Sunday, April 22, 2018

Confessions of an Inattentive Prayer Warrior

It almost never fails: I’m praying to God, doing my best to focus solely on Him, and before I even realize it’s happened I’m thinking about my grocery list. Or my schedule for the day. Or what I’m going to make for dinner. Or how cute my dog is. I’ve even been distracted from prayer by pretend scenarios running through my mind. One moment I’m requesting an audience with the King of Kings and the next I’m staring out the window lost in a made-up encounter with a complete stranger that will never come to pass in reality. It’s a tiresome trait.

Could you ignore this adorable face??

Outside of habitual sin, nothing has disrupted my prayer life and even my feeling of connection to God more than my inability to focus when I pray. My distractibility level is so high, I have to use earplugs in a silent room. I’ve resorted to pulling the hood of my sweatshirt down over my face to surround myself in darkness in an attempt to keep my mind from wandering. (Closing my eyes simply isn’t enough.) I’ve kept a notepad next to me so I could write down any random “to-do list” items my brain suddenly won’t let go of so I can move on, assured I won’t forget. Yet even with these tactics, I still struggle to maintain a mental connection. Occasionally there are times when I can pull it off. Those times are the sweetest, most intimate moments with my Creator and they leave me full of joy and wonder. However, those moments are not the norm for me. It is far more often that my inability to focus in prayer leaves me feeling frustrated, unheard, and quite frankly, rejected.

Before I go any further, let me assure you that I know that feelings are fickle, and are not to be trusted. I know that there is an enemy of our souls that wants nothing more than for us to believe the lie that we are unable to connect with the God of the universe. I’m keenly aware that condemnation does not come from the Lord, but from the enemy. However, I also know that feelings can be helpful in leading us to the truth about what we are buying into and the root of that belief. I also know that disobedience and unconfessed sin (even sin we’re currently unaware of) can muck up the line of communication between us and God. I am also keenly aware that my God, the One who sent His very own Son to pay the price I should have paid so that He could spend eternity with me should I choose to spend it with Him, is not going to reject me because I can’t get the theme to The A-Team to stop playing on a loop in my head. So why do I still come away with a sense of defeat that is contradictory to all these things I know to be true?

Early on in my time as a mother, it became clear that something was off in my first born child.  Over time my husband and I made countless appointments with doctors, specialists, & therapists and spent lots of money to try to pinpoint what was going wrong. After years of wondering and waiting, he received the diagnosis of ADHD. Part of reaching that diagnosis involved “family counseling” in which my husband, son, & I  would all attend sessions with a specialist in various combinations. During that time, we learned a lot about having a child with ADHD, how to best deal with the issues it raises, and how to adjust our behavior to help our son better navigate through his life. As the specialist would draw our attention to certain things about our son, light bulbs would go off in my head in the form of the thought “Me too!”. As I would point these things out to her, she would give me a knowing smile and a gentle nod of the head. You know the kind. It said “Uh huh…...wink...wink….yes…….are you seeing what I’m seeing?”.

After getting quite a bit of these non-verbal cues (and even a couple verbal ones) I realized I shared this condition with my son. I simply had the advantage of many more years to adjust and find ways to deal with and hide it on my own. This revelation was profound for me. Suddenly lots of things in my life made more sense. Since we’d just dropped thousands of dollars getting to this point with my son, I felt no desire to go through it myself. I just accepted the specialist’s view as accurate and thus have never been officially diagnosed. Going through the whole process alongside my son was good enough for me and as time has passed, that non-official diagnosis has held true.

So here we are, back in present day, and the struggle is real. Most of the time I can handle my days just fine with minimal difficulties arising from this issue. The most frequent exception to that is prayer. Prayer remains the activity in which my attention issues are at their peak. I keep pushing on and trying new tactics with varying degrees of ‘almost working’, but I admit, there are times when I just give up and move on. That is when the sense of defeat kicks in and I have a hard time remembering all the truths I listed earlier. This is just my reality at this time.

If you identify with any of this, then I’m writing this for you. I wish I had a sure-fire trick to fix this problem, but I obviously don’t. Instead, I’m writing this so that you know you are not alone. I’m writing this so you are better prepared to silence the enemy when he whispers the lie through the ear plugs in your ears,  “God doesn’t want to talk to you right now”. I’m writing this to encourage you to keep on trying. Don’t let the difficulties you face keep you from pursuing time alone with your God who wants nothing more than to spend time alone with you. The reward is exceedingly worth the effort to achieve and I can assure you, God will reward your faithful persistence.

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