Can I Pray Without Distraction? With Val Woerner [Episode 190]

Pray Without Distraction Valerie Woerner

Why is it so hard to pray without getting distracted? And why don’t I have this prayer thing figured out by now? Well, if you’ve ever asked these questions, you are in the right place. Today we get real practical about having a vibrant, unstuck prayer life.

Author and prayer journal creator, Valerie Woerner, will give you the tips and inspiration you need to pray boldly to the God who loves you. She talks about praying with focus, the misconception of being too busy to pray, and how prayer is a conversation.

This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about prayer on the podcast … because it’s such a struggle for so many women! And that’s why I’m so glad to have Valerie with me on this episode because her passion is to help women with this very thing.

In fact, Valerie’s mission is to help women live intentional lives that are an outflow of a fruitful, focused prayer life. She’s the author of Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday, Springboard Prayers, and The Finishing School. And she’s also the owner of Val Marie Paper where she designs prayer journals and other practical products to eliminate distractions and increase focus in prayer. Valerie lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, with her husband, Tyler, and their two daughters.

In this conversation, Valerie gives such great insight into what prayer actually is and how our expectations of prayer can be misguided. She also answers questions you may have about prayer, including:

  • Is struggling with prayer a generational thing?
  • Could a prayer journal really help in my prayer life?
  • How do I know if I’m hearing from God or if it’s something from my own head?
  • Is it possible to be excited about prayer?
  • What if I’m intimidated to pray with other people?
  • Why do I struggle so much with praying consistently?
  • I’ve heard that being too busy to pray is actually a form of laziness. Is that true?
  • Will God get tired of my negativity if I lament to Him?

It’s time to get real practical about prayer, sister, because it’s vital to our daily walk with the Lord.

So, if you’re one of the many women who struggle with prayer, then I hope God uses this conversation to help you ditch distractions, remain focused in prayer, and discover the best part of having a conversation with Him.

Even now, my friend, God is inviting you to come sit with Him, share your heart’s needs, and simply know Him. It’s a privilege to come to Him directly in prayer—a privilege we have received through Jesus—and it’s a necessity for growth in your spiritual life.

Today you’ll discover that you can pray without distraction, my friend, and you can spend time with the One who is above all things because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Pray Without Distraction? With Val Woerner [Episode 190]

Valerie Woerner: And so we let everything come into our life and we're just not very picky about the things that we do. And it might be that we just say yes to every birthday party invitation or we say yes to every request that's put on us. And if we do that, we're expecting God to fill in in the little tiny cracks that we give him and we're not giving him space.

Jennifer Rothschild: Why is it so hard to pray without getting distracted? And why don't I have this prayer thing figured out by now? Well, if you've ever asked any of these questions, you are in the right place. A vibrant, unstuck prayer life can begin right now. Today, author and prayer journal creator, Valerie Woerner, is going to give you some tips and inspirations that you need to pray boldly to the God who loves you. Even now, my friend, God is inviting you to come sit with him, share your heart and your needs, and simply know him. So what are we waiting for? Let's get this podcast going.

K.C. Wright: Let's do it. Welcome to the 4:3 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. And here to help you be and do is my soul sister, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is right. I am here to help you be and do more than you ever thought you were capable of, because you're not doing it in your own strength, you're doing it through the power of Christ in you. It is not by might, it is not by strength, but as the Scripture says, it is by God's spirit. So that means whatever you're facing today, you can do it through Christ's strength in you. And that includes prayer. Because a lot of us have issues with prayer. I do. I mean, I just admitted it's one of my most difficult spiritual disciplines. But I think I'm not the only one, because anytime we do a podcast on prayer, K.C. -- you know this, we've done a couple, and they are always in our top ten most downloaded podcasts.

K.C. Wright: True.

Jennifer Rothschild: So we're going to have those links to some former prayer podcasts on the show notes, so you'll need to go there. But I remember Anne Graham Lotz, she got really honest about overcoming her struggle with prayer. I mean, Billy Graham's daughter, y'all, she struggles with prayer, so I think that means the rest of us can too.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: That was, by the way, Episode 123. And then also one of our most popular downloads has been with Sheila Walsh. You remember it, K.C., Can I Pray When I Don't Know What to Say?

K.C. Wright: Oh, so good. One of my favorites, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: I think that was Episode 89. So it's a thing. Prayer is a thing. So if you struggle with this on any level -- and even if you don't, I still think this will be a really encouraging thing. But one of the things that Val and I talked about was distractions. Because for many of us, including me, distractions can keep me from praying or it can keep me from praying without focusing well. So is that a thing for you, K.C.? I mean, here you are pastoring a church. You know what I'm saying?

