You don’t have to feel guilty if you get distracted during prayer.
A couple of years ago, I started praying the Rosary every day. I suffered from a crazy amount of distractions, which led met into a crazy amount of guilt.
I used to get angry at myself for not focusing better during prayer.
When you pray the Rosary, you are supposed to meditate on specific mysteries of the Rosary with each set of ten Hail Mary’s.
So, at about Hail Mary #2, my mind would start to wander.
At about Hail Mary #4, I would get angry at myself.
At about Hail Mary #8, I was filled with guilt for not being better at prayer and feeling like I had just wasted both my time and God’s time.
Today, things are different. Instead of feeling guilty about the distractions, I embrace them.
Eastern vs. Christian Meditation
In eastern religions, meditation refers to the practices that clear your mind from distractions. Breath meditation, for example, is meant to train your mind to focus and silence the voices and thoughts that distract you from the present moment.
Christian meditation is different.
When we meditate on the Scriptures, for example, we take a story from the Bible and relate it to our lives. Or we take our lives and relate it to the story. From there, we connect with God and hear his voice in our hearts.
So, maybe the distractions aren’t so bad, especially if they helps us connect our lives to the mysteries about which we meditate.
I was convinced of this while spending some time on a silent retreat with the Camaldolese monks in California.
They are a Benedictine order following St. Romuald’s Rule.
On the wall near the doorway was a copy of the rule. This line jumped out at me while I read it:
“Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.”
Watch your thoughts. Catch them like fish.
Try This: Let Distractions Fuel Your Meditation
If you pray the Rosary like I do or practice any form of Christian meditation, embrace the distractions. Fish for those thoughts. Find out what God is trying to teach you through those thoughts and through the meditation you are practicing.
When I pray the Rosary today, I start with the mystery (Annunciation, Visitation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, etc.).
Instead of forcing myself to focus only on the stories and mysteries, I allow new thoughts to pop up in my head (a “distraction”) and I relate it back to the mystery.
Often these thoughts are memories–some recent and some from long ago. Sometimes these thoughts are worries I have about the day.
Whatever they are, I let them come to the surface of my mind. Instead of running from them, I welcome them. I acknowledge them and I relate them to the mystery through meditation.
Every time I pray the Rosary, every time I meditate on a mystery of Christ’s life, I see it in a different way because I am different. Also, the thoughts that pop into my head are different every single time.
Sometimes, the mystery reveals something about my life and worries that I didn’t see before. That happens only because I have embraced the distractions.
I firmly believe that if you embrace distractions during prayer . . .
The distractions will give you a new perspective on the mysteries.
The mysteries will provide a new perspective on your thoughts, memories, ideas, and distractions.
In both cases, we have the opportunity to hear God’s voice if we allow the Spirit to bring these distractions to our minds.
What’s the alternative?
If we let the distractions make us feel guilty, we will fixate on them and ignore the mystery.
If we try to focus only on the mystery and not our life, we will miss the opportunity to see what God wants us to see about our lives and his will for us.
Next time you pray, embrace the distractions.