do's. When I'm (alone) in my car, I keep the radio off and use my drive time to have a long conversation with God. But, it's not often that happens. This morning I was attempting to reflect on my GMG SOAP notes from the week, and the enemy kept attacking. My mind wasn't focused and my kids and husband were distracting me (not intentionally), and I became frustrated. I resorted to my bedroom where it was quiet and decided to read 2 chapters of The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson. I prayed for Satan to leave me alone, and was able to focus. God spoke to me through those chapters. I plan to start journaling my prayers this week, and hope that will help. Thanks again for showing me I'm more normal than I thought and that I'm not alone :) Congrats on sweet baby #5!!

Smurfbeatz said...

I literally typed into Google, "why do i get distracted so easily while praying" and your post was the first thing that came up and I agreed every hammering point you made. Why didn't I think of it before? Just ask Him! It's all about His strength!!

Smurfbeatz said...

BTW, this helped me so much. Thanks SO MUCH. I know I'm not the only one!

Debbie Kirtley said...

You are not the only one. I too have asked God to forgive my wandering mind and ask him to calm the wandering thoughts. This morning I was so upset that I thought to search out solutions others used. I read a few, but yours seemed so helpful. Everything in my devotion time seemed to echo my lamentation this morning. I believe God directs us to answers. He is glorious, loving and merciful. Thank you for posting your troubles with this. Blessed be His name.

Anonymous said...

I pray the Rosary every morning and I read a few paragraphs everyday of the Bible. I also say a prayer while watching a Religious cannel on my TV. At Times I find my mind wondering too or I start doing other things as I listen to the prayers on TV which basically means I'm hearing the prayers but not listening. Then I feel so guilty and so bad. I feel like I'm being so ungrateful and selfish with God. I feel like I'm cheating him of time that I know should be devoted to him. I feel so bad about it that at times. I just read the bible again the same day and /or say the Rosary again because, but I'm not giving up, I'm going to continue to ask God Almighty to please help me keep focus. I Love God so much. When I talk to God I know God hears me. It's just so frustrating when I get distracted or my mind just wonders away on things that really aren't important, But I will not give up because God is above all and above everyone. I know God will guide me to keep me focus on him. Thank You God for loving us so much, for blessing us and for hearing our prayers. Amen.

Anonymous said...

THIS ALSO HAPPENS TO ME WHEN I DO THE PRAYERS BUT THE ONLY WAY THAT I FOUND OUT IS TO ASK HIM TO HELP ME FOCUS ON HIM RATHER THAN OTHER THOUGHTS. YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE!