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How Can I Avoid Distractions During Prayer?

With many things clamoring for our time and attention, it can be easy to lose focus while praying. Two listeners, Joe and Patricia, ask Father Dave questions about distractions during prayer. Joe specifically struggles with this while praying the Rosary, while Patricia says, “It seems my brain is always multitasking, and concentrating on my prayers is very difficult.”

Father Dave begins, “If we look at prayer as relationship, that it is relationship with God…Prayer is really God loving us, and us attempting to give gratitude or to return that love to God.” He explains that this is the case even with more formulaic or rote prayers that repeat the same words.

“One way to look at it would be that distractions are not really distractions. They’re part of your life,” he says. “If I’m praying, whether it’s just a spontaneous prayer or if I’m praying the Rosary, whatever that thing is that I’m distracted by could very well become something that I offer up to God.”

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Father Dave compares our relationship with God to a marriage, and how a husband and wife enjoy each other’s presence but also need to communicate about the day’s logistics. “I think part of the problem is that we compartmentalize prayer away from who we are in our lives,” he says. “God loves everything in our lives, what it is we’re doing, and the things that we value.”

He continues, “Again, back to a loving relationship with a married couple coming home at the end of the day. Is it just perfunctory to say, ‘How was your day?’ Or if you really love someone, you want to hear what’s going on in their life, you want to be a part of that. God wants to be a part of that with us as well.”

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Regarding distractions during the Rosary, Father Dave notes, “The idea of the Rosary is that the prayers themselves and the beads allow us to do something with part of our brain, and the rest of us, our spirit, can meditate on something more profound.” He explains that ideally we are able to focus on the Mysteries of the Rosary and Jesus’ relationship with Mary. However, he says, “Many times when I’m praying the Rosary, if people, issues, or concerns in my life come to mind, then I offer those up as prayers as well. Because Jesus, hanging on the cross and looking into the eyes of his mother, does care about the things that are going on in my life.”

Father Dave suggests not being critical of yourself if your mind gets distracted. “Find some techniques to bring [God] back to focus. When you’re bringing it back, don’t beat yourself up about it,” He says. “Just kind of gently come on back. Recognize that [distraction] happened, and don’t put yourself on trial and throw yourself in jail for being distracted, because that usually multiplies it.”