Confession time! Sometimes praying together in groups is really difficult for me. It’s not that I don’t care about the prayer requests of others, it’s more of an issue with paying attention and staying focused.
There were times when I would be in a group of at least ten people. We’d be sitting in a circle, each of us presenting our requests for prayer. Each of us with a back story to our requests for divine intervention.
As I mentioned, I care about each and every individual that asks for prayer, but by the second or third person my attention span would start diminishing. I once made a habit out of writing down every request in a mini-notebook so I could remember everyone’s needs during the week, but even that began to take great efforts in focusing. Doodle, doodle, write, doodle, doodle, write…grocery list, to-do lists, and…back to writing prayer requests.
Eventually it would be my turn to share. I would start out on point but within a few sentences I would be on my ADHD rabbit trail of thoughts. Sometimes I would pause and think to myself, “What was it again that I’m asking for prayer about
Soon it would be time to pray out loud. Prayer time would take on a stomach turning feeling. It was knowing that I would have to sit silently listening to between ten and twelve people praying. I would now have to be still in my seat, or worse, sitting on someone’s living room carpet, cross legged, toes numb, trying my best to sit upright and not doze off.
Were these thoughts and actions appropriate from a Christian woman in the midst of prayer? No, they weren’t; but the reality is these were the thoughts, actions, and feelings I experienced. I wish ADHD was an excuse, it’s not, but it certainly is a cause and a reason for my struggles with staying focused and paying attention during group prayer times. There were people who told me confidently that this issue was a spiritual battle; it was spiritual warfare they said.
I would love to blame my issues with focusing on that ever-so distracting horned devil and his pitchfork, but the real issue is and remains a problem resulting from ADHD. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not a spiritual attack from some evil supernatural force. As I continue to work on mindfulness and meditation techniques, my ability to focus during prayer has increased, but I still have a long way to go. There are those with ADHD who have no struggles with staying focused during long sessions of prayer requests and praying; I consider those of you in this category lucky!
ADHD becomes a spiritual battle when you let others convince you that your symptoms are not real. Or when people accuse you of not “trying hard enough”. It becomes a spiritual battle when people call you lazy. The spiritual battle continues when you fall into the vicious cycle of self-doubt, resulting from years of embarrassing mistakes or a series of memorable failures. The spiritual battle is sometimes that feeling of rejection and loneliness because you once again unintentionally pissed someone off and are now filled with anxiety, guilt, anger, and hurt. You can say, “I’m sorry”, but you can never say, “I won’t do that again,” or “This is the last time I _____,” because you know that with ADHD it is never the last time that you’ll be late. It is never the last time that something stupid, embarrassing, or oops, will ever come flying out of your mouth. It will never be that last time that anxiousness, worry, and fatigue has made you a prickly person to be around.
You see, it’s not ADHD that is a spiritual battle, it’s the emotions and feelings that result from dealing with this disorder that create spiritual struggles. Your disorder is not a sin.
Thankfully God is everywhere, and He is always there to listen to us in prayer. I may not have been able to be fully focused during group prayer times, but God is understanding. I trust that my prayer time, regardless of how often I have to refocus myself, is welcomed by God. He is faithful to us, even those of us with ADHD prayer requests. The disordered thoughts of our prayers exit our minds and mouths, and get straight to God all clear and in order.