K.C. Wright: Well, I'm already --

Jennifer Rothschild: So do you deal with it?

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Go ahead.

Jennifer Rothschild: No. I was just going to ask, do you deal with distractions?

K.C. Wright: Absolutely. Well, you know me, Jen. I'm already, "There's a squirrel, there's a rabbit. Squirrel. Rabbit." So, you know, when I pray and I need to pray on it -- I mean, it's our life force, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: The prayer of a righteous man or woman availeth much. Tremendous power is made available when we pray. The first thing that's got to go is your phone. I mean, the phone can't even be in the room where I'm praying.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because that's a big distraction for me.

K.C. Wright: And remember "The War Room" with Karen Abercrombie, our friend?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: You know, I like having a war room, a place even in your home where you have just dedicated -- maybe it's a chair. Maybe it is a room where there's no social media, no distractions whatsoever so you can really, truly seek the face of God.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's interesting. So it's a place also, just finding a place helps reduce distraction for you.

K.C. Wright: In my world, yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: I remember -- gosh, I will have to look later and we'll put it on the show notes. But Gary Thomas did two episodes with us, and he was talking about spiritual temperaments, how we approach God. And one of the temperaments really uses, like, icons, symbols that mean a lot to them to help them focus in prayer. I'll add a show note link to that episode also, because it was really helpful.

But I think no matter what your spiritual temperament, finding a space, maybe finding some things that help you focus is really helpful. Because I know for me, K.C., mine is more mental. Because I have this bench in my office where I pray right under what I call my C.S. Lewis wall. And it's helpful to me, but my mind can still leave that prayer bench about 50 times a minute.

K.C. Wright: Fifty times.

Jennifer Rothschild: I mean, I'm like, "Did I take the clothes out of the dryer?" "I wonder if I need to defrost the chicken." You know, and it's -- well, why wouldn't we be, though, distracted, y'all? Let's think about that. Why wouldn't we struggle with distraction when it comes to prayer? Because like you say, K.C., it's our lifeline, it's our power, so, of course, the enemy's going to try to keep us totally distracted. And that's why today's conversation is going to be really helpful, because Val talks about distractions and a lot of other things about prayer, including journaling. So it's very practical.

But I do want to give you a heads-up, as you're listening in my conversation with Val, you might hear a little drop-out, because we were having a conversation over Zoom. And you know how sometimes the Internet does that. So you might hear a little drop-out. Don't freak out. It's just a second or two. And I don't want you to leave the conversation thinking it's going to keep happening, because it's not. So this content is really good. It's just super good content. So don't leave it. Stick with the few seconds of technical difficulties. It will be worth it if you hear it. Okay?

K.C. Wright: Don't let it distract you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Exactly.

K.C. Wright: Valerie Woerner's mission is to help women live intentional lives that are an outflow of a fruitful, focused prayer life. She is the author of "Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday," "Springboard Prayers," and "The Finishing School," and the owner of Val Marie Paper, which she designs prompted prayer journals and other practical products that eliminate distraction and increase focus in prayer. Valerie lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, with her husband, Tyler, and their two daughters. Now, are you ready for this?

Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.

K.C. Wright: Here's Jennifer and Val.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, Val, I am so glad we're talking about prayer, because a lot of people have -- I mean, it's a mixed bag for people. So I know that your team has done some research, that you've been involved in some research, that you've learned from some research about prayer and, like, what it looks like in this generation. So give us a picture of what prayer looks like for this generation.

Valerie Woerner: Yeah. So I feel like for in this day and age, the obstacles and distractions, the outside -- you know, our phone, different things like that, are making it very difficult for us to pray. I don't think that's -- you know, I'm not surprising anybody when I say that, because most of us struggle with that. But we have a desire to pray or a desire to desire to pray, but the things that are around us are holding us back and just creating so many barriers for actually entering into this conversation, that it is hard to get into a conversation of prayer because it is not the loudest thing in our world. So, yeah, we -- yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and it's interesting you called it a conversation of prayer, which I want us to circle back to later because that's interesting. A lot of us don't think of prayer as a conversation, we think of it as a presentation to God or a monologue.

Valerie Woerner: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I want us to circle back to that in a minute. But before we do, I am also curious what you think, then, could be missing. So we know that there's some things that -- you know, distractions, et cetera. But what do you think is missing in this generation that was actually present in past generations that helped to develop prayer warriors?

