Have you ever watched a film and felt that the writer had captured your essence in one of the characters? This happened to me when I watched Up – but the character wasn’t the sweet old man, or the young explorer – it was the dog.
If you haven’t watched UP, all you need to know is that Dug the dog is easily distracted by the world around him.
Why do I relate to Dug?
I am an easily distracted person; I am, in Myers Briggs terms, an ENFP. I live my life externally. I often don’t know what I think until I verbalise it. I am inspired, recharged and, yes, easily distracted by my random mind and the world around me.
And here’s the thing; being easily distractible makes prayer hard.
I’ve often tried to pray quietly and after five minutes my heart would sink as I realise I stopped praying four minutes ago. Now, I’m thinking about breakfast, the day ahead, or the thing I wish I’d said to that person, that time.
All my good intentions thwarted by my inability to focus.
It wasn’t until my first 24-7 Prayer Room experience that I realised my personality wasn’t the enemy. Distraction is natural, and happens to all of us during times of prayer. So, instead of just struggling to shut out the world around me, I started to use my senses to focus on God.
If you struggle with distraction too, here are five practical things you could try to help you pray…
Best. Advice. Ever. Jesus called the Holy Spirit our helper. Inviting Him into the problem of being distracted is a great place to start.
Sometimes my distracted thoughts reveal my deepest desires, anxieties or priorities. Instead of seeing them as interruptions to prayer, I’ve started taking God with me on my diversions, inviting His input to my every thought.
When I pray I make myself unavailable to everyone but Jesus. Sometimes I put my phone away; I always silence notifications. Invest time into being excited about what God’s up to, not the barrage of social media.
When I walk along my local beach, the vastness of the sea dwarfs my concerns; the breeze clears my head and the vista makes me instantly aware of God’s presence.
Find a place where your muscles relax and your soul sings. Maybe it’s outdoors, alone in your room, wandering in a Cathedral or after a conversation with an invigorating friend. Find it, then build your prayer life around it.
Try drawing, singing, building, moving or walking in prayer. Something that physically, as well as mentally, engages you. Get a good, old-fashioned paper journal and a really nice pen. When I’m finding focus particularly challenging, I draw or write my prayers like a stream of consciousness or a letter to God.
Whether you see yourself in an animated dog, or whether you’re distracted differently, don’t worry. Distraction is natural; we are human. Don’t feel like a failure; rather focus on the ways you can retune into God’s presence.