How To Keep More Focused While Praying
Staying focused on anything for more than a few minutes is quite difficult. It might not sound that difficult, but if you have ever watched shows where people have to do nothing more than focus on holding a ball steady, you know that most people fail to focus more than few minutes. Focusing on an object is difficult, and so focusing on something you can't see (like praying) is even more difficult.
Focusing on anything, especially something unseen, is difficult because your subconscious is always busy. Your subconscious is always taking in tons of stimuli from all around you. It recognizes everything you see, hear, smell, touch, feel, and sense at every second of every day. It is extremely busy noticing everything, and that is why it is extremely difficult to focus on something you can't physically sense. Your subconscious just kind of pushes prayer to the side and says, "Look at all this other stuff you're encountering!" It is not impossible, though, to overcome the busyness of your subconscious. Exactly how you overcome your subconscious trying to bombard your peaceful prayer time depends on your learning style. Your learning style is the way you best take in information. If you occupy whatever sense that is, then your subconscious won't try to fill that sense with something else. That might sound a little complicated, but in practice it really is pretty simple.
Auditory learning style
If you are an auditory learner, you are the kind of person who excels at listening to others and remembering what they say. If you prefer to listen to sermons and not take notes or like audio books better than reading, you are likely an auditory learner. Auditory learners are great at using their sense of hearing. That is wonderful in conversations with people, but is really frustrating when you try to pray. If you are auditory and try to pray silently, you are going to hear every single noise and it is going to distract you. In other words, your subconscious really likes to pick up every little sound and make you think about it. To overcome those distracting sounds, you have to make time to pray whenever you can get the world around you quiet. That might mean waking up at 3 AM. That might mean dedicating your quiet car ride to work to prayer. Or it could mean putting on enough monotonous noise (like a loud fan or repetitive music) that your subconscious is filled with that and so doesn't try to make you focus on other noises.
Kinesthetic learning style
Kinesthetic learners are those who excel at doing something to learn something. If you can't learn something when someone tells you about it but can learn the same thing when you do it with your own hands, you may be a kinesthetic learner. Kinesthetic learners are also those who do very well in sports. They have a keen awareness of what their bodies are doing. That means their subconscious is always thinking about: what are my feet doing, what are my hands doing, my body needs to be doing something! To overcome that distracting impulse, do not be still when you pray. That may seem to contradict everything everybody says about prayer, but if the only way you can pray is to take a walk or run while you pray, then walk or run while you pray. If you can't walk while praying, occupy your hands. Twiddle a pencil around, bounce a ball against the wall repeatedly, or just let your fingers twist around a rubber band. If you occupy your subconscious desire to move, then you can better focus your conscious attention on prayer.
Read/write learning style
If you excel at reading and comprehending what you read, you probably are the read/write learning style. Those who have this learning style like to write and like to read. Those two activities come naturally and help everything make sense. That means your subconscious may have trouble focusing on things that are not concrete words (like prayer). To overcome your subconscious need to have things written down, simply write down your prayers. Get a prayer journal or notebook or just some scratch paper and write down what you're praying. Whether you write down every word you pray or write down names or needs as you think about them so you just have something to look at, seeing the prayers as words will help you focus on the prayers.
Visual learning style
Those who have this learning style excel at seeing something and remembering or learning from it. If you are an artist or read/write person, you likely have this learning style. Seeing all the details around you and making sense of them comes naturally. That means your subconscious is always looking at everything. That makes praying hard because your mind wants to focus on everything you see. One simple way to overcome this desire is to simply close your eyes while praying. If you "pray without ceasing", though, keeping your eyes shut all day just doesn't work. If you can't keep your eyes closed the whole time you're praying, make sure you make time to pray in a very familiar environment. Familiar visual stimuli will let your subconscious grow so accustomed to what you see that you will see it, but will not feel the strong impulse to analyze it. It's as simple as if you pray at home each day, your subconscious will be bored with your home and not get excited and bombard you with what you see.
Whatever learning style you are (or if you're more than one), try different ways of entertaining your subconscious so that it does not dictate where your focus goes. You do not have to fight with what distracts you; you just have to distract it with something so it doesn't bother distracting you.
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