I want to Pray, but my thoughts aren't Cooperating ...

Does this sound like a problem you can identify with? Most honest people would say that when they try to pray getting their thoughts to cooperate is like herding cats. Getting our minds to slow down and engage in meaningful prayer is no small feat. I would like to suggest a few ideas to help people who would like to experience more focus in praying and to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

1. Find a time and place that permits the fewest interruptions. I know for some people this will require a herculean sacrifice because you are a mother to small children or your life and space make this a huge challenge. I've shared this story in my preaching a few times. When Tom Hanks was filming the movie Cast Away he gained fifty pounds for the role. That isn't hard. I gained fifty pounds when I got married and quit smoking. But to gain the sleek look of a primitive hunter, marooned for years, the production was halted for a year so Hanks could lose the weight and replace that pudgy body with a hard, sinewy physique. He exacted an extraordinary pattern of disciple from himself to accomplish a goal. Engaging in meaningful prayer will require extraordinary patterns of discipline.

2. Meet God with an open Bible, devotional help and prayer list. Scripture reading helps center our thoughts on God and His ways. Also praying through passages of Scripture helps to stimulate a Christian imagination. Like everything else, prayer should be orthodox. It should be an expression of our relationship to God that aligns with His self-revelation. A prayer list helps me focus. I am able to recall specific needs. My list prompts me to pray regularly for the churches and leaders I serve.

3. Pray God's attributes Alphabetically. I can't recall where this idea came from originally. But it helps me to concentrate when I pray. It gives me something specific to do, and it helps me to worship simultaneously. If I am praying God's attributes, I am thinking about what the Bible says about God and I am remembering and expressing that God is the Author of life. God is Before all things. God is Creator, Deliverer, Everywhere, Father, Good, Great, Holy, Healer ... hopefully you get the picture. I find that my mind is less prone to stray if I have practices like this. Of course any practice or aid can degenerate into mindless repetition and so that should be guarded against.

4. Pray God's attributes Book by Bible Book. Just this morning it came to my mind in prayer to pray God's attributes using each book of the Bible as a guide. I can see this being a helpful discipline because it connects a number of other good spiritual practices. In order to do this you have to know the books of the Bible. It would be OK to cheat with the Bible opened to a table of contents, but then you also need to know the content of those books in order to know how to express worship and thanks to God for being the kind of God He is in those letters.

This is not an exhaustive idea about everything involved in being a person of prayer, but hopefully it will stimulate your thoughts about how to better attend to God in prayer when keeping it together isn't very easy. Which is ALL the time.