Perhaps the most profound privilege of the Christian life is having the opportunity to storm into the throne of grace and fervently pray for the things burdening our heart. However, anyone who has ventured on such a heroic act would readily agree that it requires much focused attention to fix your eyes on Jesus – and keep them there. Although it may begin as a well-intended, passionate time of communication with God, things can quickly turn into a mental struggle where our brain becomes a revolving door with random thoughts trailing in and out.
While none of us have reached perfection in this area, every morning is a new opportunity to present our full attention to Christ and allow Him to renew us through prayer. If we are intentional about addressing (or removing) anything that might stand in the way of communion with our Savior, He will be faithful to shape us into the mighty men and women of prayer we are all called to be.
Some friends / mentors of mine were kind enough to send me their thoughts on this subject and I have no doubt you’ll benefit from their wisdom and experience:
Yes, I am afraid un-distracted prayer is something that is never fully conquered, a battle never fully won. I have heard of and tried many tricks but my favorite will always be an idea I heard from a pastor at a church conference several years back. He said every morning he made himself and God each a cup of coffee. So while the pastor sat and prayed he always had the second cups presence to remind him someone else was in the room with him. I find this a comical but very affective trick.
I used to struggle against what I called distracting thoughts - thoughts that jumped from one person or issue to another, and stopped conscious prayer mid-sentence. Then I read somewhere that it's okay to embrace the scattered thoughts and draw them into prayers. Pray for each random person that comes to mind. There is a lot to be said for disciplined, focused prayer, I am sure, but for where I am in my life roles right now, I appreciated the freedom this concept brought: that the seemingly distracting thoughts can also be a means to communing with God if they are wrapped up in words offered to Him. Intercession can be a fleeting few seconds or concentrated hour. As a busy mom, I'm at the fleeting seconds stage, and I am grateful for the guiltless freedom to connect with God in this simple way. He wants to hear from me, and right now this means just turning my ever-leaping thoughts toward Him, and taming them in prayer. This was a good exercise in pondering my prayer times.
When I am praying, and I know it is going to be a longer time spent in prayer, i.e. prayer closet, I do my best to clear my head of everything else. The main thing that I do is I pray out loud. When I pray out loud, yes, the prayer might go slower, but then it is more difficult for me to get distracted. And I go in with the attitude that this is the time I have promised God, I GET to talk to my Jesus! The ONE who loves me, and forgives me, who doesn’t hold any sin against me after repentance! My love for him should be shown through talking to him. –If I can have a conversation with my best friend for hours and hours with no breaks, and no distractions, I can do that with Jesus as well.
I think for me praying on paper is the most helpful. I write out prayers in my journal. I read a book about prayer God's word by Beth more a long time ago and I had a pastor's wife teach me a bit about it too. The idea is that to pray to God is powerful like a stick of dynamite and God's word is powerful like a stick of dynamite and when you put the two sticks of dynamite together the impact is more explosive.