In Strange Gods: Unmasking the idols of everyday life, Elizabeth Scalia writes beautifully about how she struggles with distractions during her prayers. Can you relate?
When I first began to pray—and I am forever a beginner—I struggled with focus, particularly in contemplation and in praying the Rosary. I let the struggle take more of my attention than it should have, until praying seemed like a nice idea, but clearly one meant for other people, and not for me, with my head full of monkey chatter and shiny things. When I said as much to an elderly nun named Sister Alice, she smiled and said, “Distraction in prayer is overcome in God’s good time, but it is actually one of the easiest things to manage. You must first be willing to admit that you are imperfect. Then, when the distractions come, you simply recognize them for what they are, and bring your attention back to prayer.”
I expressed some disbelief. After all, entire tomes have been written about the practice of contemplation, and she was breaking it down to a sentence! Sister was certainly—and understandably—dumbing it down for me, I thought. But she insisted she was not. “To pray is to love,” she said, “and that is the easiest and most difficult thing to do. When you are distracted in prayer, imagine a mother gently putting her finger under the chin of a distracted child and simply guiding its attention back where it belongs: no guilt and no remonstrance. You just go on.”
The distraction and the correction, she meant, are only the merest moment in a dialogue with eternity— no high drama required.