How to Pray Past Distractions

A zillion interruptions can foil an intent to pray. Here’s how to let go of them.

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Praying away distractions

It happened just the other day. I was talking about meditative prayer, how I sit on the sofa in our TV room in the morning, wrap myself in an old blanket, close my eyes and listen to God.

“I can’t do that,” said this earnest, very kind and maybe a little anxious woman. “The moment I sit still my head is just too full of noise. There’s no way I can hear God. I need to get up and do a thousand things.”

Without sounding too holy—I hope—I suggested that all that noise in her head could just be part of her prayer. That listening to the noise is prayer. That being silent in God’s presence even for just a few minutes is a chance to give all that noise over to God.

Catch and release is what you do when you’re fly-fishing (or so I’ve heard). Catch and release is what you can do with the noise. Hear it and let it go. Let God have it.

“He wants you to lock your eyes on him and leave him alone to work in you,” says the anonymous 13th-century author of The Cloud of Unknowing.

So next time you’re sitting there for your five or 10 or 20 minutes of prayer and something comes to you and think you should get up and write it down, let it go. If it’s a really important thought, it will still be there when you’re finished.

Your job is simply to savor God’s silence. Or in the words of the Psalmist, “Even silence is praise.”

The woman nodded her head as she listened to my yammering. “You really can’t go wrong when you pray. Be patient. Stick with it. Keep doing it. Every day will be different. To try to pray is to pray,” I said.

Funny. The next time I sat on my sofa with the blanket draped over my shoulders, I thought of her and said a prayer for her. The thought came. I caught it and released it. It was just one in a zillion distractions that have come to me when talking to God. And all of it is a part of prayer.

Tags: Faith,Prayer
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