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Struggling to Pray: Distracted and/or Lazy

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:00pm on August 25th 2018
Hi Father,

I have been struggling to pray for a while now. This becomes a daily struggle as whenever I go to pray, I daydream, get distracted and sometimes don't even want to. I feel terrible about this and end up confessing this every time but after I do, I make the exact same mistakes of distracting myself and saying "I'll do so and so first then I'll pray" but never doing it.

Its no doubt in God or the church or anything like that, it seems like I have no motivation or desire to pray while at the same time I do want to. I know this sounds very lazy of me seeing as prayer can even be just 5 minutes before sleep but even this becomes difficult for me because I just want to do other things or I start planning the next day instead.

Could you give me some advice on how to deal with this? I basically always feel troubled about this because I find it so hard to focus and when this negligance of prayer is about to happen, I can see it from a mile away but I don't do anything to stop it, its like I'm programmed to do the exact same thing every time. That is what troubles me even more, I know the problem, I see it and I have ideas on what to do about it but I just don't.

Please help. Thank you Father.

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Hi Miguel, what you're experiencing with difficulty in prayer isn't just you-it's most of us, at one time or another! That's why short prayers-shorter even than most tweets-have been used by Catholics for centuries. Take that little prayer revealed by Our Lady to the children at Fatima, 'O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and bring all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.' Then there's the prayer said by many Orthodox Christians-we can surely say it too: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Obviously you could try saying just one decade of the Rosary, or-one of my favourites, the Stations of the Cross. Often on long trips-by Irish, not Australian standards!-I'd take my time praying about each station, sometimes thinking of them in terms of Mary, sometimes as Jesus, sometimes for the sufferings the Church is going through at the moment-so many variations are possible.

Advice I've given here from time to time is that the most important moment in my prayer is that the most important element in our prayer is to connect with whomever I'm praying to-if I'm saying the Morning Offering, it's you, Jesus, I'm speaking to, if the Our Father, I'm speaking to you, Father, if the Hail Mary, I'm speaking to you, Mary, if the Glory be, I'm speaking to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A way of understanding my own distractions is, to imagine someone, while chatting to me is also looking at their mobile at the same time. You can feel a bit insulted by their lack of attention. Well, like you, a lot of my praying-even though I'm too old fashioned to be bothered using a mobile, or do my best not to-is as if I were looking at my phone rather than at Jesus, Mary, the Trinity, and so on. So I have to keep waking my faith up to get in contact again.

No one said that praying is easy: when I started my first year in the seminary, it felt as if I were lifted up onto Cloud Nine, but after that first year, way back in 1960-61, I almost never feel anything. That brings me closer to Jesus' own huge suffering at prayer, when he cried out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' I think he wants us to be with him at that moment, unable to pray, and still pushing ourselves to say, in Him, to our Father, 'Into your hands I entrust my spirit.' Or with those who follow St Faustina's Divine Mercy prayer, 'Jesus, I trust in you.' I think the more we're like little children, barely able to say a word, the nearer we are to that prayer of Jesus. And of course the best preparation for meeting Jesus in prayer is making the effort to find him in whoever our neighbour happens to be at the time. Hope that's a bit of help, very best, Fr Brendan
Xt3's Ask a Priest answered at 4:54pm on August 27th 2018 reply

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