Christians with ADHD may struggle in their Christian walk because of their ADHD. My first experience of this was with my husband, who says that his mind wanders excessively when he prays with other people if he is not the one praying. This article includes hints for dealing with difficulties arising in conducting a personal devotional life and individual prayer. You could try to do all of these things at once, but unless your ADHD is causing a lot of problems, I’d encourage you to try one or two things at a time, to avoid getting overwhelmed and also so that you can remember to keep focused on God, and not just on the mechanics of your time with Him.
1. Pick the right time, preferably when your mind is most alert and able to concentrate. God should have the best time of your day, which may be morning, lunchtime, or evening. Make sure that you schedule enough time so that you aren’t late for something, and that you go to sleep early enough the night before. Similarly, make sure you’ve had enough to eat that your stomach doesn’t become your focus.
2. Set an alarm or you may forget.
3. Don’t ignore the alarm.
4. Regard your time with God as something special that you are looking forward to, not just a chore. You know you will be blessed!
5. Remember that unresolved sin is a major cause of difficulties with prayer. Confess it and be forgiven. (I John 1:9)
6. Reward yourself. Although spending time with God should be its own reward, ADHD changes the reward circuits in the brain. You may need to add motivation to get yourself to maintain a consistent time with God. My husband loves electronic charting (there are a number of reward chart apps available), but some people need to see their reward chart on the wall. A word of caution: this type of approach may encourage you to see your time with God as just another item you need to check off your list. Remember #4.
Staying on track
1. Ask God to help you stay focused on Him. (Matthew 7:7-11)
2. Keep it short, especially at first. You don’t want to become discouraged and you don’t want to give yourself time to digress. It might help to use a devotional book, like Our Daily Bread, or a Bible reading plan. This will keep you from spending time figuring out what you are going to read. If you want or need to spend extended time in study, you may find it useful to set a timer for every 10 minutes or so, as a reminder to stay on track.
3. Pray or read out loud. If you tend to hop around when you read, use an index card to block out parts of the page you are not supposed to be looking at yet, or which may be distracting.
4. Don’t close your eyes when you pray, if it causes you to lose focus. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you have to close your eyes to pray. Some people find it is easier to focus if they fix their eyes on something, like a cross, a Bible, or a picture of Jesus.
5. Use something to keep you focused while praying. Many people use beads when they pray, but it could also be a cross or some other object you can hold in your hand to remind you that you are praying. Some people with ADHD find having something they can feel and touch also helps them to sit still. You can also use something like a candle (just don’t get up and forget it!). If none of these ideas work, remember, it is better to talk to God in short spurts through the day than to not pray at all.
6. Some people find exercise helps with focus. This could be for 15 minutes before your time with God, or you might be able to walk and read at the same time.
7. If you’re getting bored, change things up from time to time. Its probably not a good idea to change your schedule because you probably need the discipline of a routine. But, changing up the order in which you do things, trying different reading materials or plans, or trying a different location or posture may satisfy the part of you that gets bored easily and seeks out novelty. Of course, daily time with God isn’t meant to satisfy a need for excitement, either, so you might just have to pray and tough it out, but there’s nothing saying that you have to do the exact same thing every day either.
ADHD can make it a struggle to have personal time with God, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
US Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs, Teaching Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Instructional Strategies and Practices, Washington, DC, 2006.