Most folks who try to pray with any regularity run into the same problem that I do on occasion: a wandering mind. If this is something that happens to you, and you’d like to try and remedy the issue, let me make two suggestions…
1. Pray More Often. If you only pray for one, five-minute stretch every day, then I understand why you’d want to keep that time undefiled. But if you can get into the habit of thinking on God throughout your day, then it suddenly seems ok when your mind wanders off to other things.
I’m not talking about being undisciplined, or being scatter-brained in prayer. But maybe in praying about a situation you’ll start to get ideas about it, and maybe that’s God working through your mind. I think sometimes, instead of listening to that and thinking it through, we feel guilty and move on to the next thing on our prayer list. We do a lot of talking and not a lot of listening. and since God doesn’t speak audibly to anyone I know, I believe the speaking he does happens through our mind.
This works in reverse too. Next time something comes into your head and you start thinking about it, send up a quick prayer about it. Let God know you desire his help, guidance, and wisdom. Then go back to thinking about it. It can’t hurt to do that, right?
2. Think More Often. I’m no psychologist (though I did drive by a Holiday Inn Express this morning), but I believe one of the main reasons we struggle to keep our heads clear when we are trying to share our hearts with God is because our mind is filled with so many unprocessed thoughts. How many of us take time every day to just sit and think? “Who has time for that garbage?” you might say. “You should!” I reply.
I have the good fortune (or misfortune) of a 45-55 minute commute every day. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I listen to Sports Talk, sometimes I listen to music, and sometimes I just think. No radio, no praying, just me talking through my thoughts. It helps me to sort through situations, be creative, and remember things I’ve forgotten. I’ve had some great ideas during these times (including coming up with the name “Prayers For Blowouts” for my Christian Sports website). Then later on if I come to God with something in prayer, I feel like my head is not so cluttered.
So yeah, just a few suggestions based on personal experience. If you have some ideas or stories about dealing with this issue, we’d love to hear ’em…