The Prayer Guide

Praying Alone
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For Leaders



Wandering thoughts

Once people have started praying, the most common barrier to prayer is wandering thoughts, even amongst people who pray a great deal. In a global survey of prayer run by the in 1998, over 80% of respondents found this at least "sometimes a problem". Two thirds also found noise or other distractions a problem.  A similar survey by the Evangelical Alliance found that "keeping concentration" was also an issue, with 40% of respondents mentioning this as a barrier to prayer.

Don't worry about your mind getting distracted, but gently bring it back to focus on God, and the area you were praying about. Just as when we are in conversation with others, our minds do have some apparently irrelevant thoughts, and need to be returned to the topic at hand.   St Francis of Sales said "Even if you did nothing in your meditation but bring your heart back, and place it again in our Lord's presence, though it went away again every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed."

Many Christians lead busy lives, with our minds working in overdrive to cover all of the things that we need to think about in our various roles. When we stop to pray, it takes time for our mind to change track and to focus in on God.  Therefore it can be good to ease into prayer gently, perhaps by listening to a praise and worship CD, or by reading a psalm or another passage from the Bible, or simply by reflecting on what we have to be thankful for.  Then we can enter into a conversation with God with our minds properly prepared.

Pointers for Prayer : We can pray at all times and in all places, and it is good to develop the confidence in prayer to do this. However, it is also good to be able to find somewhere where your thoughts are less easily distracted for deeper times of prayer and mediation.  In your "prayer corner" you might find it helpful to have other items around you, eg a bible, a cross or perhaps a candle.