10 Ways to Reduce Distractions in Prayer
“A hungry man does not have to be reminded to eat.” Those were the words of my pastor after I confessed that I often allow myself to be distracted. “If you hunger for God more, you will be distracted less,” he said.
We are humans not robots, so complete mental focus is not ours to be had but sitting in Mass or to set aside time for prayer and adoration and going over a to-do list instead of receiving all that God has to give is devaluing our time.
“It’s pride,” my pastor said. “Because rather than soaking in all that God has to give you, you are focused on yourself.”
That sounds harsh, but I know it is true. To let worldly things intrude on God time, robs us of the graces we could be receiving. And if we are not paying attention to our own prayers, we can’t expect God to.
For inspiration, to do better, I read Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe, author and retreat master. “What the world most needs today is prayer,” according to Fr. Philippe. “Faithfulness to prayer is a path of freedom.” I also read what St. Teresa of Avila has to say about prayer and focus. Below is a list based on some of their advice for focusing on God and minimizing distractions.
- Ask God for help.
- Ask the saints for help. Their love of God helped them to focus intensely. Some even levitated during prayer. The saints were often so absorbed by their union with God, that they were not aware of what was going on around them.
- Accept, but don’t welcome, distractions. That means no electronic devices!
- Be humble. You can’t control everything.
- Even the Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila, was plagued with distraction.
- Have faith in God’s presence. Meditate on God truly being right there with you.
- Have faith that God gives you the grace you need to focus without expecting perfection.
- Expect improvement, not perfection.
- Hunger for God. Desire God more and the distractions will be less.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
— St. Teresa of Avila
Humble people persevere in the life of prayer without presumption and without relying on themselves.
— Fr. Phillipe
Art for this post on 10 Ways to Reduce Distractions in Prayer: St. Mary Magdalene reading, Adriaen Isenbrandt, 1530s, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.