5 Steps to Focus on Prayer, Rather than Letting Your Mind Wander

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I don’t know about you, but I have always done some of my very best thinking during prayer time or listening to a church sermon. It isn’t on purpose. It’s just that it can be frustratingly hard to focus.

Prayer is something I start with the best of intentions. Like this….it’s funny…..

“Dear Lord, thank you so much for this day, and my husband and children, and this house. You have been so good to me……Ugh, it’s a lunch-packing day, and I forgot to buy bread. What is that brown smudge over there? I’m going to have to clean that up. Oh, Lord, do help Gracie with that problem she’s having. I meant to pray about that. Sanctify her heart. My bra hurts. My pants are hot. What did I set the air conditioner on? This summer I’m going to save $250 by not joining the neighborhood pool…Oh yeah, please help Gracie. Give her wisdom for this.”

Yes, it’s that bad. No, all of those thoughts are not prayer thoughts, or even related thoughts. This is how brains sometimes work!

We have to INTENTIONALLY find a way to focus on our prayer, and I recently came across a plan that smoothed out that jacked up roller coaster ride that used to be my prayers.

I found it in this book:

 

I’m reading this book with a small group of women at my church. Page 15 had the prayer-changing-strategy that I found so helpful.

First, the authors, Ralph W. Neighbor, Jr. and Bill Latham, take you through the Lord’s prayer to remind us how Jesus said to pray. Most of us are familiar with that.

But then, they actually break it down to prompts that you PERSONALIZE for your life on that day.

5 steps to more focused prayer, rather than letting your mind wander

These are the questions they ask you to fill in:

  1. “What will you say to God to show how you respect and honor him?” Then they give you space to write out what you are actually going to say.
  2. “What part of your life and your world do you need to commit to God’s control today?” ____________________________________________
  3. They ask you what you need to ask forgiveness for. Ouch. Yep. Be honest.
  4. “Where do you need God’s protection in your life today?”  I love that we have this sort of heavenly Father. He WILL give you protection where you need it, when you ask him.
  5. “What can you say and do to recognize God’s rule over your life today?”

 

These 5 simple, PERSONAL, questions provide you with an outline to focus on your prayers.

It’s not just a list of gimme, gimme, gimme either. It’s a true heart check and conversation starter.

Yes, many of us keep a prayer list of names and needs, but this is better than that alone because it changes everyday, and it encourages you to give God glory and thanksgiving, rather than just a list of requests.

I found it much easier to FOCUS on what I was praying, using this guide, than my typical mode of just letting the words flow from my mind and heart with no aforethought. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as I showed at the beginning, I simply have trouble FOCUSING.

Many people use a 5 step outline for prayer, but I found this to be even better for my mind-wandering because it required me to write down what I wanted to say on this particular day, what was relevant at the moment.

I hope you find this useful. I think it would be wonderful to fill up an entire notebook of prayer outlines like this, all filled in.

 

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed by your name.

Your kingdom come, 

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, 

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.”

–Jesus, in Matthew 6: 9-13

 

I hope you all have a wonderful week. It’s the first week of summer here! Time to have fun with the kids!

 

 

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

**This post does contain affiliate links, which means that when you purchase through links on this page, April collects advertising fees from Amazon.**

 

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

Was I always a little flaky? I don’t know. For years, I could get away with being very loosy-goosy with my planning because I was a stay-at-home mom of preschoolers. We moved all the time too, so by the time people developed expectations of me, we were off and away to the next town.

Over the years, I have slipped into a routine of planning as little as I can get away with planning. I’ll procrastinate decisions until they are made for me. Yep. Guilty of that. Sometimes I get this fear of commitment. If I sign up for things, I’m going to have to figure out how to actually accomplish those things with toddlers in tow.

And I never knew when my husband would be here or not be here, so making plans felt like shooting darts– real darts–in a room full of people, blindfolded.

No thanks.

So friends, that is how I became the version of April you have today.

April, are you going to the yada yada yada meeting?

**Total deer in the headlights**

Ummmm. Uhhhhhh.  Umm, yeah, you know, I might…

(Inside my head I’m thinking……IF all 4 kids are well, IF Alan is in town, IF I have energy left that day…..IF I am not supposed to actually be at Dan’s tee-ball game or some Army function that I can’t remember the exact dates for…..If, If, If…..)

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

I love to rock me some babies. Go away, world, until I finish this.

 

Actually, for the past 11 years those were all perfectly good reasons to be flaky, indecisive, unprepared, uncommitted, and unsure. Did I shut the world out a little bit? Yes, yes, I definitely did.

In fact, I had to google the word “twerking” not too long ago. I’m so out of touch with pop culture, and I kept hearing that word. All I can say to that one is ew, girl! Ew. Somebody get that poor girl a sweater and some capri pants.

