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What distractions during prayer can teach us about ourselves


Christopher Lemercier | CC0

Philip Kosloski - published on 04/11/24

Interior distractions during prayer are a difficult obstacle to overcome, and often they can reveal more about the state of our soul.

Typically when most of us try to pray, we are bombarded by various distractions, both internal and external.

The external distractions are more easily subdued, as they tend to involve such things as turning off the radio, silencing our cell phones, or moving to a more secluded place.

Interior distractions are more difficult to handle, as they normally come from our own wandering mind.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this common obstacle to prayer:

The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. 

CCC 2729

How to combat distractions during prayer

The Catechism further explains that, “To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap” (CCC 2729).

What this means is that we shouldn’t consciously avert our attention to these distractions, as then we end-up even more distracted.

Instead, the Catechism claims that these distractions reveal more about the state of our soul than anything else:

[W]hen all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

CCC 2729

This revelation may be difficult to discern, and it would be advisable to consult a spiritual director to properly discover what these distractions reveal about ourselves.

Yet, it may be true that our heart is too attached to the busyness of the day than to God.

We might be too worried about our grocery list, or the various activities our children or grandchildren are involved with after school.

Or we might be too addicted to the various apps on our phone, and we are more interested in what our friends post on Facebook than in what God is trying to speak to us during prayer.

Whatever distraction we are struggling to overcome, it may be worth it to write them down and see if there is a pattern. If there is, our heart may not be in the right place and God may need to purify our heart so that we can be more focused on him during prayer.

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