Prayer can be described in many ways. I think one of the overlooked ways to describe prayer is as a habit. As in any habit, it is relatively easy to get started but it gets more difficult to maintain over time. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes prayer as a battle. A battle again whom? Primarily ourselves!
In my own life of prayer, I have found that dealing with distraction is the most difficult thing to overcome. St. Edmund tells us, “It is better to say one Our Father fervently and devoutly than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction.”
Ouch, guilty as charged.
If you share in this struggle, here are 3 ways to battle distractions as you build your own habit of daily prayer.
- Don’t Freak Out About It.
Expect distraction to happen and make a pact with yourself that you will not let it stop you. St. Theresa of Avila urges us that
“It is very important that no one be distressed or afflicted over dryness or noisy and distracted thoughts.”
- Don’t Overthink It
Have you ever had that meta moment in prayer in which you were distracted, realized it, then began to overthink think how distracted you get in prayer? Don’t fall for that trap! Take this advice from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart (CCC 2729)
- Use it to your advantage.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux had a genius way of dealing with her distraction in prayer.
“I also have many [distractions] but as soon as I am aware of them, I pray for those people the thought of whom is diverting my attention, and in this way they reap benefit from my distractions.”
Finally, when you inevitably become discouraged by distractions, remember that the even the most prayerful saints had the same struggle. Once you realize that being distraction free is not a pre-requisite for prayer, you can relax. Over time you will find your capacity to go deeper into prayer will grow!