Valerie Woerner: Yeah, that is such a good question. So I think we actually -- and I don't know -- this has been my impression as I've read and I've seen stories of different people over the last, like, 30, 40 years. But I think there was a really big presence of praying together, meeting together, having weeks praying for missionaries, having weekly ladies' groups who would pray. And I don't know if it got to be one of these things that was just so common, it was maybe like -- it was forgotten that that was, like, a really special thing. So maybe, like, telling future generations just didn't happen. Like, I know my husband's grandmother, she was like, "Oh, yeah, we used to have prayer chains and do all this stuff." But I don't think that was necessarily passed down because I think it was so common in that time.

So for our generation, there's a lot of things that we don't even know about. We don't know how important it is to pray with other people on a weekly basis or to meet together and to feel comfortable praying out loud with others because it just hasn't -- we haven't seen it as much in our churches, in our homes and -- yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's interesting. Because what you're describing is very typical of this generation, it's the -- you know, everything starts with I, the iPhone, you know. It's all about --

Valerie Woerner: Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- an isolation. And there is power in community. And Scripture talks about that, where two or three are gathered. That's a real interesting insight. I'm curious -- because most of us know you because of your Val Marie Paper business and your prayer journals. Okay? So this is clearly your thing. So how have you seen these concepts that you write about play out in your own spiritual life when it comes to prayer?

Valerie Woerner: I have seen how we view God, what we think about God, the expectations that we have of him, how that changes how we actually pray. I know when -- just in my own life right now, I've been going through, like, a health battle, and over the last year I've kind of been praying a lot for my health. And I have not seen God answer specific prayers in my health, but I have seen him answer so many prayers in transforming my own heart, my own desires. And I know if I was only looking for how God could work in the specific prayer that I prayed about getting healthy, then I would see God very differently than I do now. And so that's something that's been missing -- you know, like, whenever I talk to people -- and I feel like I say this kind of over and over again in the book, like, just little examples of, okay, if you have felt neglected by God because you didn't hear from him in this area, this is a reminder that God is there. And we just have to look at all facets of prayer instead of the one way that we are expecting God to work.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's a really good word. Because I do think some of us go to God as if he's the butler and we put in our order and expect it to show up. And I have thought over the years, Val, in my relationship with the Lord, if I am not willing to take God in his wholeness, then I'll never experience my own. And so this ability, this willingness to just seek God for who he is, it does, it builds our prayer. And so let's talk about this conversation, because I mentioned it, you know, putting in our order with a butler. Tell me why you called prayer a conversation.

Valerie Woerner: Yeah. So I'll share this example that I heard from -- it was my daughter's chapel. They're both in elementary. And they gave this example. They had two hands -- she said prayer is talking to God and prayer is listening to God. And then she folded her hands, you know, like you would see somebody praying. And I just loved the reminder that this is a conversation, this is a chance to talk to God, and it's also a chance to listen to God. And if we are not listening to God, we are missing out on the greatest part of this conversation. And I gave the example of, you know, like, if we go too -- if we have a meeting with, like, Joanna Gaines, or somebody that we respect, and we're like, "Hey, come tell me what to do with my house," and then we leave frustrated that we didn't get what we wanted from her, we missed out on her wisdom because we didn't -- we thought what we were saying was the most important thing, and then it gave us a bad impression of that --

Jennifer Rothschild: Of her, yeah.

Valerie Woerner: -- you know, like, whoever that was.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Valerie Woerner: So, yeah, listening is a vital part of prayer. But it is a hard part of prayer because you're listening to somebody who is not sitting with you, and just that concept gets so complicated and so like -- you know, like, what's my own gut? What is it -- you know, like, is this just an idea from my head? Is it God? It can just be very hard. And this is actually one struggle that we have talked about a lot as a community, because everybody desires clarity. They desire to follow the Lord and they just want to know what that looks like in a specific way.

And I know my own prayer journals are filled with questions and just, you know, longings to ask God. And the answers are not always, like, crystal clear, but as I tune in and I leave more space to listen to him, he does speak. He speaks through his Word, he speaks through hearing a verse over and over again in a week. He speaks in a lot of different ways. We just have to -- you know, like, if we have earbuds in constantly, have the TV on constantly, won't go on a walk without calling a friend or -- like, if we don't leave space, literal space to hear him, it will be difficult. And again, he doesn't speak audibly. I'd say 99% of the time, because God can do anything he wants to do --

Jennifer Rothschild: Sure, sure.

Valerie Woerner: -- but the majority of the time he's going to put an impression on our heart or recall a Bible verse or something like that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And it takes perseverance and it takes patience with that process. So for you, when it comes to your own prayer life, was there a person or a resource or a concept that has been the most encouraging to you?

