I want to commune with my Heavenly Father consistently and meaningfully. I spend time first thing in the morning reading the Word nearly every day. Then I begin to praise God and make requests to Him in prayer. And my mind races. Some of the thoughts that fill my mind are related to praying, but many are not – they are distractions. I start thinking about all kinds of things that are totally unrelated to what I am thanking God for and asking of my Heavenly Father. After some time I realize – I’m no longer praying, I’m thinking about something or someone else.
A couple of months ago the speaker at our church men’s retreat stated that the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4) is the model for how we should pray. I started opening my Bible to it and using what Jesus said to prompt and guide my own prayers. And then I realized something very helpful. When I find myself distracted by unrelated thoughts racing through my mind, I can easily turn my attention back to the words of the prayer in front of my face and get my thoughts and heart back on track. It really helped!
So I decided to try something. There are other prayers in Scripture. Some are in Old Testament narratives, many are in the Psalms, there’s of course the Lord’s Prayer, and there are several in the Apostles’ writings, especially Paul’s letters. One morning I turned to Colossians 1:9-12 and wrote it out in my journal. Then I held the open journal in my lap and used Paul’s requests to guide my own. And it worked. When I realized my mind was far afield, I glanced back at the page and picked up where I had left off. And I knew that what I was praying followed a biblical pattern. I used this scriptural prayer for a few days, then I wrote out another one, Ephesians 1:15-21.
In recent weeks I have also used 2 Timothy 2:25, Psalm 23, and the first and last sentences from Deborah and Barak’s song in Judges 5, which I paraphrased as, Help me to lead, and the people to willingly offer themselves, and we will bless the Lord. Let those who love you be like the sun when it comes out in full strength. These prayers have helped me know how to pray, to keep from being distracted, and when I do find my mind elsewhere, to bring my thoughts back to my communion with the Lord. Because I have them in my journal, I can go back to them whenever I want, and can continually add new ones as I come across them or search them out in Scripture.
I experience other hindrances to prayer, but distraction is a big one, and this simple practice has helped. Maybe it will benefit you too. We all need help praying.