My distractibility and butterfly mind can be a creative strength. What they are not, however, is an aid to focussed prayer.
Reading my bible and devotional material is one thing, but a concentrated session of prayer often seems too much to tackle. It has recently, at least.
A prayer meeting is fine, getting together with my prayer partner is great, but me, praying on my own, that’s too big. So in this year of Doing the Next Thing, I need to learn to commit to doing prayer as the Next Thing.
And so last week I was prompted to return to the best aid I’ve found for reducing distraction in prayer – the most excellent PrayerMate App (also available for Apple products). I have my PrayerMate sorted out so that I start with reading things – a psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the Church of England Collect for the day. Then I pray for family, friends and further afield. I’d forgotten I’d set my prayers up like that, it had been so long. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered, nor as difficult to do.
I was gently eased into prayer, and I was reminded of the Puritan injunction to ‘pray until you pray‘, which I first read about in Don Carson’s terrific book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation. I’ve found this to be wise advice. Prayer takes work and it takes time to find the focus required. So beginning my prayer time using written prayers I don’t have to think about too much helps me to start praying. And once I start praying, finding my own words to keep praying seems easier.
PrayerMate got a shiny new update just a few days ago, making it even better to use and prettier to look at. One of the lovely teenagers from my dorm at our summer holiday venture bounced up to me on Saturday to tell me that she’d downloaded the app. And she’d even used it a bit too. So if a distracted 13 year old can use it, so can I. And maybe you too? Do the Next Thing – Do It with Prayer.
Sorry not to have posted these results before. Somehow it’s harder to find time to do things in the holidays… Anyway, here they are:
Other (see below)
Extensive pre-service briefing on loving ones neighbour by not distracting them
Breadsticks or other healthy snack
Sweeties or similar
My kids always sit nicely, I don’t know what you’re talking about
Other Answers (all 1 vote each)
taking time to answer all questions about what’s going on and being said
Get them to play in the music group!
OH actually tries to get him to follow the lesson and sing the hymns!
cuddles, sitting on knee and talking about what is going on
Participation in the worship
Quietly talking them through what’s happening.
Teaching and training parents in how to develop their kids’ attention level
wandering round with them so they can focus on something ‘more interesting’;
Not always possible but don’t take them until they want to
“What’s Daddy doing now?”
Have child-focused services and a creative vicar
Just letting them be
i dont have kids!
So the recommended techniques seem to be a combination of activities (including participating in the service), food and working on expectations (both children’s, parents’ and congregation’s – the latter was mentioned more in the comments).
It’s a tricky area for us all I suspect and I guess we need to encourage one another to persevere. We want those kids to be real church family members now as they will be the core church family of the future, God willing.
This subject is ripe for future polls, so watch out for more once the summer hols are over and my thinking head is less distracted by screaming kids beating each other up. We like to set a good model of Christian family life here in the Vicarage.
After Monday’s blogpost showing Joyce Grenfell worrying during the opening hymn about her stock boiling dry, I thought it would be interesting to find out what you all worry about during the service (when you’re not concentrating on the things of the Lord, which of course we’d all prefer to do, but it is so hard not to be distracted).
[Edit: I think you can vote for more than one, but as it’s the first poll I’ve done, I’m not sure – can someone let me know?!]
I’ll leave it open for a week before publishing the results…