Prayer; when God can’t keep your attention

I was not blessed with a quiet mind.

It’s a switchboard of extemporaneous ideas, thoughts, memories and questions that is always on, always lit up, always busy.

Did I plug in the slow cooker?

I wonder how many calories I’ll burn if I keep swinging my leg like this. College Dropout was definitely Kanye’s best album.

Or maybe it was Graduation.

How long would it take me to learn how to do a backflip if I started today? Am I too old to do a backflip? I want to write a book. I’m going to write a book. I think I’ll… oooh gelato.

My attention span is easily seduced by distractions and the internet only exacerbates my mental outbursts of randomness.

I start off checking the weather and end up researching how many times it’s snowed in Nigeria. (That’s actually a true story.)

So you can understand why prayer has been a challenge, not because I don’t want to do it or I don’t feel the urge to do it, but because I often struggle to concentrate enough to eek out more than quick, drive-by talks with the Lord.

For a long time, too long actually, I felt guilty because I couldn’t submit myself to uninterrupted meditative prayers like I’d seen my grandmother, and other saintly women who’d been my faith-walking role models, do.

But almost 10 years ago, I accidentally discovered that I’m a better pray-er when I’m moving.

I don’t remember how it all came together but I noticed that when I’m walking and praying, I can stay present longer, I can get deeper — and sure, I can go off on a tangent, but I still come back and recenter myself more than I ever could if I was sitting or kneeling.

I found out the same was true if I was dancing, painting, driving or journaling, even grocery shopping or house cleaning.

I also learned by accident that this type of movement-intensive invocation actually has a name — kinesthetic prayer.

Bill Tenny-Brittian, pastor of Raytown Christian Church in Raytown, Missouri and author of Prayer for People Who Can’t Sit Still, describes it as prayer that uses more than just your mouth or your mind.

It engages your fingers, hands, feet, sometimes your entire body.

“When that happens, the two sides of your brain begin to light up equally. They’re working together and you’re better able to give your whole being into prayer,” he explains.

“It allows you to focus and be well-balanced, and prayer is a natural outflowing of that.” Continue reading

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