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Prayer Hacks for the ADHD Soul

Published:
January 15, 2024
January 15, 2024
Check out this guide for people struggling to pray with ADHD. Branan's tips can make connecting with God more accessible.

Prayer is difficult to grasp for anyone. It’s a spiritual practice that can and will look different for each person. Fortunately, there are many guides, devotions, and ideas out there to help an individual figure out what prayers feed them. 

But what if your brain isn’t wired like the individuals in ages past who popularized certain devotions or like people who swear by practices like waking up at 5 a.m. to pray in the dark silence? On top of figuring out prayer generally, people with ADHD have the additional hurdle of finding ways to make prayer work for their brains, which often don’t click with anything repetitive or quiet.

When I was diagnosed with ADHD at 23, a lifetime of guilt over failed prayer practices began to heal. The daily rosaries I could never keep up with, unfinished spiritual books by beloved saints, and endless failed attempts at Josemaria Escriva’s “heroic minute” were no longer the product of a weak faith or lack of discipline, but rather practices or methods that don’t work for my ADHD brain. I felt freed to practice my faith in ways that made sense to me, following the Holy Spirit down every strange by-way.

Here are some practical tips that can make connecting to God more accessible for those with ADHD:

1. Make it physical

Using physical cues for entering into prayer is key for getting our minds to transition. Having an object that can engage our senses helps connect us to the spiritual realities we may have difficulty focusing on. This could be a journal to slow down and direct your thoughts for an Examen, a rosary that you keep in your pocket to hold even without saying the Hail Marys involved, or a visit to Jesus in adoration so you can look at the Host while you pray. Anything physical can help by making the intangible concrete, a constant much-needed external reminder.

Moving your body is another way to embrace physicality. Praying while walking or working out is a great way to quiet the other parts of your brain that may try to hijack your train of thought. Or try sitting in a bouncing or rocking chair white you pray to engage the senses and free your thoughts.

2. Try habit stacking

If you want to set a goal to pray every day, pick an action throughout the course of your day when you can spend a moment in prayer. Habit stacking is a proven way to begin new habits, and you can let the established, automatic action be your reminder. This could be taking your coffee to a specific spot to pray for a minute before work. It could also look like writing a short prayer on your bathroom mirror so you can pray it while you brush your teeth.

Picking up and checking our phone is another constant habit that can be disorienting for the ADHD brain. Even if I pick up my phone to pray, I automatically hit Instagram and get lost for 15 minutes. By the time I find my prayer app, the time I set aside is gone. It can be helpful to ask Siri to open a prayer app instead of searching it out, or set up shortcuts on your phone with customized icon images to create a visual cue on your homepage that leads to the daily readings or another prayerful site.

3. Plan for change

Your prayer life will never look the same for long — and that’s okay! If a prayer practice is working for you and you use it obsessively for a week only to forget it even exists, it still served you in that season. There will always be a moment when you don’t want to use whatever prayer habit you’ve set up, and it’s hard to discern the difference between the ADHD need for newness and what is a temptation away from prayer.

To help in those moments, create an infrastructure that allows your prayer to take various forms. For me, this involves keeping a Bible, Breviary, and journal all where I have my coffee in the morning. Sometimes I’ll read the daily readings, other times I’ll pray morning prayer, or I’ll just hold my coffee and repeat “Jesus, I trust in You.” What’s important is showing up. Knowing you can show up whatever way works for you that day reduces the likelihood of giving up on prayer altogether.

4. Seek progress over perfection

You’re going to fail — everyone does. Finding saints and spiritual writers who embrace this mindset can be helpful in embracing it ourselves. St. Therese’s “little way” reminds us that every small moment is a gift to God, no matter how simple it seems. Fr. Jacque Phillipe is a modern spiritual writer who has numerous gut-punching spiritual books out, but his book Searching for and Maintaining Peace in particular is so short and divided into bite-size sections that it is an ADHD-friendly read that also muses on this practice of accepting one’s smallness. 

Most importantly, remember that your brain is not a sin. Your lack of consistency isn’t a bad thing — it’s just the natural way that you work. God will make you holy as you are. Your bullet-train of thoughts and your scattered way of observing life is a gift from God to you and the world. The way that you pray will be uniquely you and will glorify God in a way no one else can.

Creators:
Branan Thompson
Published:
January 15, 2024
January 15, 2024
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