But things keep popping up on our calendars, and I’ve re-entered the world of work with my blog. I actually HAVE to FORCE myself to plan and be less free-spirited, more grown-up like.

You people who have a plan amaze me, and I mean that in a good way. You totally have my respect.

You know when you are going on vacation. You’ve actually committed to specific dates, and you probably even know how you are gong to pay for that.

You have a budget.

You know when people’s birthdays are, and you plan for that accordingly.

You keep some sort of planner or calendar.

 My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan
About that….Y’all! I have purchased TWO different “planners” this year. They are both mostly blank. I have a calendar hanging in my kitchen too, which makes 3 planners, really. All I’ve written on that one is what the kids are doing for lunch and when their dentist appointments are.

I even downloaded an editorial calendar plug-in to try and start planning my blog posts. (It’s actually extremely helpful, fellow bloggers, check it out. It’s called “editorial calendar.”)

Only I’m so anti-structured in my thinking, I can rarely bring myself to write about what I’m ‘scheduled’ to write about.

I also have 2 different e-books I’ve written half of, and now they are just sitting on my hard-drive taking up space. My hard drive is so full, my computer has actually stopped letting me download or upload new things.

And suddenly I find myself wanting to change.

See, I bought all those planners. That’s the first step. I WANT to do the right thing and be all responsible again. I always was one-half responsible and one-half not at all, even back in high school and college. I used to make myself plans and stick to them, sort of. Well, I used to make plans. Maybe I never did really stick to them. I almost always turn in everything on time, actually, but I live in fear of signing up for extra things.

So I decided to pray about this today.

And this was my answer:  If you can plan out each day by making a list and crossing things off, then you can apply that same strategy to weeks. Then apply it to months. Then do that for years. Do it at the start of each week, each month, and each year, just like you are doing now for days.

Huh. Brilliant. Maybe even doable?

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

My planning tends to never go past the day that I’m on. This is the typical extent of my planning.

 

What I do now for each day is this. After I have safely delivered all of my children to school, I come home and have a little time for Bible study and prayer. You have to pour inspiration in to yourself if you expect to pour any out, right?

I close with prayer, and I ask God to help me make my to-do list for that day. I write the list out on the wipe-off board in the kitchen. Then I mentally prioritize the things that HAVE to get done.

That’s why I usually cook supper in the morning, by 12:00, because I know everyone HAS to eat, and I don’t want that task hanging over my head. Also, I have no energy left at 5:00pm.

I see no reason why this method for planning each day could not be applied to my weeks, months, and years, with one of the 3 planners I’ve purchased laying open on my lap.

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

And don’t even say that I should use my phone as my planner. I can’t do it. This falls under scatter-brained people problems. The minute I open my phone to use the calendar or some other useful, productive app, I immediately forget what I was doing and end up reading Instagram or my email or something.

So watch out, world! I now have a plan for how to plan!!!! Who knows? Maybe next week I will make a budget, a meal plan, or catch up on my 2,809 emails…….nahhhhh…

Please share your best planning tips in the comment section! We would love to hear more ideas! Thanks, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Place to Write Out Answered Prayers

 

Yesterday we sang this song at church:

It starts quiet and gets louder. That’s not my church, just one I found on You Tube. This song is powerful, and even more so when you are there in person, singing it with other believers.

I could not stop my tears while singing this song. I have this problem that once my water works start it feels impossible to turn them off!! All of a sudden, I lose all ability to be tough or cool. I become total mush. Does that happen to you? It’s embarrassing, but it’s healing, and sometimes you have no choice really.

So today, why don’t we take time to remember? Do we remember?

There was this movie called The War Room, which starred Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore even had a small role in it. In the movie, an elderly woman served as Priscilla Shirer’s mentor. She had something hanging on her wall that I’d never seen before: a list of answered prayers.

It was a powerful film. I hope you get a chance to watch the whole thing later, but for now, here’s a dramatic clip:

This movie was GOOD, but because it was Christian you didn’t hear about it much. Go digging for it on the internet. It’s well worth your time. I mean I saw it a YEAR ago, and I’m still remembering things I learned in this movie!

Amazon sells it for $10, or if you have Starz, you can watch it for free:

The other big thing that stuck with me was having a closet to go pray in. Here at my new house I finally have both a list and a closet to pray in, and I am loving that.

I even made a pretty list to write my lists of answered prayers on. In only 30 minutes, I filled up four of these sheets, so if you want to use this, you may want to print 5, not just one. Yep. I turned it into a free printable, so I can share it with you.
Free Printable for Answered Prayer ListEach list is the size of a sheet of copy paper. Click here to print it. : answeredprayerWord

I have a black and white printer, so mine didn’t have the pretty colors after all. Sad! But yours can so long as you have a color printer.

