By: Jonie Buckley
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV
I am so grateful for Jesus’ model of how to pray. He surely knew we would need it. And as we pray, we are to pray by the power of the Spirit, which means praying by the Spirit’s leading. The apostle Paul gives additional instructions for praying:
“Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God's people.”
Ephesians 6:18 CEV
My prayer time often includes distractions. Do you ever feel like your thoughts suddenly become like a ping-pong ball when you go before the Lord in prayer? Do you ever find yourself beginning to pray and then get sidelined? You ask God to prepare you for the tasks ahead of you, but then you suddenly find yourself making your mental grocery list and remembering you need bananas, which reminds you that the person erratically driving behind you yesterday was obviously bananas, and you should pray for them, and as you begin to, you think about the notice you just opened from your car insurance company regarding a premium hike, which reminds you of a great memory of hiking with your family and how you felt so connected to God in nature, and now you are daydreaming about when you can plan another vacation in God’s creation, and…where did you leave off with God in prayer? I don’t know why I am surprised when my mind does this. If you were to ask my husband, this is how a lot of my conversations run with him! And our Heavenly Father wants to be involved in all of them. So rather than fighting all of these distractions, diversions, and detours, I am learning to invite God into them. After all, He is God. He can handle all the chutes and ladders my brain brings to Him.
We see this happening with Paul in the New Testament book of Ephesians. His letter is written to the saints in Ephesus. Paul weaves in and out of instructing the saints and his prayers for them. This was not a structured letter. There is no evidence that Paul followed an outline. Yet this letter is extremely purposeful.
When we converse with others, especially familiar friends and loved ones, we typically jump from topic to topic, as one thing reminds us of something else. This is completely natural. (It’s not just me…right?) How much more does our Heavenly Father want us to come before Him genuinely in our conversations with Him, too?
I am by no means discounting the importance of praying as Jesus taught us to pray: with praise, petitions, forgiveness, and for God’s will. But please entertain this with me for a moment: maybe our distracted prayers weaved into these remind us that we may not always need to focus on organizing our thoughts or remaining on task when we come before our faithful Father. Perhaps our prayer time with the Lord can be more natural and less perfectly structured. Perhaps we would feel less intimidated if we knew there were no requirements, other than to be ourselves before Him. Perhaps we should be praying about what our mind is wandering to, as it may be the Spirit bringing all of this to our minds for that very purpose!
I believe God wants our distracted prayers, not just our well-rehearsed, check-listed, and buttoned-up prayers, because distracted prayers often really reveal what is on our heart. We follow the rabbit holes of our mind that tend to actually matter, and go to places where we need Him to intervene to saturate every area of our life. Perhaps those distracted thoughts are revealing and leading us to the places we need more of God. And once the detours have been taken, the more you can release the clutter from your mind to God in this way, the easier it will be to ‘be still’ in His presence, too.
Thank You for loving us and sending us Jesus, who taught us how to pray in the Spirit. And through His model of prayer, may we invite You and seek You in every part, especially our distracted prayers. Amen.