Saturday, June 16, 2012

Distractions in prayer.


I've come to a point where I usually treat distractions like nothing.  Just ignore them - like 'white noise'.  At least I try to do that, doesn't always work of course.  Then again, sometimes, if I'm patient enough, they can become my prayer.  I think Therese did that - remember the episode of the older sister behind her in choir during mental prayer, who made annoying noises with her dentures, and St. Therese offered the sounds and their effects as a sacrifice?  That's one way to handle distractions.  Sometimes recollection can be so deep that all the noises and distractions around us do not bother us - but that is surely a grace.

Many times distractions occur during the rosary, while praying the office, or reciting prayers for a novena.  We are saying the words but thinking about something else.  It happens.  I noticed something about that however.  Sometimes we can be thinking about people and situations in or out of our lives, and not always in a good way.  We might suddenly recall something someone did or said against us - or we may recall something we dislike about them.  Do we treat it like a distraction and move on?

I will run the way of your commands;
you give freedom to my heart. - Ps. 119:32

This morning it occurred to me that something more was needed: Recalling the Gospel passage, "if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  It suddenly seemed to me that the distraction wasn't a real distraction at all, but a sort of gentle rebuke.

I needed to go back over my prayer with more attention, but I also needed to recognize what was happening.  This "remembrance of wrongs" was necessary for me to recognize what may be on one level, simply a natural antipathy towards someone, or perhaps it was something more serious.  Whatever it was, I needed to be reconciled.  Which doesn't mean I leave off prayer - not at all.  Rather it is a call to a deeper self knowledge and a direction to pray from the heart for those I more or less unconsciously regard as my 'enemies'.  In my particular situation, I was able to recognize that my so-called 'enemies' were probably correct in their assessment of myself, and that I was truly the 'bad guy' in all of this.  I was the one harboring the resentment.   

Long story short, sometimes our distractions have a purpose.  They serve to take us from our superficial, more routine habit of prayer, and plunge us more deeply into the abyss of our nothingness... exactly where deep calls unto deep... the abyss of our misery calls unto the abyss of merciful love... and even more deeply, the reverse of that is true - the abyss of merciful love initiates the call...

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. - Romans 8: 26

As St. Teresa says, "Prayer is the trap door out of sin."  It is most especially when we allow the Holy Spirit to pray in us, allowing him to direct our prayer - because we really do not know how to pray as we ought.  I think it is better to pray as we can, not how we think we are supposed to - although I might be wrong.  (We need to be instructed in prayer and use the support of structured prayer - with attention and devotion - and the Holy Spirit helps us do so.)  Happily, my rosaries have sometimes been filled with distractions like the one I mentioned, which may explain why they can take so long for me to recite.

Every great grace I have ever received in life came through the rosary.

1 comment:

  1. terry, i love this. just this morning at Adoration i felt ... tired. i was merely 'there' and gave up trying to lift my heart and mind up in some lofty way. the prayer came to me, "here i am, Lord. i don't even come to do Your Will; i'm just here." and my prayer went from there. just talking, giving him my feelings / thoughts / emotions and asking Him what does it mean to offer Him my heart & mind through the hands and heart of the Immaculate Virgin? i'd go on, but it's too detailed and personal and you get the picture.


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