How to Pray: Combating Distractions in Prayer

Most of us believe we should develop better prayer habits, but it’s hard sometimes to know exactly what to do. Wake up earlier? Set aside time each day? Those might be great choices, but what about when our minds wander? How many times have you set aside time to pray and ended up spending ninety percent of it trying to remember your shopping list or mentally rehearsing everything you have to do? How do we stay focused in our prayers when there are so many other things vying for our energy and attention?

I’m not a fan of any one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to prayer. Martin Luther, for example, would spend three hours in prayer if he had a particularly busy day ahead of him. He did this because he knew he needed that time in prayer to organize his thoughts to get to all the tasks he had ahead of him. James, the brother of Jesus, was nicknamed “Camel Knees” because he spent so much time kneeling in prayer that his knees developed knobby calluses.

If you feel God leading you to set aside hours a morning in prayer, or if you love to kneel by your bedside to pray, then go for it! The point is to find the prayer tips that work for you. After all, even if you woke up at four every morning and spent three hours on your knees, if your mind wanders so much that you’re only praying a total of ten minutes, you may as well have slept for that extra two hours and fifty minutes! A lot of growing in the spiritual discipline of prayer is training your mind not to wander. Of course, there’s nothing better than practice in overcoming distractibility, but there are also some practical tips you can employ to combat distraction in prayer.

Does your mind wander when you pray? Check out these practical tips to help stay focused. Click To Tweet

4 Practical Tips on How to Pray Distraction Free

#1. Use a Prayer Journal

Like everything else prayer-related, there’s no one-size-fits-all method that’s guaranteed to work. But keeping a prayer journal is a great way to stay focused in your prayers since it’s a lot harder for your mind to wander when you’re actually putting the pen to paper. There are several ways to set up a prayer journal. You could write it in a diary style, where each day you write out whatever you want to talk to God about. Other people prefer keeping prayer lists or bullet points. For example, you could have one page where you write the names of people who need physical healing and pray through that list each day. I’ve used all kinds of methods for prayer journaling (including a prayer scrapbook I once made with pictures of family members and magazine clippings from current events), but right now I like the list method. I’ve particularly enjoyed getting into the habit of writing out the things I’m thankful for each morning.

#2. Set Up Prayer Reminders

These are quick visual prompts you see throughout the day that remind you to pray for a specific thing. For example, every time you drive by your church, you could remember to say a short prayer for your pastor. When you wait for your computer to start up, you can pray for an unsaved friend. Use post-its if you find it helpful to have a visual reminder for your prayers. I like to pray when I start up my computer. While I’m waiting for it to load, I ask God to bless the work I’m about to do.

#3. Pray With a Timer

You can find interval timers that will go off every 30 or 60 seconds on YouTube or set up something similar on a smart phone app. Try to pick different people and pray for them for these short periods of time. You’d be surprised at how much you can pray for a person in only half a minute! Having a timer helps you stay focused because you know you only have a certain amount of time to pray for that particular topic.

#4. Be Gentle With Your Wandering Mind

Remember that prayer isn’t a formula. It’s a relationship with Christ. If you find your mind wandering, keeping directing it back to the Lord, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right every time.

Bonus Prayer Guide

Another great way to combat distractions in prayer is to pray through Scripture or to use Bible verses as the basis for your prayer. Sign up below to request a free PDF with fillable prayer journaling prompts based in Scripture.

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What About You?

Do you have any great tips for combating distraction in prayer? Have you tried any of these? Do one of the above stand out? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author

Alana Terry is a pastor’s wife, self-diagnosed chicken lady, and Christian suspense author. She and her family live in rural Alaska where the northern lights in the winter and midnight sun in the summer make hauling water, surviving the annual mosquito apocalypse, and cleaning goat stalls in negative forty degrees worth every second.

Alana is also the co-founder of the Praying Christian Women Podcast with Candid Gal, Jaime Hampton. Praying Christian Women is a ministry committed to encouraging believers to draw closer to God and change the world, one prayer at a time. Find out more by visiting PrayingChristianWomen.com.


  1. Thank you so much. I often write my prayers in my daybook/journal. And there are times I use the psalms tot make my own prayer with it. Long time agon I wrote a post: praying with ADHD and I shared this idea: Make it a habit to mention your impulsivity, hyperactivity in prayer. Ask Him if He wants to help you to grow in acceptance of yourself.

    I love it that you are saying: “Be Gentle With Your Wandering Mind”

  2. My mind is constantly wandering, and Alana’s timer trick is amazing. Just knowing the timer is ticking is enough to keep my “background noise” at a minimum so I can really focus on praying hard. The first time I prayed with a timer for one minute I couldn’t believe how much praying I was able to get in . Love this post 🙂

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