Distracted in prayer... struggling with staying focused

How do you overcome this challenge?

Here’s a good post.


Lovely article.

Thank you for sharing it! :slight_smile: :thumbsup:

A good, common sense article . . . thank you. :slight_smile:

Here’s a couple of thoughts I’d add that have helped me with this matter. First, we need to recognize there’s a difference between distractions and what I call mental pre-occupation. Second, we need to understand what an attachment is and is not.

Anybody who pursues a deep prayer life certainly has experience with distractions. Most of us know how easy it is to get swept away to some silly place without really knowing how or why we got there. The important thing to recognize about this is that distractions are involuntary and largely beyond our control. So we lovingly and patiently bear them. And just like the article says, we simply return our intention and attention back to Him time and time again as soon as we recognize we’ve strayed.

Mental preoccupations, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. These are thoughts, feelings or emotions that we conciously chase after like a “shiny little rock that captures our attention.” The key difference compared to distractions is that these are voluntary. Oftentimes, these clingings rival our desire to be with God in prayer and the degree to which we “choose” the preoccupation over God is the amount of the attachment we put ourselves in the position of having to contend with.

In choosing to savor our preoccupations, we become our own worst enemy’s and, in St. John of the Cross’ teaching, we allow a kind of cancer to invade our prayer life. Experience will show recollection is virtually impossible if we choose to fix our will on the thoughts, feelings or emotions that are crying out for our attention. So combating the pull of mental preoccupations lies at the heart of spiritual asceticism. And failure to fight assumes the risk that the attachment might grow into a regular a habit of the mind. When a voluntary attachment becomes habitual we have then fallen into what St. John describes as “disorder.” And with even one disordered appetite, union with God is not possible.

Dave :slight_smile:

I found this a really helpful distinction, Dave. Thank you. :thumbsup: (and thanks for the article, “Life”).

Glad it helped MarieVeronica :slight_smile:

I guess I could add one more comment on the distinction I see between distractions and preoccupations.

The way I see it, distractions are the mental wanderings that naturally happen to us while in prayer; preoccupations are the mental baggage we bring to it. So distactions are dealt with during the time of prayer by simply not paying attention to them; while preoccupations are best battled outside of prayer . . . for to try and fight then is to fail to realize the battle is probably already lost. The hold these clingings have on us is to great. When willfully preoccupied, it’s virtually impossible not to pay attention to them the way we often can do with distractions.

Brother Lawrence said it so well: If you don’t want to be preoccupied during your time of prayer, don’t be preoccupied at all other times.

Easier said than done, of course. :slight_smile:

Dave :slight_smile:

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