“A hungry man does not have to be reminded to eat.” Those were the words of my pastor after I confessed that I often allow myself to be distracted. “If you hunger for God more, you will be distracted less,” he said.
We are humans not robots, so complete mental focus is not ours to be had, but sitting in Mass or to set aside time for prayer and adoration and going over a to-do list instead of receiving all that God has to give is devaluing our time.
“It’s pride,” my pastor said. “Because rather than soaking in all that God has to give you, you are focused on yourself.”
That sounds harsh, but I know it is true. To let worldly things intrude on God time robs us of the graces we could be receiving. And if we are not paying attention to our own prayers, we can't expect God to.
For inspiration, to do better, I read Thirsting for Prayer by Jacques Philippe, author and retreat master. “What the world most needs today is prayer,” according to Fr. Philippe. “Faithfulness to prayer is a path of freedom.” I also read what St. Teresa of Avila has to say about prayer and focus. Below is a list based on some of their advice on focusing on God and minimizing distractions.
[tweet "10 ways to combat distraction in #prayer by @pattiarmstrong"]
1) Ask God for help.
2) Ask the saints for help. Their love of God helped them to focus intensely. Some even levitated during prayer. The saints were often so absorbed by their union with God, that they were not aware of what was going on around them.
3) Accept but don’t welcome distractions.
5) Be humble. You can’t control everything. Even the doctor of the Church and mystic St. Teresa of Avila was plagued with distraction and wrote about it.
6) Have faith in God’s presence. Meditate on God truly being right there with you.
7) Have faith that God gives you the grace you need to focus without expecting perfection.
8) Persevere. “Humble people persevere in the life of prayer without presumption and without relying on themselves,” - Fr. Phillipe.
9) Expect improvement, not perfection.
10)Hunger for God. Desire God more and the distractions will be less.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices. - St. Teresa of Avila
Copyright 2017 Patti Maguire Armstrong
About the Author
Patti Maguire Armstrong is the mother of 10, and has a B.A. in social work and M.A. in public administration. Her newest book is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Others include Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the Amazing Grace Series. Follow her at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com.