Progress Culture & Prayer (Part 2)
Last week, I told a story about praying for my children that illustrates our tendency to make prayer all about progress.
When productivity leeches onto prayer, we endanger ourselves with faulty thinking.
This week, let's consider specific thoughts that dart around our minds as we pray, as well as what to do with them.
Faulty Prayer Thought #1 — I shouldn't be distracted
As I talk with folks about prayer, it is uncanny how often distractions are a constant frustration.
We're trying to pray, and we:
Think about our neighbor, which leads us to...
Think about how we need to mow our grass, which leads us to...
Think about that unresolved work project, which leads us to...
Think about that tense work relationship.
Minutes go by before we remember that we were trying to pray. Then we feel like total prayer-failures.
Many years ago, I read and adored Paul Miller's A Praying Life. He shared one thought that has changed how I pray:
What if your distracted thoughts are prompts from the Holy Spirit to pray?
What if, rather than fighting against distractions, we turned every thought into prayer? God cares about our lives. Let's talk to Him about what's on our minds and hearts.
Faulty prayer Thought #2 — I can't focus
Recently at our church, we learned the prayer of examen. The second movement of the examen is to review your day hour by hour with God.
However, several folks have shared with me their struggle to focus on these details.
If you struggle to focus on the details of your day, perhaps St. Ignatius' ideas around consolation and desolation can help.
Praying through your day emotion by emotion:
Focus on consolations — memories that bring a smile to your face (joys, laughter, gratitude, experiencing God's nearness, etc.)
Focus on desolations — memories that put a frown on your face (sadness, fears, unbelief, experiencing God as distant, etc.)
Sometimes the raw material of emotions is more accessible to focus on in prayer than the details of circumstances or relationships.
Join me next week as we round out this list and grow in freedom in our prayers.
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