Christianity -- Christian Living/Staying focussed on the Lord


Dear Barbara

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!

How can I best stay focussed on the Lord in my mind and deal with distracting thoughts of various kinds? My mind is so often “all over the place”, and I don't want things to be like this. Other Christians have told me they have the same problem.

This applies particularly when I'm praying.

Can you recommend any books, perhaps, please?

I realise, of course, that the basic cause is enemy activity, but how to deal with this problem in a really practical, effective way?

Every blessing,


PS In spite of my many failings, the prayer group we started in our house here is proving a real blessing!

Hi Simon,
So good to hear from you!  I think of you often and say those "arrow prayers" whenever I hear of strife in your area of the world and I ask God to protect you and your family.

I'm glad to hear the prayer group is proving to be a blessing and that you're persevering.  I am reminded of the Bible's discussions of the one who overcomes and that crown of life which awaits those who love God and do not give up.

Funny, in some regards, that you would ask me about distractions in prayer.  I am vying for a world record in number of prayer interruptions and distractions.  My mind is never settled, sad to say. Even when I'm praying. And especially when I really need to sleep.  I think it's hard-wired into analytical and creative types.

I will share with you a few techniques I use with varying degrees of success:

1. A pad of paper to write down distracting thoughts.  Kind of a "to-do list" for after prayer time.  Sometimes the list is longer than others and I spend the whole time adding items and asking God to prioritize my day.  Sometimes, it's too big on lists, but too small on actual prayer.  :(
2. Reading other people's prayers, particularly in the Bible.  If I'm reading, particularly aloud, I am less likely to be distracted.  But it does feel a bit like cheating and not my own personal work or heart.
3. I accept distractions and turn them into prayers.  
4. One technique which I use more often than I would care to think about is saying "Forgive me, Lord" every time a thought comes into my mind.  Some prayer times end up being 3 words over and over: "Forgive me, Lord."  Not the best technique or the deepest, but probably the most authentic in terms of what I really need all the time.  Especially when my prayers are so minimalistic.
5. I give up on an artificial "prayer time" and turn my life into one constant conversation with God. I do this a lot these days. I see an ambulance go by and I ask God to help the person and be with all the medical personnel as Our Great Healer.  I thank Him for my getting some place on time and in safety as My Strong Tower and Sovereign God.  I ask Him to help me understand what He sees in a circumstance so I can see what He sees and understand what He wants me to know. I pray for total strangers like the woman at the airport who was crying uncontrollably while talking with a young man. I sat across the wide aisle and silently prayed for her. God and I embrace distractions together and work through thoughts together and deal with the baloney of life...together.  On a very human level, this is very much a relationship--and an Eden-like walking/communing with God--but I don't regularly contemplate His grandeur or holiness (which is my fault).  I know He's holy, but I take it for granted as being a characteristic of Him and it's like having a movie star for a Dad.  The celebrity awe melts away in the family relationship.  So it is when communing with God.  I don't ever think of Him as just a buddy or diminish His holiness.  But I don't exalt Him the way I want to when He is my ongoing life companion...until He does something that scares the socks off me (which He does from time to time.)
6. I sing my prayers.  Hymns and spiritual songs.

But when it all comes down to it, I agree with Philip Yancey who asks, "Why does prayer rank so high on surveys of theoretical importance and so low on surveys of actual satisfaction?" Prayer seeming to many people ...more as a burden... than a pleasure.

It is from Yancey's book "Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference" that some of my strategies arose.  It's probably my favorite book on prayer because I can so easily identify with what he says.  I love his statement "I have come to see prayer as a privilege, not a duty.  Like all good things, prayer requires some discipline.  Yet, I believe that life with God should seem more like friendship than duty.  Prayer includes moments of ecstasy and also dullness, mindless distraction and acute concentration, flashes of joy and bouts of irritation.  In other words, prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter...Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn't act the way we want God to and why I don't act the way God wants me to.  Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge."

Another book I like is "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers.  The daily devotionals can become prayers if read in the right way.

"Too Busy Not to Pray" by Bill Hybels is another helpful book and is considered a classic.

Wish I could say that I'm a prayer fanatic who is on my knees 5 hours a day and I'm wearing out the floor with my weeping and praying.  I don't fast because I get bad headaches when I do.  So, I have to trust that whatever I'm doing is okay for today since I'd do something different tomorrow if God were to ever say He's fed up with my communing-style and He wants some serious bent-knee action.  :D

But I am also mindful of Yancey's comment:  "For most of us prayer serves as a resource to help in a time of testing or conflict.  For Jesus, it was the battle itself."  So I stand convicted in my prayer life.

Perhaps you've found some comfort or encouragement in my frank appraisal of my prayers and strategies.  Or maybe you can learn from my errors.  At least there's a couple of books to give you some additional tools.

Hope this helps.
Blessings always, B<><

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Barbara Shafer


Barbara Shafer (Seminary Gal now also at ) I am an Evangelical Christian who is willing to answer faith questions in a thoughtful, researched manner. In particular, my heart`s desire is to assist those who need answers regarding suffering and those seeking to reconcile the Christian faith with the field of science.


I have a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I particularly enjoy apologetics (defense and explanation of the Christian faith) and systematic theology (understanding how the Bible itself supports various aspects of Christian doctrine). Both of these play a vital role in the "nuts and bolts" of evangelism... but the heart of Christian evangelism is love and compassion. A turning point for me was when I experienced the loss of my daughter Julia. Since then, my heart has been to help people who struggle to understand the Christian faith (and those who may be questioning the goodness of God) in light of the problem of evil and suffering. I've been informally answering Bible questions via other Internet avenues for over 10 years- to skeptics and believers alike. Thank you for blessing me with these opportunities.

Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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