Daily Archives: May 13, 2017

How I’m Learning to Focus in Prayer

Blog post title + woman praying in sunlightI’m terrible at meditating. Here’s a sample of how it’s gone for me when someone tries to guide a group through a meditation exercise:

Guide: Close your eyes and relax.

Relax? Does she know how much I have going on in my life? She might as well ask me to stop breathing.

Guide: Breathe deeply. In…out…in…out…

Okay, we’ve demonstrated we can all breathe. But if I do this deep-breathing thing much longer, I’m going to get lightheaded.

Guide: Your muscles are loosening, your body is sinking into the ground, you’re completely still and relaxed. Let yourself go.

Oh great, now I can’t move. Maybe if I wiggle my toes in my shoes, she won’t see. Oops, I’m tapping my fingers. I need to stop that!

Guide: Now imagine yourself sitting at the edge of a peaceful lake. The sun is setting, the wind is calm, the water is placid.

I can see the lake. Calm, calm… Ooh, a jet ski just went by! Cool, there’s a sailboat passing. Wait, is that a pontoon with a party on it? Geez, it’s a playground out there on my lake!

Yeah, I have a really hard time relaxing, emptying out brain, and staying still. I’ve always been a fidgety person, and my mind is no different—it’s a madhouse in there.

So then I decide I’m going to pray. And you know what happens? I start out really well, getting right through the Dear God and gratitude for His glory parts, but a few minutes in, it’s like that jet ski goes by, followed by a sailboat and a party pontoon. My thoughts diverge into all kinds of rabbit trails that lead me off in wild directions.

It’s hard for me to let everything else fall away and be meditative before my God.

It's hard for me to let everything else fall away and be meditative before my God. Click To Tweet

BUT I discovered something really awesome when I was in France at a recent writers’ retreat. Once again, I was in a circumstance where a leader was guiding us through a meditation. It was supposed to be about our writing specifically, but I used the experience to learn more about how I can better meditate and pray.

For those of you who are fidgety and/or brain-busy like me, here’s what finally worked!

I imagined myself moving in my meditation. That is, once I had that body of water in my mind (it was an ocean actually), I put myself on a horse riding down the beach, feeling the wind whipping through my hair and the ocean waves crashing on the sand. It was an extremely relaxing picture for me, but it wasn’t still. Then guess who showed up? Jesus. Oh yeah, riding on a horse beside me. He and I went galloping down the beach, talking and laughing. It was awesome!

And suddenly I thought, Hey, if I pray like this, I might make it all the way to more Amens!

Hey, if I pray like this, I might make it all the way to more Amens! Click To Tweet

Maybe trying to pray for your marriage and your sexual intimacy hasn’t been effective because you have a preconceived notion of what that prayer is supposed to look like. I know I’ve had one: It involved quietly bowing my head, talking in my head or whispering, and then being uber-silent while waiting for a word from God. I often didn’t make it all the way to “Amen” before 5,000 things came careening into my mind and interrupted my prayer.

Instead, I’m learning that to pray effectively, I have to move. I need to pray while walking, write or type out my prayers, or even imagine myself riding horses with Jesus on the beach. (He was quite the equestrian, I’ll tell you.)

For all I know, when Jesus went off on his own to pray, He traipsed around in circles or strode slowly through the garden. At least sometimes. It’s possible.

Yes, I love the idea of kneeling and praying, and I still do that sometimes. But God wants us to communicate with Him — about our lives, our marriages, and yes, our sexual intimacy — and I believe He’s okay with us inviting Him for a walk or a ride while we chat.

What struggles do you face staying focused in prayer? What have you learned works for you?