I feel like I’m living the longest answered prayer ever this year. My list was long, and I won’t bore you with my list, but I do want to share this one with you.

I want to tell you about my support system this year. The hardest months were November 2015-April 2016. It felt like my physical body was crumbling. There were days I limped around with hip pain, and no one could tell me why. I would toss and turn, and I could not sleep because of that obnoxious hip, but no one could fix it. But the worst part was the fevers, because they would zap my energy and leave me feeling useless. Oh! And then the heart problem started. Then when they told me it was v-tach, and I read about v-tach, I thought, “Oh, great. I’m dying? I could just die any night in my sleep?”

Since my doctors couldn’t figure out my hip problem, they labeled me as having “many somatic complaints,” and they sent me to a counselor. Nice. So basically, if you have a sickness that docs don’t know how to fix they decide you need counseling. And there are lots of problems doctors cannot fix.

Many women would fall back on family during times like these, but when you live on the other side of the country from your family, you’d better hope you’ve made some friends.

It felt like a recipe for depression, my friends.

But that wasn’t how it turned out. Sometimes God sends people who are the answers to our prayers. That’s what happened for me. I want to tell you about three people who were answers to my prayers.

analise

Analise, my substitute

Analise

I hired Analise to watch the boys each Friday while I went to my weekly doctor visits and tests at the cardiologist, the rheumatologist, the counselor, the physical therapist, and the chiropractor.

Ladies, don’t ever feel like you are “just a nanny.” Analise was 1000 times more than just a nanny. That is a noble calling. I could not have made it through this year without her, and she was a source of happiness for my boys who were having to cope with having a mom that was “always sick.” She was fun and energetic, but she was also mature enough to handle two boys who were supposed to be doing their schoolwork, along with two pre-schoolers.

Analise was a gift from God. She was the answer to my literal cry for help.

laura

My unofficial support group of friends: Every single one is a blessing. Laura is the one on the far right.

Laura

Laura was Daniel’s best friend’s mother. She had Daniel at her house about as much as I had him at mine, and I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t. I would also come home to little gifts from her all the time: bath fizzies, Bama cupcakes, and her signature sidewalk art.

Laura offered that touch that reminded me that I was still a person of value, even when I was sick and confused.

answered prayers

The incredible women in my home school support group. Paola is the second from the end on the right, on the sofa. Man, I miss these ladies!!

Paola

What you might not know about me is that I have this need to follow the rules and …..win. I like winning. That’s right. I too want to win and win biggly. (Hehe!) I crave success. So when I started failing, it was quite the avalanche of pride. Oh, what a humbling year it was.

I could not keep up as Joshua’s grammar/writing teacher. He had his computer program for math, but grammar was on me. But our grammar/writing tutoring sessions were every Monday afternoon. No matter how hard I tried, doctor appointments kept falling on Monday afternoon. And fevers. And just my general mess!

Fail. Fail. Fail. I felt like I was constantly failing. Joshua actually had to direct himself for most of his school work for most of that school year. I felt like I was setting him up for failure.

When we would make it on Monday afternoons, we’d be behind on assignments, because of me. Plus, JD’s entire day would be thrown off from the lack of nap at daycare, and Joshua would be in misery because he wasn’t getting much out of that class as unprepared as he was.

I didn’t have it in me to stay for Monday afternoons any longer. It took so much of my energy reserves to finish a Monday that I finally realized I could not keep it up.

We could handle the three-hour Monday morning tutoring sessions, but packing a lunch for all of us and staying for the afternoon became too much.

So it was with great humility that I wrote Paola (the Essentials tutor, Joshua’s teacher for the 2 hour afternoon session) a long note explaining why we had to drop Essentials with only five or so weeks left in the program.

And what I got from Paola was something I won’t forget. I’d back that woman up for any battle she may ever need help with. Paola gave me grace. 

She agreed that our course of action was best for us. She sympathized with all we were going through. She allowed Joshua to continue turning in his grammar charts to her, but she didn’t pressure us for anything at all. In fact, when the year was over, she congratulated me on persevering to the finish.

Have you ever known someone who gave you the exact encouragement that you needed and more? I felt like such a flake that whole semester because of all the “no’s” I was having to say. But Paola and the other CC moms accepted us right where we were in life.

It wasn’t just Paola that gave me support last school year. All of my fellow Classical Conversations moms were understanding and helpful. If only I could have brought my California friends with me to the South!

Sometimes God uses people to answer our prayers, and truly even to teach us what grace feels like. Grace, hope, and love. I hope that he will use me to bless others as greatly as my friends and family have blessed me.

What a year of answered prayers. I can’t wait to see what God does next. I want you to all know that I am doing much better now. Thank you so much for loving us through the hard times.

Be sure to get the printable and share what God has done in your life.

 

 

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