Prayer in the stream – dealing with distraction

Often while praying I become distracted by thoughts entering my mind. I want to focus on God, on an image, on a person or situation, but the cares of the day or my grocery list come pressing to the fore. Entering the stream is a way of receiving and letting go.

As you begin your prayer time, imagine that you are walking down into a clear and gently flowing stream. You find it refreshing and comforting. The temperature is perfect, your feet feel steady, and the water enfolds you in its embrace.

This stream is the continual flow of prayers being offered around the world. Conscious prayer is not something you stop or start, turn on and off. It is constantly there for you to enter and exit as you are ready and able.

Prayer Leaf FloatingOnce you find yourself in the middle of the stream, allow your prayers to join those moving toward and around you, surrounding and holding you. Any extraneous thought that comes will be like a large leaf floating on the water. Do not try to reject, ignore or hold it at bay. Simply take it up from the water in one hand. Notice briefly its size, color, texture, and anything else that stands out. Turn it over into your other hand, and place it gently back on the surface of the water, allowing it to ride slowly away. Return your attention to the water.

We cannot keep the thoughts away. Nor do we want to focus on and follow them. This visualization technique allows us to acknowledge, note, and then release these thoughts back into the stream. If they are important and worthy of our attention, they will come back to us when we have time to deal with them. For now, our goal is simply to be fully present to this moment of prayer. Enjoy the experience of standing in the stream for as long as you like. Then return to the bank and whatever awaits you in the day. Remember that the stream of prayer continues for you even when you can not be fully in it. And allow the water of prayer that has soaked into you to transform how you experience and engage your world until you return to this place again.

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