I have a question about interruptions/distractions during prayer. Is it sinful to begin a prayer such while being aware that someone will interrupt you? For example, say you have a roommate and you know that they will be back at a certain time. If you begin praying a prayer such as the Rosary, knowing that you’ll be interrupted by them coming back, is it sinful? Thank you very much for your help
No it’s not sinful.
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No. My 85 year old father could interrupt me at any time. If I waited, I would never get a chance to pray!
Welcome to the forum, Clairemarie.
No, it’s not a sin to be interrupted at prayer, and not a sin to begin a prayer when you expect an interruption.
NO. Absolutely not.
Be careful of overly scrupulous thinking like this.
Not only is this not grave matter, but it likely, at least in my opinion, is not matter at all. If you went to confession to confess praying when you expected to be interrupted, the Priest would (or should) tell you that 1) it isn’t even a venial sin and 2) he cannot absolve you without some form of matter, which in the case of confession (in ordinary circumstances—there are exceptions ) means an actual confessed sin.
Having our prayers interrupted by others is not sinful.
So if they’re expected at for example 6pm, and you delay starting your prayer until they return - what happens if they are delayed by a traffic accident by an hour or more? Of if they decided to go out for drinks/movie etc but didn’t let you know, so your sitting there waiting until they do come back which may be another 4hrs…how long do you wait before starting your prayers???
But if you would feel happier by saying your rosary without interruptions, then perhaps start it a little earlier so you finish before they return or later on after they’ve returned (assuming the above scenarios are not the norm).
Being willfully distracted in our prayers ourselves is sinful. Having distracting thoughts pop into our minds during our prayers is not sinful - just ignore them and continue praying and refocus the mind on your prayer.
In case OP is on the scrupulous side, we should be clear, most of the time willing distraction during prayer is probably usually a minor venial sin or not a sin at all ( unless you are praying the rosary while watching pornography or killing someone or robbing people).
Praying the rosary while watching EWTN is probably not a sin at all even though you are distracted. Praying the rosary while birdwatching is probably not a sin at all. Praying while vacuuming is most likely not a sin at all.
It might be sinful to do nothing about the scrupulosity…
Just kidding. Seriously, any and all prayer is good. God notices and is pleased when prayer is interrupted and you return to conversation with Him once the interruption is over.
Now, are you in treatment for your scrupulosity? I hope so, as it steals the pace which God greatly desires you to have.
Thank you everyone! I do have OCD/scrupulosity so I thank you with all of my heart for helping me.
I do too. That is why I wanted to be very careful in how I answered. Now, next time, do not bring questions about what is or isn’t sin here. It will not help. Asking people on an open forum is a recipe for confusion, and you will get varied answers of varying quality. It will reinforce you compulsion for reassurance and harm you. So be careful. I say this as a person who has OCD.
Never give in to your compulsion. Example: If you are interrupted during prayer, DO NOT restart praying. Just pick up where you left off. Ignoring your compulsive urges is hard at first but gets easier. You will be much better off ignoring them in the long run. They are only a short term fix.
Ask a Priest, in confession if that is the only place, these questions. Not strangers on the internet.
Thank you! Yes I’m seeking treatment
Thank you for your advice! I’ll take it to heart.
Willfully distracting yourself while praying is a sin? If that’s the Church’s teaching, then how do you square it with priests and religious who encourage people to pray the rosary while walking, driving etc…? I pray the rosary most nights while putting my son to sleep. Definitely can be distractions.
That is why I emphasised the word willfully. And, yes, I have seen it listed as a venial sin.
Praying with the lips, with the mind on other matters. Willfully. Just as I can pray a Hail Mary in a group Rosary at Church whilst thinking/wondering if anyone has replied to a comment I posted here on CAF.
“Being willfully distracted at Mass or in prayer” - examination of conscience Fr Altier
Catholic Encyclopedia - Distraction " Voluntary distractions, that is the conscious deliberate surrender of the mind to thoughts foreign to prayers, are sinful because of the obvious irreverence for God with Whom at such times are presuming to hold intercourse. The guilt, however, is judged to be venial."
Supposedly Thomas Merton was quoted as saying, “If you’ve never had any distractions, you don’t know how to pray.”
Everyone has involuntary distractions during prayer &/or Mass. Hence the difference between involuntary and voluntary distractions.
When we realize our minds have wandered (ie involuntarily strayed), we should just recollect ourselves and bring our focus back to our prayers/Mass.
Hmm certainly at Mass or other liturgies (public prayers) I understand and accept that it would be at least a venial sin. But during private, personal prayer? We are to pray always… everywhere, at all times… this is the constant teaching of the saints. At work? Pray. Eating? Pray. Exercising? Pray. At least in some form. I start saying a prayer on the train, then decide i actually need to answer some emails on my phone… I’ve deliberately interrupted my prayer, but I wasn’t bound to pray at that particular moment.
Prayer is prayer, but I’ll stick with private prayer outside of Mass.
Yes, we are to pray everywhere, at all times - true. But isn’t prayer us conversing with God, or BVM or a Saint? Shouldn’t we show them reverence when speaking to them by focusing on what we are saying/praying?
If I was with you, and we were having a conversation, do you not think it rude of me if I was to not pause and look at you and speak to you directly, but instead continued to do whatever chore/task I was doing perhaps with my back turned to you or my focus on the computer screen in front of me, or looking down at whatever I was doing?
If Jesus or Mary was literally before you, would you speak to them distractedly? Or would you attention/focus be on them to whom you were conversing?
A simple prayer - My Jesus Mercy - takes only a second or two. But in this thread it is the rosary or other more longer prayers and not simple aspirations.
Yes, in this example, something mundane was chosen over the relationship with God, by discontinuing the prayer and giving priority to a temporal matter. IMO, this would also be a sin. Surely it would be better to finish the prayer and then answer the emails?
I did something similar once and mentioned it to my priest and was told “Don’t do that!”
CCC #2732 " … When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? …"