Imagine this: you’re taught that prayer means to talk to God by sitting still, being quiet, sharing your thoughts, feelings, and needs internally, and patiently listening to God’s response. You try this and find yourself fidgeting, squirming, unable to sit still, constantly losing your train of thought, focusing on everything but God, and being distracted by anything and everything else in the room. Welcome to the intersection of ADHD and prayer.
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is characterized by having difficulty holding attention, being easily distracted and forgetful, fidgeting, feeling restless, talking excessively, interrupting others, and having difficulty following through on activities. All of these things can be great hurdles in finding connection with God. Here’s some guidance on how to pray if you have ADHD:
- Be consistent. We are creatures of habit. Our minds pick up on patterns and habits, so we can help ourselves out by praying at the same time and same place every day as we’re able. Being intentional about praying with the same lighting, playing the same music, lighting the same candle, or sitting in the same spot can trigger our mind to know that it’s time to pray. Create a routine of how you start prayer using as many senses as possible, and your mind will learn to quickly settle into prayer mode.
- Be creative. If you have ADHD, your mind works differently than someone who doesn’t have ADHD. This means that prayer might look differently for you, too. Sitting still in the quiet may not be as fruitful for you as other means of prayer. Try going for a walk and chatting with God, sharing your thoughts out loud, or praying with another person. Instead of fighting with your mind and body, tune in to what these symptoms of ADHD might be telling you. If you’re having trouble sitting still, stand up and move. If you’re feeling restless, shake and move your body. If your thoughts are racing in a million directions, share those thoughts with God without holding back. Let these symptoms be a means of connection.
- Turn distraction into prayer. When you lose focus and find yourself distracted from prayer, offer up the distraction to God. Ask Him to take your sacrifice and use it for good. No offering goes unnoticed. Pay attention to where your mind goes when it’s distracted. Pray about what’s distracting you, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you why your mind is preoccupied with other thoughts. You may find deeper fears, worries, insecurities, or unfinished business that needs your attention.
- Write it down. If you’re having trouble holding onto a train of thought, try writing your prayer down as if you’re writing to God. If you type faster than you write, start with typing a note on your phone of your thoughts and prayers. Put your thoughts down into words, and then go back and read what you wrote down. When your mind is pulled in other directions, go back to a sentence or phrase that you wrote to recenter yourself.
- Give yourself grace. Trying to pray while feeling so distracted is extremely challenging. It can feel like you’re failing if you’re unable to pray the same way everyone else does. Each person’s relationship with God is unique. One of the best ways to measure prayer is by consistency and honesty. If you’re showing up consistently and sharing yourself honestly with God, you are not failing. Let God meet you right where you’re at, and let Him use your struggles for His glory.