Have you ever experienced PADD? (Prayer Attention Deficit Disorder)

You decide you want to pray more, so you find a spot and a time and began praying. It starts well enough until you run out of things to say. Your mind wanders, you begin to think about random things. Did you close the garage door? What was the name of that person you met three weeks ago? At some point you realize you have been day dreaming, you try to focus, even apologize to God, but it’s too late. You’ve run out of things to pray about it, and the truth is you’re bored.

This describes my prayer experiences for most of my life; I’m sure you can relate, but something changed for me three years ago, and it has made all the difference in the world. What happened?

I stopped praying for what I needed now and started praying about what I hoped for the future; I guess you could say I started dreaming instead of praying.

Dreams and prayer are tag team partners. Like biscuits and gravy, like peanut butter and jelly, you shouldn’t have one without the other. For so long prayer was a monotonous ritual where I rattled off my list of demands, and scrambled to come up with more to say so I could accomplish at least 5 minutes of prayer. It wasn’t until I viewed prayer as a chance to dream that it captured my attention and heart.

“People often complain of “distractions” during prayer. Their mind goes wandering off on to other thing. This is nearly always due to praying for something you do not really much want; you just think it would be proper and respectable and “religious” to want it. So you pray high mindedly for big but distant things like peace in Northern Ireland or you pray that your aunt will get better from the flu-when in fact you do not much care about these things; perhaps you ought to, but you don’t. And so your prayer is rapidly invaded by distractions arising from what you really do want-promotion at work, let us say. Distractions are nearly always your real wants breaking in on your prayer for edifying but bogus wants. If you are distracted, trace your distraction back to the real desires it comes from and pray about those. When you are praying for what you really want you will not be distracted. People on sinking ships do not complain of distractions during their prayer.” -Herbert McCabe

So how can prayer become an exercise you enjoy? Let me give you three suggestions that have worked for me.

1. Pray Bigger Prayers

Jesus told us God knows what we need before ask Him, but yet for so many prayer time is nothing more than telling God what we need. There’s nothing wrong with telling God what you need, at times it can be therapeutic to share our stresses and anxious thoughts and ask for solutions, but prayer that is dominantly about what you need now doesn’t inspire the heart. What if you began praying about dreams in your heart, big, huge, audacious, I’m embarrassed to tell anyone I’m praying about it, type of prayers? I guarantee as you begin to pray about your children’s future, or your dreams and life’s goals your heart will be captured and focused. According to the Apostle Paul faith is confidence the things I’m hoping for will happen, so in a way the more you pray about the things you’re hoping for, the more your faith is growing. Get out a piece of paper and write down ten things you’re hoping to for in the next 10 or 20 years. Now start praying about those things, I bet you could pray 30 minutes without trying that hard.

2. Pray for other people

This is pretty self-explanatory. You’re bored because you’re praying about yourself too much. Do you have ten friends? What if you wrote down one prayer for each of your ten friends and prayed 3 minutes for each. Prayer will begin to change for you because you were created to be happiest when you focused on other people more than yourself. You know the feeling you feel after you volunteer at a homeless shelter or give a homeless person money? That’s how you feel once you commit to praying for other people as much or more than you pray for yourself.

History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being – Walter Wink

3. Keep score

It may sound strange to keep score of your prayers, but it’s a game changer. I have kept a prayer journal the last four years writing down devotions that inspired me and prayers I prayed or are still praying. Every 2 or 3 months I will look back through my journals and review the prayers I have prayed. If they have been answered, I use a highlighter to indicate an answered prayer. What I’ve come to realize is God answers a lot more prayers than I thought, I just move on with life and forget I prayed about it. At one time last year God had answer 17 of the last 21 prayers I had prayed, but if I hadn’t kept a record of it, I would have forgotten 10-12 of them. I can’t help but wonder how many prayers God has answered over my lifetime that I didn’t thank him for because I didn’t write them down.

Prayer is a muscle; it grows the more you build it. I hope these three practices will you help you enjoy your prayer time more and build your faith like they have for me.

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