Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two Years Later, and Still I Need Help

In 2013 I wrote the following, which I share now for It's Worth Revisiting Revisiting Wednesday. I needed to be reminded of this today....

I have felt, at times, as if I were running from prayer. Not a pleasant thought at all.
However, one of you said something that opened a floodgate. Because of this, I see myself sitting in my ‘prayer chair,’ Bible or Breviary in hand, settling in to pray. In come the distractions... as they always do.

It seems that once my mind makes any attempt to 'quiet,' suddenly every stray thought that's been lingering around snaps up that golden opportunity to hop on in and demand its share of attention. I can count on it.

Ah ha, there it is. There is the very phrase I've needed to look at: 
'I can count on it.' 

I realize. I've begun to associate sitting in prayer with feeling beaten up, bedraggled, worn down, defeated, and ashamed of being 'lukewarm.’ 

It is not the Lord Himself I’ve been avoiding! It's that persistent, nagging, dragging war with distractions.

But what to do about this problem? Shall I fight it out, trudge on upward, scale that wall of distractions unaided?

I'm sure God is pleased by such efforts. However, I think He understands when we sometimes need a little help. A spiritual director once asked me (when I was having trouble praying) 'well... what CAN you do?'  Start with that one thing, I was told, and begin to build on that. 

Today I went back to that suggestion. I gave myself permission not to beat myself up, permission not to climb a ladderless wall with my bare, worn down hands. I took one thing I CAN do and asked God to help me build on that.

The one thing (today) was music.  I remembered that I haven't been using it in my prayer time lately.  It has often helped me 'shake the dust of the world' out of my soul before, so I tried to find a CD.  I couldn't, for I had moved them.

Then I got distracted by my laptop sitting next to me.. but instead of fighting that distraction, I actually picked UP the laptop and clicked on a few holy songs. Before long, I was absorbed in the music and singing along.

There were pictures also, as these were YouTubes, so suddenly two senses were engaged. One photo was of an incenser; I got distracted by thinking of how much I love incense. Remembering that I have a jar of it right next to my chair, I opened that and savored the aroma gently filling my prayer space.  Three senses engaged.

I picked up a rosary (four senses), began to pray it, but before doing so I told God what and whom I wanted to pray for. Soon I was thanking Him for one thing, and another... and, well.... what do you know!

I was talking with God, totally undistracted, unconcerned about anything other than Him and Him alone. It was as if the whole entire world had disappeared.  

Well. What do you know.

'Come, O God of my heart,' wrote St. Gertrude, 'gather together my scattered mental powers and fix them upon Yourself.'  

Thanks be to God.  He did.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.


Public domain photo; bottom version digitally altered


  1. This is really interesting, Nancy. I have had struggled with distractions, for years, and somehow, things changed, earlier this year, and I was able to settle into a pattern of prayer that is working (at the moment!)

    I read a quote from Padre Pio, this morning, which I thought was encouraging: "When I am in this state, what I can say for certain is that I do not offend God more than usual because, thank heaven, I never lose my trust in him."

    1. Vicky, I am getting even more distractable as I "age." (sigh....) I do love the quote from Padre Pio - thank you so much for sharing that!

      I think some of my difficulty is that I'm a distractable person in general, just by nature. I grew up in a "no rules" sort of home where discipline was not enforced and routines were loose and changeable. Amazingly, I tend to thrive in situations where discipline and routine are provided externally.... like on retreats. I am always surprised when I adapt to such environments like the proverbial duck to water. But I can't seem to "get there" easily when left on my own!!

  2. Dear Nancy:
    I have found the distractions of the world, cause me to work harder, and understand more just how much I need, and depend on my prayer life.
    This often has the effect bringing me to settle myself, enough to find the peace that He offers, above what this world calls peace.

    In The Immaculate Heart of Mary

    1. Wonderful, Don.... I really like your perspective. Using what can be a negative - for good! Thank you for sharing such a great way of looking at it.

  3. What a beautiful time of talking with God.

  4. Very helpful to me, Nancy - you know I've been having similar problems for quite some time. Thankfully, it's gotten a bit better recently. I like how you engaged the senses the way you describe in your post! Great idea!

    I wonder if the Lord gets sick of Our Father's with a grocery list

    1. Mary, engaging the senses has become a great help to me. Sometimes I've felt bad to "need" such aids, but then I imagine Our Lord gently asking WHY I think He has provided such things in the first place?!?

  5. Wonderful and helpful Nancy! I feel like the "Dory the fish" of prayer so often. My distractions push me and my prayer chair over repeatedly!! For a longer, meditative prayer the tactile and sensual approach, ie, the music, incense, rosary you mention is helpful. Often i pray better by speaking with the Lord throughout the day in a long, rambling, interrupting sort of way; throughout the minutia of the moments....

  6. Wonderful, Nancy. I know what you mean, and I have to trick my senses the same way, to make a sort of a safety circle around my prayer. I pray best at night or early in the morning, and if I wake in the middle of the night, best of all (instead of worrying, I have learned to immediately begin to pray).While walking or traveling on a bus, throughout the day, trying to catch every moment, especially when I want to stifle useless or negative thoughts. But my best times are when I sit down, with nothing in hand, and tell Him: here I am, and pour out everything in prayer and confession. If I plan my prayer times too much, I'll be really distracted. :) The thing that has helped was the Jesus Prayer, repeated until I settle.

    1. A "safety circle" around your prayer. Oh, I love that!! Thank you for sharing your helps!


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