Dealing with Distractions in Prayer

As we move into 2024 many of us as christians make resolutions or goals for our spiritual lives. Because we often feel defeated by our attempts at prayer, we try harder to be consistent and engaged, but it doesn’t always last. 

One big problem is that we become distracted during our time of prayer, and once we are, we get busy with whatever it is and never get back to prayer. And then we feel guilty.

Distractions during prayer have always been a big challenge for me too. So I’ve read and listened to suggestions from many sources and hope that their advice helps you, as it has me.

I do find that our personalities and family situations affect what works for us. The solution for me as more of an A Type personality won’t necessarily fit you, so you may need to try several of the following ideas, or a combination of them, to find what helps you focus during prayer. Don’t ever feel defeated by these suggestions and do try them each for a while, not just once, before moving on to a new one. You’ll probably have a sense of which ones might work for you. 

Obviously if you have children at home all day, some of these ideas won’t work. Your main goal is to find a time when you can be alone—nap time, early morning, or maybe in the evening when your husband is home and can give you a break. There’s no rule that you must pray in the early morning. Of course, pray little prayers during the day, but focused time with God is essential to a strong spiritual life. 

Minimizing Distractions During Prayer

Set aside a quiet place in your home that will be exclusively your place of prayer. It can be a certain chair, corner or room. In the movie “War Room” with Priscilla Shirer, she used a closet dedicated to prayer. Choose the quietest and least likely place to be distracted by chores or family members. Whether it’s a room, a chair or a corner, as it becomes a regular place to meet God, your mind and heart will begin to prepare for prayer when you go there. Still yourself and quiet your heart when you arrive, turning your focus to God’s presence before you begin to pray.

Wherever you choose to pray, before you begin be sure and leave your devices (especially your phone) elsewhere out of sight. Turn your ringer and all of your notifications off except for emergency calls. Time with God is that important. 

Moving to a corner, chair or room didn’t help me at all because my problem was in my mind, not the distractions of phones and people. What has worked for me for decades now is writing out my prayers. Not journaling about what God says necessarily, but simply writing out what I am saying directly to God. It gives me more focus. And if something comes up that interrupts my thoughts, I can go back to my journal and pick up exactly where I left off. 

Another idea that I use often: Write down whatever it is that interrupts your thoughts. Then when something comes to mind that you need to get done, write it down as a to-do after you finish praying. (Whatever you do, don’t get up and do it!) That allows you to let it go because you know that you won’t forget to follow through. I sometimes jot these things down in the margins of my prayer journal where I’m writing out my prayers, but if you don’t use a journal, keep paper and a pen handy.

Phillip Yancey says that if he can’t get what he’s written down out of his mind, he considers whether it’s something God is getting his attention to pray about it. I think that’s a great suggestion. After all listening to God is part of the conversation in prayer. 

A final idea that I’ve read several times suggests speaking your prayers in a low voice. You’ll likely feel uncomfortable praying aloud with no one else in the room, but it’s definitely easier to stay focused when you speak your prayers and recognize that God is present, whether you can see him or not. You’re speaking to your Father who loves and cares for you. 

May God guide you as you learn to focus as you seek him in prayer. 

Kay is a life-long Texan whose favorites are Tex-Mex, books that feed her soul or make her think, good movies and travel to new places. Her great joy is to serve God by teaching the Bible and developing women as servant-leaders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries, which provides free videos, podcasts and articles as well as low-cost Bible studies to prepare Christian women for leadership. (beyondordinarywomen.org) Kay spent ten years leading women’s ministries on church staffs, most recently at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. Kay is the author of From Ordinary Woman to Spiritual Leader: Grow your Influence, a practical guide to help Christian women influence others by applying foundational leadership skills to their lives and ministries, and a number of Bible studies for women, some are available at bible.org and the newer ones are found at beyondordinarywomen.org. Kay earned an M.A.C.E. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Effective Ministries to Women. Kay’s family includes a husband, two grown children, one son-in-law, two hysterical granddaughters and a Goldendoodle.


Leave a Reply