Valerie Woerner: Oh, man, I could share so much. So from my childhood, my mom was definitely the one who would pray with me often. I say we went to God early and often because I was such a worried kid that we had a lot of things to go to God for. And I learned very early that God cared about the little things in my life and the big things in my life, so that instilled just this desire and this also belief that I can go to God. Like, it's not like, "Oh, I don't want to bother him with this small thing" or, "Oh, I don't want to bother him with something. This is so big, he probably can't even handle it." I knew pretty quickly that he cared about all of it. Now that didn't make it easy as I went into high school or had kids or, you know, like, different things like that, but that was the starting point for me.

But I have learned a lot from reading books by -- like, Evelyn Christenson is one that comes to mind, who I have fallen in love with over the last couple of years because she was so practical. But she saw God work. And it was just cool to see her life as you see stories that she shared, and you're like this is a result because of how much time she spent devoted to prayer. And she got me excited about prayer. And prayer can be one of those things that -- it's hard to get people excited about prayer, but she definitely did that for me, and more so in shaping how I feel about praying with others.

Like, I am a -- you already said it, like, our generation, we are fairly isolated, and I can prioritize a To Do list over people. And she really instilled in me just this desire that, like, we -- this is essential to our faith to be praying together. And it has always kind of felt like an extra thing. But this year in particular, as I've struggled with, like I said, health things, I have learned so much. And I've seen God work so much from praying with others in moments that I've really felt like it was just difficult to pray on my own.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know, you said something interesting, that you've moved in your perspective of prayer, that it's not extra, it's essential when it comes to praying with others. And I think we see it as extra often.

Valerie Woerner: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I would wonder your opinion, why do you think that so many of us find it hard to pray, just even -- forget just with others, but just even consistently. Why do you think so many struggle with praying consistently?

Valerie Woerner: I think the biggest things are because prayer is quiet. It is not demanding our attention. We can tend to operate in very reactive ways. You know, I've heard that -- I forget what the phrase is. It's that margin is -- wait. Let me get this right. Moral laziness is the definition. But busyness can be moral laziness. And what that means is we are busy often because we are not willing to make decisions, and we're -- like the Word says, we're too lazy to make those decisions, and so we let everything come into our life and we're just not very picky about the things that we do. And it might be that we just say yes to every birthday party invitation or we say yes to every request that's put on us. And if we do that, we're expecting God to fill in in the little tiny cracks that we give him and we're not giving him space. So we need to prioritize that, and that's hard. And it's just so counterculture to our world that I think that's why we struggle with it, because it's just accepted that, like, okay, well, everybody's busy, you know. So it just feels like that's just the norm. So I think that is definitely a factor.

Jennifer Rothschild: I talked to someone a few months ago, Justin Kendrick. He had written a book about burying your ordinary, and he's talking about these seven habits of spiritual growth basically. But anyway, one of them was -- he was talking about spending time alone with God, and he challenged his readers for an hour in the morning. And I remember really pushing back with him about that because I thought that just seems so radical. But it plays into what you are describing, this concept of prioritizing and giving consistency towards something. Instead of just reacting to your schedule, actually creating your schedule. And I'm not saying that everyone needs to pray an hour a day. He had a very intentional purpose for that. But to pray every day consistently, we all do have the bandwidth to do that if we choose to strategically make that choice.

Valerie Woerner: Yeah. Another -- this just made me think. Dick Eastman has a book, and it's "The Hour That Changes the World," and it's about praying for an hour. And I remember kind of feeling the same way. I'm like, whoa, like, this is a lot to demand. You know, I feel like I truly try to make prayer accessible for, like, the mom who's really busy --

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Valerie Woerner: -- but at the same time, we are demanding that the two minutes that we give to God result in these things that we've seen in the past. E.M. Bounds, like the stories that they have about what God did in prayer. They were devoted to prayer in a totally different way. And I feel like we see the stories out of their lives and we just think that God is not the same God or he doesn't care about us or something, when the fact is, like, they centered their life around God in a totally different way. And I think we're just expecting a certain result and not putting in the same effort that people have in the past.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know, I wonder, Val, when we all get to heaven and we look back, if we'll think, man, why didn't I spend more time? Why didn't I spend more time with the God who loves me? And that is not a statement that any of us should ever feel a sense of condemnation. God is full of grace toward us. But it is an invitation to recognize we could receive more as we spent more time with him. So I love that we're focusing on this.

And I know there's all sorts of prayer, you know, things that we accomplish in prayer, things that we experience in prayer, but I want us to end -- this is going to be my last question. I want us to end with a very specific kind of prayer that I think a lot of times we don't recognize and experience it enough, and I think a lot of us need to. Prayer of lament. Okay?

