“What are your top two challenges when it comes to prayer, Bible reading, and study?” That’s the first question I asked on Facebook last week. Distractions and trouble focusing overwhelming topped the list.
So, I asked a second question. “What do you do to stay focused during your quiet time?”
I got so many great suggestions, I decided I had to share them with you here. (For some good general tips for having a quiet time see “11 Tips for a Quality Quiet Time with God.”)
Ways to Stay Focused During Your Quiet Time
- Take advantage of your natural rhythm – Give God the most alert time of your day. If your brain is the clearest and sharpest first thing in the morning then schedule your time with Him then. On Facebook, my friend Mike said: “Most people have a natural rhythm in terms of being mentally alert. I am most productive in the morning, so I make prayer and study a priority during that time to help me stay focused. I plan meetings and interactions with people in the afternoon and evening. A regular routine is a must for me!” But Teresa said that late afternoon is her best time. “I save study time for late afternoon or evening so I can deeply absorb what I read.”
- Distance yourself from known distractions – We must be purposeful in reducing any possible distractions. For instance, email and social media pull me in. I had to commit – to God and myself – that I would not open my laptop before I spent time with God first. One Facebook friend said she leaves her phone in another room and closes the door. Obviously, we can’t eliminate all distractions but we can reduce them. Julie gets up before anyone else in the house so she can have quiet for her quiet time. What distracts you the most? If it’s your kids, you may have to get up before them or have your quiet time during nap time. (If kiddos is your biggest distraction, see “How to Have a Quiet Time When You have No Time that’s Quiet.” and “8 Tips for Moving Quiet Time from ‘Want to’ to ‘Get to.’“)
- Make Jesus as real as possible – When we pray and read our Bibles we are communicating with God! He hears us. We hear Him. Yet we sometimes lose sight of that reality. My friend Trenda works to keep that truth in mind. “I picture Jesus sitting there beside me, talking and listening. Sometimes we have coffee or tea together.”
- Write it down – Lots of Facebook commenters mentioned journaling and note taking. This is something that helps me too! There’s something about using my hand that keeps my mind focused on what I’m doing. For instance, I bullet or sometimes write out my prayers in a journal to keep my focused. I also use highlighters as I read my Bible and take study notes in my wide-margin journaling Bible. (See “Bible Journaling for Beginners,” “Bible Highlighting for More Effective Study” and “10 Observation Tips for Better Bible Study.”)
- Get Creative – There are different learning styles. Many of us need a more hands on approach. For instance, Melissa includes lots of artwork and color in her prayer journal. Others artfully depict Scripture in their Bible margins as they meditate on God’s Word. This can also involve traced or drawn pictures, archival quality writing/coloring pens. (For more about creative, artful Bible journaling, see “How to Start Bible Journaling for Beginners.“)
- Be vocal – I talk to myself all the time. It helps me concentrate. So, I heartily agree with Shanda’s experience that reading the Bible out loud helps her concentrate on what she’s reading. That’s true for praying out loud as well! If you’re having trouble concentrating try reading Scripture and praying out loud. And don’t worry about what anyone else in the house might think!
- Try shorter, intense times of prayer – Sometimes the longer I pray, the more my mind wanders. My friend Lucille has the same trouble, so she prays more often for shorter periods. Short bursts of intense prayer times. In fact, she prays as often as the Spirit prompts. Pray, stop, repeat often!
- Brain dump – I first saw this term used by Amy Hale and I started using it right away. Whenever I sit down with God in the morning, the first thing I do is open my journal and write down the top things occupying my mind. It’s a way of freeing up the space for Him. Others use similar tactics. When Kimberly is spending time with God, if a needed task pops into her mind she writes it down. That way, she won’t continue to dwell on it or worry she’ll forget it. Sheila does the same thing. She keeps a blank piece of paper handy to write down any random thought or chore she forgot. Those items are recorded for later and can be set aside for the moment.
- Train your heart and mind – Georgia has learned that the more she contemplates God throughout the day, the better she can focus on Him during the time she sets aside for prayer and Bible reading. For instance, Georgia listens to sermons while she works and hymns while she cleans. She constantly trains her mind to dwell on God, so when it’s time to focus, her brain more naturally lingers on Him.
Let’s talk! Do you struggle to stay focused? If so, what are some things you’ve tried to help? Which of these tips might be helpful to you?
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Thank you for these ideas for staying focused during prayer. I have been having a difficult time with that lately, and your suggestions are very helpful.
My issue with staying focused is that I have been praying when I first wake up, before getting out of bed. I have found that I lose focus within my prayer for a particular person or situation, and go off on to thinking about that without including my conversation with God. I’ve decided I must get out of bed and go back to what I used to do – go to a specific chair in our house, picture Jesus sitting across from me, and talk to and with Him only. That was always a special time when that was my habit. Thank you for reminding me. I also plan to include some of the other 9 tips. Thank you; thank you!
Jane, thanks for sharing your experience. I love what you said about having a special place for your time with Jesus. I have my quiet time at my desk. But it’s also the place where I work. I’ve been thinking about possibly creating a unique place for my time with God.
I find if I write out my prayers I stay focused better as it is hard for my mind to wander when I am typing my prayers out.
Thank you, Kathy. These are great ideas. Some I have done for years, some sporadically but I’ve never made a complete list. This list is concise, clear, DOABLE!
Do you have any additional tips?
One thing I do, not as much as I should, is I sit on my rocking chair to pray. The phone and computer are across the room. I try to imagine that Jesus is sitting nearby. That helps me to stay focused. I also love journaling, I’m always looking for journaling prompts and things to get my writing started. I also pray in the morning, it’s my best time. I sometimes start with some stretches to fully wake me up, or maybe make a cup of tea. Having a prayer partner is hugely helpful, i use to have one and we would have a hot drink, listen to music, pray and read the scripture together, all over the phone from across the world. I’m praying God will lead me to another prayer partner.
Sounds like a wonderful discipleship habit!