Frustrating. It is frustrating.
I've been asking Our Lord for help. It seems that once I do rein in my thoughts, they might go something like: "Oh Lord, I thank You for this day in which to serve You, and for that blue sky and I wonder why it is that I'm not crazy about blue? It seems to be almost everyone's favorite color but my favorite is probably maroon and I really need to clean out those books in the maroon room and by" this time words to God are gone and even ones to myself are disappearing and I'm drifting around in a wordless thoughtswirl of blue and red and books and
before I know it, my carved-out time for quiet, concentrated prayer is over.
"Sometimes," wrote St. Therese of Lisieux, "when my mind is in such great aridity that it is impossible to draw forth one single thought to unite me with God, I very slowly recite an 'Our Father' and then the angelic salutation ('Hail Mary'); then these prayers give me great delight. They nourish my soul much more than if I had recited them precipitately a hundred times."
I read these words of St. Therese this morning, and recalled a season when I personally committed to praying an Our Father every day, in just this way. Slowly, thoughtfully, with reverence, one phrase at a time.
I did this today. My thoughts (and my prayer) went something like: "Our Father..."
I was immediately struck by these two words, each brimming with revelation. I began (without effort) to meditate. Father. Father! God is my Father! He is THE perfect Father, the One Who cares for me and watches out for me and protects me and is in relationship with me. There was much more to this meditation, but before long the word "our" began to stand out. He's not just my Father, He is OUR Father. He's your Father, and He is mine. This thought led me into praying for others, for the Church as a whole, and for you (yes, you). I finished my "carved out" time for prayer with the realization that my mind had not wandered, not one tiny bit.
I did eventually pray the entire Our Father. And I intend to come back to meditation with it tomorrow, when perhaps I'll be drawn to spend more time with the next few words (we'll see what God unfolds).
There is much food for meditation, worship, intercession and thanksgiving in this most basic of prayers.
Like His disciples, I have been asking "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1-2)
And so He did.
Painting: Charles Allston Collins, Convent Thoughts (detail)