Valerie Woerner: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So we've had this pandemic and, gosh, the economy is a mess and people are experiencing such stress with health, with jobs, and just everything else. Right? And so sometimes I think people can just feel exhausted by it. Christians can. Discouraged, you know, doubtful even that -- Is God really good? So there's a place in our prayer life for the prayers of lament. So I would love it if you would end with just kind of explaining to us what that is and why we need it.

Valerie Woerner: Yeah. So prayers of lament is basically going to God with the hard stuff, the doubts, even the complaints. And, you know, we tend to think that we don't want to burden God with that, we'll just keep that to ourselves because he doesn't want to hear that. But it is in his presence that those laments get transformed. They get addressed in a way that can only -- that he is the only one who can do that.

In the book I share a chapter on lament and I talk about going to -- and this was a small one. Like, we had a beach trip planned and it was going to be forecasted there was going to be rain the entire time. It ended up being a hurricane. It was terrifying. But I remember texting my mom and my sister just, like, pity party whining. And it was one of those things where I was like, I'm not going to burden God with this, but I will talk to my sister and my mom about it and get spun up about it.

But the idea of going to God with these things is not because he loves complaints and he's accepting of, like -- he doesn't love, like, us just coming with all these negative things, but he knows that he's the only one who can transform that, and so he is gracious and he cares about us and he wants us to come with him. And it's not a burden to him. You're not going to make him sad or change his disposition, like, we're not going to like -- and I think about that with being around somebody who has a negative personality. Like, we're not going to drag God down. Like, he is going to pull us up. And if we think that we are saving him from our grief and our pain, we're not. We're not saving him from that, we're not doing him a favor. We will experience a beautiful transformation as we come to him.

K.C. Wright: You are never ever a burden to God, my friend.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: So come to him with your lament, with your concerns, with your whole self. And like Val just said, have a conversation with him, because he loves you.

Jennifer Rothschild: He does. And there is no problem that you deal with that is too small for God, and there's no issue that is too big to go to God in prayer with. So when you pray, like Val was encouraging us, listen to him, listen to him, and trust that he will speak to you.

K.C. Wright: Also, Jen, I really liked that she talked about praying together, because we know this, there is power when we pray together. And she even talked about the value of praying out loud with others. And I know that sometimes that can feel a little intimidating to some people, but there is power in speaking to God, with your brothers and sisters, out loud.

Jennifer Rothschild: I agree.

K.C. Wright: So if you're not very comfortable with it, know that you're not the only one who feels that way. And just take it from me, no one is judging you.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's right.

K.C. Wright: So the next time you get a chance, pray with someone and just go ahead -- be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you. Take the risk to pray out loud because you will be so blessed. There is a blessing behind that stepping out in boldness.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is so true. I'm glad you encouraged that.

You know, the other thing that was encouraging to me was when she talked about reading about prayer. You may have remembered, y'all, she said that the author that got her excited about prayer was Evelyn Christenson. And we're going to have a link to that book, plus the others that Valerie mentioned, on the show notes at Because when you read about others' prayer lives, it really does improve your own. So check out those books along with, of course, Val's prayer journals. Which my friend Paula is using one right now and she loves it. It's super helpful, and she said it's beautiful. So check those out on the show notes.

K.C. Wright: Well, all you need today is on the show notes at So, our people, whom we love, I hope you are a subscriber to the 4:13 Podcast by now. But if you're not, we miss you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. We need you.

K.C. Wright: We need you.

Jennifer Rothschild: We want you.

K.C. Wright: You can subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you are listening on right now, and that way you'll be sure not to miss an episode. Because I'm telling you, we love doing life with you. And don't forget to leave us a review if you haven't. We love to hear how the 4:13 is ministering to you. It's really a shot of encouragement in our arms.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: So until next week, remember that however you feel, whatever you face, you can do all things -- not some, but all things through Christ who gives you supernatural strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And that is the truth.

K.C. Wright: Hey, every time -- every time we have a podcast on prayer, I'm reminded of Jesus. He came back and he found his disciples sleeping.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

K.C. Wright: You know, he asked them to pray --

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

K.C. Wright: -- and he came back and he found them sleeping. And the King James Version says, "Can't you tarry with me one hour," right? But I love what The Message Bible says. The Message translation says, "Jesus came back, found his disciples sleeping, and he said unto them, 'There is one part of you that is ready for anything in God, but then there's another part of you that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.'"

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, I know that lazy old dog sleeping by the fire.

K.C. Wright: That Scripture just is a perfect illustration of all of us sometimes, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Amen. Wake up, Rover. Wake up.

K.C. Wright: Wake up.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wake up.


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