So many times the same frustrating thing happens when I try to pray. “Heavenly Father,“ I say, but almost immediately I get interrupted by my own thoughts.
I really hope I don’t have to work late tonight.
I try to correct course and refocus on God, but another distraction comes to mind.
I wish I hadn’t yelled at the kids this afternoon.
By that point, praying feels like a lost cause. I’m obviously more interested in worrying than spending time with God. Even so, I pull myself together and give it one more go – it’s hopeless. I’m distracted again.
Our mortgage is too high. I wonder if my wife could get a higher paying job.
When those distractions keep coming, I’m tempted to feel guilty, but then I remember this invaluable advice from Paul Miller, author of “A Praying Life:”
“Come [to prayer] overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy. … The very things we try to get rid of – our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness – are what get us in the front door! That’s how the gospel works. That’s how prayer works.”
What a relief. When I find distracting thoughts interrupting my prayer time, I shouldn’t resent myself for it. Instead, I should pay attention to what those thoughts are and talk to God about them.
I often notice that my distracting thoughts are related to the deepest fears and anxieties that subconsciously pull me away from Jesus throughout the day. When I pray, He is letting them come to the surface so that I will give them to Him.
We don’t have to feel guilty about the thoughts that distract us during prayer – we should notice them, name them, and tell Jesus about them. He’s been waiting to hear about them all day.