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1 Samuel 1:9–17 ‘As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”’ (vv12–14)

I like to mouth my prayers silently and so prevent my mind from wandering and pursuing its own many thought trails. I don’t focus on each phrase’s content, but remain focused on the purpose of my prayer. The mind is a challenge for each of us when praying, and we can emerge from our personal time with God with no remembrance of our actual prayers. Other factors can equally distract us from our intention to pray. Emotional disturbances easily overwhelm us, as we’re engaged in processing feelings and the thought patterns they give birth to. Eli assumes that Hannah is drunk; how easily we too can judge others inappropriately. We’re not to focus on another’s approach to God, but give our full attention to our own. ‘Keep your eyes on the road’ as we navigate our own walk of faith.

Another issue that impedes our prayer is when we face pain, physical and psychological. All of our energy is needed to manage the intrusive distress the pain produces. Here it’s good to have some familiar prayers which we can mouth without a second thought (e.g., the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23). It’s one reason I’ve a set form of prayer each morning, prayers I can draw on without a second thought. It is also good to remember that those who are struggling need my prayers, whether I know them or not. Prayer offers the encouragement of knowing that, whilst there are no simple answers, we are also sustained in the prayers of friend and stranger alike.

SCRIPTURE TO CONSIDER: Eccles. 9:11–18; Ps. 19:7–14; Matt. 15:7–20; Eph. 4:20–32.

AN ACTION TO TAKE: Struggling to find ways to pray without ceasing? Try praying for every person you pass in the street or as you drive along. A simple blessing will do.

A PRAYER TO MAKE: ‘Lord, bless, keep and be gracious to this person and may they find true peace. Amen.’

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.