"Okay. It's time to pray. 'Dear Holy Father in Heaven above. Thank you for this day and all of the good gifts that come from Your hand.
[I could really use another cup of coffee].
Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. I am so grateful for every...
[I wonder what my work schedule is like today]
Shoot. Sorry God. Please be with my pastor...
[I wonder how Bob is doing. He seemed kind of down last week. I really like sleep. And coffee. I should really check my Facebook status. Oh, and I need to order that book. Wait...no...I'm praying].
Where was I? Dear God...wait I already said that....
[sigh, forget it.]
Have you ever had a prayer time like this? You sit down to pray with the best of intentions. Perhaps you plan to use the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) or some other approach. But then you get going and your mind is in 10,000 places. You become angry with yourself because you cannot focus on "praying right." Paul's words from 1 Thessalonians 5 come to mind--"pray without ceasing"--and you cannot even imagine praying for 10 minutes. What does it even mean to pray without ceasing? You begin to think, if there is a right way to pray, I am surely doing it wrong. Then the guilt comes.
But, what if in our pressure to pray right we are completely missing the point? We become so focused on following the right model, or saying the right words that we forget that prayer really is conversation with God. It's about relating with the Trinity, not manipulating God with our words.
So, how might this look different? First, drop the guilt over your anemic prayer life. Even when you don't know how or what to pray (which for me is much of the time) the Holy Spirit prays for you (Romans 8:26). He is way better at it than we are anyway.
Second, learn to enjoy talking with God about everything. When you are praying and you think about another cup of coffee, thank God for coffee or just let him know your desire. When you are praying and you think about your work schedule, offer it up to God. I think when Paul talked about praying without ceasing, I think this is partly what he meant a life lived in ongoing conversation with God, learning to present whatever comes to mind.
Third, learn to listen. Sometimes, when those seeming interruptions come to mind, we should attend to them. God speaks to us through His word, but also through His people, and His world. Give ear to him. Pray conversationally and relationally--speak and listen.