This is a challenge for many believers, because it is hard for us to stay focused on something invisible when there are so many visible things in front of us. We may have every intention of spending time with God, but it’s amazing how easily our minds wander to other things. In Ephesians the apostle Paul encourages us to stay alert in our prayers. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18) Even Jesus recognized all the distractions of the world when it comes to alone time with God. “Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35b)
Jesus approached prayer differently than most people, and you can approach it differently too. Try making a list in a journal or on a notepad of everything you want to pray about. Then, use the list during your prayer time to keep your focus. As you see God answer prayers on your list for you or others, check the prayer off and add a note to keep praising God for that situation. As humans we often forget how faithful God has been to us in the past, so refer back to the old items on the list, and keep praising Him! “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col. 4:2)
Another idea would be to journal your prayers. It’s hard to lose your focus when you’re writing down every word, and although it may take a little time to get used to, journaling can become addicting when you think of it as writing letters to God and each and every word will start to become more meaningful to you. (You can journal on your computer too in a word processing program---but steer clear from using an online journal as a prayer journal)
Try the ACTS prayer model to “organize” your prayer life and stay focused!
Adoration: spend time praising God for who He is (His character). One idea is to pick a different name of God used in the Bible each week and praise Him for that role. (ie—Jehovah Rapha means the Lord heals. You can find an extensive list here or here).
Confession: spend time confessing your sin to God. Try to be as specific as possible, because we become more aware of our need for God’s grace when we recognize His mercy in light of our failures. This will prepare our hearts for thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving: recount the things that you are thankful for, beyond the material blessings in your life. It’s great to thank him for all the ways he’s blessed you with a good home, great family and friends, but also remember to thank Him for his mercy, grace, faithfulness, etc. in our lives.
Supplication: this is where we present requests to God. A good way to keep this from becoming a wish-list mentality, be sure to pray God’s will in all that you ask. Recognize that God is not a vending machine, and He will answer your prayers according to His sovereign design and in His time!