Harnessing your distractions in prayer

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Harnessing your distractions in prayer

Postby Fr. Dominic » Tue Sep 08, 2009 9:03 am

All of us find ourselves distracted during prayer at one time or another, some of us more than others (I'm in the latter group!). This Sunday during Adoration I came up with a way to harness those distractions and even incorporate them into my prayer. I was using my rosary beads to pray the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!") and prayers of praise ("Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory!") and sometimes I would find myself thinking about something else---a problem student in class, for example. So when I got to the Our Father, I prayed a prayer for that student, asking the dear Lord to be present to him and to help me to show the presence and action of Christ in the classroom. At one point a silly pop song entered my head---on the Our Father I prayed for more Christian values to be represented in popular culture. When thoughts of preparations for our Labor Day picnic intruded, I gave thanks to God that all of my family members still have their jobs, and prayed for the unemployed. No matter what distraction entered my head, I was able to turn it into a prayer. In keeping with the tremedous gift of the Real Presence which we were adoring, I tried as much as possible to make them prayers of adoration and praise, and also asking that Christ might be made present in as many ways as possible through me. The structure of the rosary beads, with a break after every ten prayers, kept bringing me back to awareness when my mind wandered, and made my prayer so much more fruitful that usual. Perhaps others may find this prayer method useful, whether at Adoration or praying the rosary itself.

God bless,

Fr. Dominic
Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus
Fr. Dominic
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harnessing your distractions in prayer

Postby Karen » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:45 am

Dear Fr. Dominic,

As I read over your post I thought that if I could properly harness my prayer distractions all the saints and angels would be so happy they'd be doing cartwheels up in heaven.

My "day job" is working in an office, but I'm also a freelance fiction writer. (I don't sell much, but it's a cheap hobby.) Often when I have some nice quiet prayer time, and -- I hate to admit it -- during Mass, my brain goes into fiction mode, and I start coming up with wonderful little scenes and conversations for some of my fictional characters. I give thanks for my imagination, and remind myself that there's nothing more important than the miracle of the Eucharist. But alas, my entertaining distractions seems so much more interesting and important than praising and honoring God.

I suppose I need to remember that if first you don't succeed, try try again. Distraction, time to go back to prayer. Oh gosh, how long have I been indulging in my distraction this time? Time to return to prayer. Same old distraction, should I give up trying to pray? No, time to return to prayer. At times I give out with a mental wail, and apologize for having the worst prayer life in the whole world.

Perhaps I should give thanks for all of my distractions, because it's given me so much room for improvement! Distraction in prayer is a real problem for me. Thank you for your reminder that it IS a problem, so that I don't become smug and think "it doesn't really matter, most people don't even try to pray".
"Remember that you are the guardians of beauty in the world."
Pope Paul VI - Message to Artists
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Artist's distractions

Postby Fr. Dominic » Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:54 am

Karen, I'm our high school's drama director, so I design sets and write plays and recently completed my first children's book. I have that same problem at Divine Office (four times a day) and Mass. It's common for artists to get ideas during prayer because we relax and open our hearts to the Spirit. That idea of giving thanks for God's gift of creativity is a technique I use, too. I also keep a pen and small pad with me so I can jot down the bare bones of any idea that comes. I find that when I do that, I can let go of the idea because I know I won't lose it, and can concentrate on prayer again. I'm careful not to start actually writing dialogue but often just a quick note can give me enough closure or comfort to move on.

Let's pray for each other---sounds like we're on similar journeys.

Fr. Dom
Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus
Fr. Dominic
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Location: St. Bede Abbey

Postby Lin » Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:45 pm

Dear Fr. Dominic,
Thanks for telling us we aren't the only ones who have problems with distractions! Sometimes we are guilty of thinking that you guys don't have situations like we do :roll: . I try using St. Louis Mont fort's method, such as "blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus _______" with the blank being a phrase depending on what decade I'm in. I also ask the saints to help me not be distracted! It is still a battle. Your method sounds great, too. I'll try it.
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Re: Harnessing your distractions in prayer

Postby Larry » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:09 am

Dear Fr. Dominic,

What a wonderful application of prayer to our human nature...using distractions to focus ourselves. What a concept. You need to write a book!

Father, i know what i'm going to write next is not news to you, but you reminded me of something and it might have some value to someone who struggled as i did.

i used to become so frustrated with myself regarding the endless distractions i encountered when praying--especially, it seemed, when i was praying the rosary. Sigh, i wanted to go deeper but found i was constantly off on one mental tangent after another. Often those tangents swept me away just seconds after i firmly refocused. What a dilemma. Instead of growing closer to our Lord, i was growing more and more dismayed at my ever-failing efforts.

Until one day i picked up "The Interior Castle"...what a comforting book! St. Theresa of Avila wrote that she would become very upset when one of her novices would complain about distractions in prayer. i remember to this day how startled i was to read that she completely understood that it is not the body but the soul that rises to join with God when we give our wills over to prayer. Our physical brain's fragile mental faculties can run off on a million tangents, but our soul's communion with God cannot be shaken by these unwanted scattered thoughts. Our souls reach up like the expectant arms of a tiny child to the smiling face of a loving parent and then, in the embrace of our heavenly Father, our souls receive all the grace of prayer, all the nurturing of God's love, and all of the peace and joy that comes of resting under His gaze...even as we obliviously struggle on within our fallen bodies (and rest assurred that even our most unsuccessful mental struggles to reach Him are truly beautiful in His eyes).

Praise God for sending St. Theresa of Avila to stand between my troubled vulnerable mind and the blows of the enemy! This attack was only an illusion!

You know, i have a funny feeling St. Theresa really likes Fr. Dominic.

Pax et Bonum
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