One of the most common problems people have with prayer is the feeling that their prayer is not “good enough.” Let’s begin by saying that WE are the one judging our prayer, NOT God. We are harsh critics of many things we try to do, especially something as ethereal and unmanageable as prayer. Like Olympic athletes, we somehow think that if we can perfect every little detail of what we say and how we say it—we will be successful at prayer. And that by eliminating those “failures” such as distractions or feelings that we haven’t contacted God, we will eventually achieve the gold medal for excellent prayer!
In many ways, prayer is about letting go of control. It is about surrendering in LOVE to Someone with whom we are trying to connect. Prayer is not about perfecting a method. It’s about seeking a relationship, spending time with Someone who is becoming a friend of ours, Someone we want to be closer to and know more deeply. I am presuming we want more than just visiting God with a big wish list or a set of serious requests. When we grow beyond asking for things and move into relationship building, prayer gives way to something more fluid and natural and satisfying. When we come to pray, we are stopping our other activities to spend time with “the Friend,” as the Sufi poet Hafiz calls God.
Our prayers do not bounce off the ceiling—they move straight to God’s heart. As soon as we make the DESIRE to pray, we have already released a burst of energy from our soul to God. To desire to pray is in itself prayer. Imagine how God is moved to see that desire in us!
We will never be able to fully avoid distractions as long as we have a mind! But there is a deeper place in us where our soul beholds God all day long! Prayer is a time when we go into that deeper place and hang out with God, the Friend. There are things we can do to lessen distractions: pray when we are not tired, have a special spot where we pray regularly, put wordless music on, light a candle—train our body to be still. A word or phrase from Scripture or a spiritual book can take us into prayer.
Perhaps the best thing is to just gently let go of the distraction as soon as we realize it’s there, and don’t judge your prayer. Let it go and turn our gaze lovingly back to God!