What’s your Bermuda triangle? You know, the three points on your phone that you check, and then once you have successfully checked all three, you loop back around and start again? For many of us, it’s something as seemingly small as our phone’s Bermuda triangle that makes it feel impossible to pray.
For me, it’s Mail, Slack (team communication) and Twitter. I know Twitter. 🙈
The other day as I found myself on lap 3 or 4, I asked myself “What are you expecting to find?”
And the reality is, the answer was pretty clear. I wasn’t really expecting anything grand. I knew what I would find because it was the same thing I always found. And I knew the results weren’t strong enough to keep me in this cycle of distraction, but it had such a powerful hold on me that I really didn’t feel like I had any other choice.
If you had suggested I shut off my phone and pick up my prayer journal, I would have told you:
It feels impossible to pray.
Been there? Of course, you have. You might be there right this very second scrolling through a blog. I get it.
I remember one particular sickness when I spent 2 whole days in bed and basically two hole days of Seinfeld reruns.
Did not crack open a book or my prayer journal. Why?
It felt impossible to pray.
The temptation to keep our minds on screens is so thick. And we know why. It’s literally peoples’ job to figure out the best ways to keep us scrolling. They’ve created little dopamine hits each time we pull down and new posts refresh. If you kept clicking on Instagram and nothing new appeared, you’d move along. Instead, you’re “rewarded” for pulling down the same way you pull down on a slot machine in a casino.
I say all that to say, this feeling like it’s impossible to pray is weighing on all of us. You aren’t alone in that feeling. We all face the struggles. Even the ones who make prayer happen are faced with the same struggles. What’s the difference?
A strawberry helped me understand it.
🙃 Stay with me.
In my book, Pray Confidently and Consistently, I shared an analogy that I hope paints a picture of what’s vying for our attention. Then I’ll share some practical tips to implement today.
What about those moments when we just don’t want to pray? I honestly don’t think we feel that way because we’re too busy or because prayer’s too boring. I think it’s because the idea of choosing prayer in a noisy world is the equivalent of this sweets lover choosing a sweet, natural strawberry over a bowl of ice cream.
Highly processed sugar is the easy choice and will always be waiting to tempt us. Fruit, though satisfying, doesn’t have the same chemically addictive qualities as ice cream. So if we don’t get intentional and actively pursue prayer, we will drift to the ultra-sweet stuff of distractions instead of the satisfying fruit that awaits us.
The world offers seemingly immediate results, while prayer requires patience.
The world offers stimulation at lightning speed, while prayer requires that we sit and learn to embrace the quiet needed for listening.
The world offers mind-numbing entertainment, while prayer requires our minds.
One of my favorite inside jokes with my husband is from a video montage of parents telling their kids that they ate the kids’ Halloween candy. For just a minute, forget the fact that parents are straight up lying to their kids and kids are flipping out about candy. The part that made us laugh was when one kid matter-of-factly told his mom, “You’re probably gonna get a belly ache.” Now Tyler and I throw this phrase around when we indulge in those things that never feel good afterward.
The distractions won’t satisfy. They’re too sweet, and you’re probably gonna get a belly ache. Grab the natural, sweet, delicious strawberry. Shut off the TV. Turn off the podcasts in the car. Stop listening to the voice messages from friends when you cook. Instead, pray. It’s sweet, and it won’t leave you with a belly ache.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to escape prayer by choosing other things, only to finally pray and wish I had come sooner. The temptation to face distraction on our own is real. But when we fall for the lie that we should be able to have these burning-bush conversations on the fly or in the midst of constant noise, when we convince ourselves we should have enough self-control to always choose the strawberries over the ice cream, we fool ourselves and are left disappointed with a lackluster prayer life.
If you’ve been feeling like you need to fight the distractions alone, unburden yourself with that paralyzing pressure! I think we set ourselves up for failure when we get mad at ourselves for not being able to focus when someone is actively trying to keep us from prayer. Ok, they don’t know they’re trying to keep us from prayer specifically but they want as much of our attention as they can get.
So take some time to notice your patterns. Where do you keep looping on your phone?
Pray for the Lord to give you an awareness when another cycle is about to start and ask Him to break any bonds.
And then use the tools at your disposal.
Side note: Literally, our prayer journals are a living testament to that! We didn’t slap together an ugly journal with a beautiful inside. We made them aesthetically pleasing in hopes they’d capture your eye in your noisy world. She’s got beauty and brains.
In this chapter of Pray Confidently and Consistently, I shared three specific tools that make all the difference in the world.
The Bible warns against vain repetitions but intentional brain-renewing repetition? Go for it! One-off prayers are amazing, but so is the beauty of praying for the same thing over and over again. Jesus did it in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark 14:39 says “And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.” Repetition CAN speak to our faithfulness to keep praying especially when it’s hard to pray for something. And for those really hard things, it’s this repetitious prayer that’s necessary for us to continually surrender our circumstances to the Lord. How amazing would a prayer loop be instead of an app loop?
If you can’t come up with your own words, don’t worry! Your Bible is full of prayers. Start in Psalms or the Gospels for the very prayers of Jesus. Breaking the bond our phones have on us is tough, especially if we expect to have eloquent words after our mind as gone to mush from too much time on our phone. Instead of making excuses that you just can’t focus, make an effort to find focus by reading written prayers and make it your own prayer. There are also tons of books of written prayers that will give you a jumping-off point including my book, Springboard Prayers. If you want a few more suggestions, check out this post.
Designated times to pray
This means we set an alarm or set some trigger that will remind us to pray. It may be as simple as, every time to get your coffee going in the morning, you say a prayer. Start small and build as the consistency takes shape. These periodic moments have a way of breaking our phone connection with enough of a rhythm that the phone bond can’t get so strong. Even as a huge book lover and even with oodles of quiet time available, if you asked me to read a single page during my Seinfeld binge, it would have felt impossible. So setting up these moments in our days acts as a trellis (a rule of life like we talked about) that can help reengage us in prayer before we become a zombie to our screens.
If you’re fighting to get out of your Bermuda Triangle right now, put down the bowl of ice cream and grab a delish strawberry. It might taste a little sour after the Blue Bell but trust me, it will satisfy you much more!
P.S. Pray Confidently and Consistently turns 2 this week! Grab your copy to help fight back against the barriers keeping you from your most abundant prayer life.