Concentrating while praying?


I find myself not being able to pray without my mind wandering off. If I say the rosary or the divine mercy chaplet I probably “mean” what I am saying for only an average of 3-5 of the 50 beads. I then wonder if there was any point in my trying to say that prayer.

Is this something any of you have faced (to this extent, anyway?) If so, what has helped you get over this?

thank you for your advice!


Have you read anything by Thomas Merton?:gopray2:


I have the same problem and have heard it discussed by others frequently enough that I believe it to be very common. The best advice I’ve heard is to come up with a quiet location without distractions and to start (as St. Francis de Sales says) by “placing yourself in the presence of God”… in other words, consciously recognizing that you are about to talk (and listen) to God. Ask him to help you to pray. And if your mind wanders off (as it will from time to time), just refocus as soon as you find yourself veering off in other directions. I’ve also heard it suggested that it’s best to start with a set time frame in mind, i.e. perhaps 15 minutes or whatever - start with sorter time periods, be faithful in sticking to the schedule, and increase the time if led to do so by the Spirit.

De Sales also recommends “exhortations” through out the day. I’ve also heard some people call them “arrow prayers” - short prayers lifted up from time to time to “reconnect” with God. Perhaps prayer of thanks, or requests to help you with a decision, or guidance in knowing how to approach someone you come in contact with through the day. Sometimes when I’m walking along, I see someone looking stressed or sad or angry and just shoot up a quick prayer on behalf of the stranger I meet along the way.

Hope that helps.


That’s a common problem with saying the Rosary. You might try getting the prayer book for the scriptual rosary. Or you could pray as St Ignatious pretend you are there as a participant or an observer. The way I learned to say the Rosary is to contemplate on the mysteries and not focus on the Hail Marys and prayers…that is the background music so to speak. I try to remember as much as I can for each mystery with the Biblical references and also things that I have read that different saints learned about the life of Christ they received in Private Revelations. As far as the Divine Mercy goes I usually use the same method…you can focus on the heartache, the anguish, the amazing Mercy of Jesus on the Cross, the strength it took for Him to make it to the cross and the fact that it was Truly love that kept Jesus on the cross, not the nails.
Sometimes it’s easier to start on the mysteries you are the most drawn to and start from there. That’s what has worked for me and the times I have a real hard time I’ll just say one decade stop for a bit and try again. Another thing don’t be discouraged because saying the Rosary is one the most powerful methods of prayer and of course “the old boy” will try anything to distract you and discourage you from saying it. The greater the battle, the greater the victory.:thumbsup:


Thanks, NCSue and Lainey63!

That’s a coincidence - I’d been dipping into “New seeds of contemplation” over the past few weeks. Somewhere in there, Merton wrote that once one gets experienced in contemplation one is able to keep one’s intention/yearning focused on God while not getting upset/disturbed by the distractions/temptations/images that flit across the foreground. I found that concept really useful…

However, I’m kind of wary about trying to apply concepts for “advanced contemplatives” to myself. Also, I worry about paying TOO much attention to Thomas Merton - although the book does have a Nihil Obstat etc I’ve read that Merton strayed somewhat from the Church in his later years. His writings are marvellous, but it’s probably best for me to look for Christ…:hypno: Do you think he’s “safe”?


Quoting from Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft:

The problem of distractions in prayer is universal, and many books waste much too much attention on it, thus making the problem another problem and another distraction --from God and from loving him. The best “method” of dealing with distractions is no method at all. Once you discover that you have been out of his presence, simply go back. Do not berate yourself. Do not give excuses. Do not plan how to avoid it next time. Do not think about yourself or about your distractions at all. Do not give them the attention they do not deserve. They are like a million little gnats that keep buzzing around your head whatever you do. You cannot kill them with a direct attack, as you can kill on big bug with a stroke of a swatter. So don’t try. Just ignore them and turn to the business and hand - prayer again and again. Do it a million times in necessary. Get right back on the horse every time you fall off.

. . .] the only three salient points abut distractions are these: First, we must expect them and be patient with ourselves. Second, we must simply ignore them and “get back on the horse” over and over. And third, it is the will that gets the mind back on the horse.



I thought you were referring to distractions while praying, not dogmas and doctrines. My mistake…

May the Holy Spirit fill your prayer life with grace!


I would avoid his later works when he got into Buddhism and Hinduism.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, in his book Questions and Answers About Your Journey to God recommends two of Merton’s books: Contemplative Prayer and The Seven-Storey Mountain.


I read this in “Story of a Soul” (St Therese of Lisieux) last evening:

*One of the novices, greatly discouraged at the thought of her imperfections, tells us that her mistress spoke to her as follows:

"You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to fhind his mother, he lifts his litttle foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls, Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will.

From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His Arms, will carry you to His kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth."*

It seems what I need to do is pretty clear now. :o Thank you for your advice and encouragement!


Thanks for sharing this - a beautiful sentiment.


that quote from St Therese’s book is beautiful :slight_smile:

Also, there’s a book called “the Secret of the Rosary” by St Louis de Montfort that’s really helped me.

in addition, a friend of mine shared this method with me, which helped me concentrate while praying the Rosary… just click on the different “mysteries” at the top of the screen:
it gives things to meditate on for each ‘hail Mary’ of each Mystery, and that helped me so my mind doesn’t wander so much :wink:

God bless!


Thank you, Monica, for sharing that 2nd rosary link, especially. Hopefully it will help me better focus during this devotion.


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