Let's be honest, it's hard to stay focused in prayer.
Distraction is the number one problem people have when trying to connect with God.
Everybody deals with it.
But the good news is that there is a sure-fire way to severely diminish distraction and keep our focus squarely where it belongs during prayer...and I'll tell you all about it in my latest Sainthood Snippets video.
God bless and enjoy!
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We're all like this - we can't focus. But that's exactly what we need to do in order to truly enter into meditative prayer. So I want to take a moment and talk about a huge key to the life of prayer. I want to talk about the crucial role of silence, because in this day and age, we are totally conditioned for distraction and noise. Music, images and chatter assault us at the grocery store, at the mall, even the gas station, for crying out loud! Noise constantly surrounds us even when we aren't actively listening. And when was the last time you got into an elevator without hearing a bad orchestral version of the Backstreet Boys or Bon Jovi? I was once even forced to endure Muskrat Love in an airport...oh, the humanity! Right? Well, why does society feel the need for constant diversion and noise? Well, it's pretty simple actually.
Silence is scary. It makes us uncomfortable. Why? Because in silence we're confronted with ourselves. In fact, you could go so far as to say that silence puts us to the test. It forces us to peer inside. And be honest, I once read of a famous spiritual director who made anyone coming to see him spend an hour in an adoration chapel without any reading materials or other diversion. Why? Because in the silence, he knew that God would do all the heavy lifting for him. Now, unfortunately, the modern world has no time or tolerance for silence. It has no value. In our utilitarian universe, we're obsessed with production and exploitation of resources. So silence is of little value. How do you use it? What can I do with it? Who wants to pay for it? "In the eyes of the world, silence is a holy uselessness," says French philosopher Max Picard.
Now, one of our problems is a tendency to view silence as an absence of anything. But silence isn't a nothing. Silence is the reality into which sound invades. It's always present underneath the noise. If I stop talking, what do you hear? Silence - and silence is sacred. That's why most people immediately lower their voices or stop speaking altogether when entering a beautiful Catholic church. The knowledge of who dwells there demands awe and reverence, which naturally translates into silence. Even the most beautiful piece of classical music is normally out of place in an adoration chapel. So we need silence to recollect ourselves and enter undistracted into God's presence. We have to quiet the exterior noise that's always threatening to drown out our interior lives.
In fact, quiet is an absolute necessity if we're going to put ourselves in the presence of God. "The heavenly Father has spoken one word," says St. John of the Cross, "It was his Son, and he speaks it eternally in an eternal silence. And it is in silence that it can be heard by the soul." We have to realize silence is something more than just no sound. We have to quiet our interior selves too.
I mean, our minds love to wander all over the universe, even when we're quiet. You see, distraction from within is just as problematic as exterior disturbance. And while St. Teresa of Avila says just laugh at distractions and give them back to God as part of prayer, it's better if we're never distracted in the first place. That's why silence must be cultivated in every area of life. Now, this doesn't mean you have to move into Maxwell Smart's Cone of Silence for the rest of your life, but it does mean reigning in your consumption of the world in general terms. Interior quiet isn't a switch you can flip any old time you want. Don't ever forget that the sights and the sounds that we take in are food for the imagination. It's vitally important we guard what we allow to enter it. It's hard enough to focus when innocent distractions abound. It's downright impossible to move into the presence of God if your mind is picking through the trash you recently dumped in.