How to Pray When Your Thoughts Are Out of Control

Alisha Headley

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published: Nov 17, 2020
How to Pray When Your Thoughts Are Out of Control

Studies have shown that we can think up to 80,000 thoughts in a given day, and out of those thoughts, 80% of them are negative. Ouch! What’s on your mind at this very moment?

I wish I could say we could control every thought that comes into our heads. But many times, thoughts will creep in that you have no control over. These negative thoughts can range from insecure thoughts, fearful thoughts, or impure thoughts. Insecure thoughts will tell you you're not good enough. Fearful thoughts tell you your husband might leave one day. Fearful thoughts circle around your children’s safety. Impure thoughts distort our vision of others.

Dealing with thoughts like these isn’t easy. Many times we may not even realize the thoughts that invaded our minds until we are already stuck in a spiral of negative thinking. Have you ever had thoughts get so out of control that you create entire storylines of insecure, fearful, and impure thoughts in a blink of an eye?

Thoughts intrude our mind so often that they can prevent us from focusing on praying. We are not destined to be slaves to our thoughts. The source of such negative thoughts come from one culprit: Satan himself. Of course, he will come to us the most during our prayer time too because he will do anything from getting us to communicate with God and follow God’s direction for our lives. The good news is Jesus came so that we no longer have to be slaves to the enemy’s cunning strategies.

But first, we must understand what his strategy entails.

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Satan Strategically Comes for Your Mind

Satan Strategically Comes for Your Mind

Satan’s goal is to cause chaos in our lives. For he comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). We can’t ignore his existence, rather we must be aware of it. The same tactics he uses in today’s world are the same tactics he used in the very beginning with Adam and Eve. He whispers lies into our minds and overwhelms our thoughts. If he can get us to believe these lies in our thought life first, we are more prone to turn those thoughts into actions.

If I think I am not worthy, I may make decisions based on unworthiness. I might try to fill that unworthiness with validation from others, or from temporarily feeling good in misplaced affections. Believing the thought which is ultimately a lie is turning you away from God and the truth. This is exactly what Satan wants to do just as he did first in the Garden of Eden. He wants us to believe the lies, taking our dependency off of God and onto ourselves.

But thankfully, God did not leave us empty-handed. We can take control of our thoughts before they control us.

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young man looking confused and questioning

How Do I Control My Thoughts?

We often think the way to get better at controlling our thoughts is to remove them. But sometimes they come into your mind before you can stop them. But what we do have control over is whether or not we allow those thoughts to take up permanent residency in our minds.

The solution isn’t to remove them, but to replace them. The way to replace a lie is by replacing them with the truth. Replace the thoughts of the world with thoughts from God. For God’s “ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8). However, if you don’t know God’s thoughts, you can’t replace them. You need to have an arsenal of thoughts you can instantly call to mind when the negative and distracting thoughts are constantly placed in your mind by the enemy. Jesus displayed the perfect example of this.

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woman upset reading bible

The Power of God's Word over Our Minds

Right before Jesus started His ministry in Matthew 4:1-11, He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After He fasted for forty days and forty nights, the enemy came to Him to tempt Him.

On multiple occasions, Satan would tempt Jesus by twisting the truth. Jesus would combat Satan putting him in his place by quoting truth. Satan said to Jesus, “if You are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He [Jesus] answered, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:3-4). Notice Jesus said, "it is written." He is referring to how "it is written" in the word of God. He refuted the enemy with truth. He defeated the lies by replacing them with the truth.

Jesus chose to quote the word of God in order to put the devil in his place. This is our answer. We too, have the power to push Satan to the side by controlling what we do with the thoughts he throws our way. Combat him with the truth: the word of God.

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How to Know the Word of God

How to Know the Word of God

To prevent the enemy from creeping in and controlling your thoughts you must know the word of God. Let me start by saying, be gentle with yourself. The Bible is a mystery and it’s meant to be full of hidden treasures that are there for you to dig up one by one. It takes time reading and seeking and knocking and allowing room for the Holy Spirit to work. The more time you spend in the Word, the more verses will come to memory when the enemy comes for your mind.

“Meditate on the Word day and night” (Joshua 1:8). Over time, the head knowledge you learn will soon become heart knowledge. Just like anything you want to be good at, you need to be good at disciplining yourself to spend time in the Word.  Write down Scriptures and place them on your mirror. The Holy Spirit will bring to mind verses when you need them the most. We must soak in the Word. Take it in like a sponge. Like nourishment to the soul just as we need water and food for our bodies. Spend time daily in the Word so when those 80,000 thoughts come at you in a day, you have an arsenal of truth ready to fight back.

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao

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silhouette of person praying

Praying without Distraction

Another way to manage some of those thoughts that prevent us from praying, is to pray without distraction. Of course, thoughts still come in, but find somewhere alone in a quiet place with no distraction. Put your phone down and silence your mind so you can focus on prayer. My place is my prayer closet. It’s my sanctuary. It’s the place I can leave the voices of the world and focus on the voice of God without distraction. We are encouraged to “pray at all times” (Ephesians 6:18). This could be in the middle of our days running errands, or while we are working. It’s also important to designate that solitary place to pray without distraction just as Jesus did, as “He often withdrew to lonely [desolate] places to be alone to pray.” (Luke 5:16)

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young confident black woman looking up into light

The Victory over Our Thoughts Is Ours

Remember, we have the victory over the enemy who comes for our thought life. He has been successful in the past at coming for our minds through our thoughts, but our amazing Savior did not leave us empty-handed.

We can take every thought captive as, so they in turn no longer hold us in captivity. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul teaches us to “cast down all arguments [in the mind], and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We can take those unwanted thoughts captive, rather than have them take us captive by knowing the word of God. In doing so, and with the beautiful example of Jesus often praying without distraction, we can begin to pray now without our spiraling thoughts holding us captive.

Thank you Lord, that we don’t have to remain in slavery and bondage to our thoughts forever, as you have given us the power and truth to overcome all that comes our way.

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Alisha Headley is a writer + speaker who has a desire to meet the everyday woman in her everyday life with biblical truth. Stepping into her true calling, she left the corporate world behind as a former-financial VP to love on her family as a stay-at-home wifey + dog mama, while also being able to pursue her passion as a writer. Healing from a chapter of life consumed with lies she once believed about herself, she is inspired to point women to Christ to experience the freedom + power to overcome those lies with the truth written in God’s word. In her free time, Alisha enjoys road trips around the country, working out so she can eat her favorite foods, and creatively styling her outfits with a craft for fashion. Alisha is a proud wifey and dog mama living in Scottsdale, Arizona.

You can follow her blog by visiting her website or connect with her on facebook + instagram.

Originally published Tuesday, 17 November 2020.