Distractions in Prayer

St. Francis de Sales offers these suggestions for dealing with distractions experienced during prayer:

“When your heart is distracted in prayer, bring it gently back to the point from which it has wandered, and lay it tenderly at the feet of its Master. If you do but this your hour will be well employed.”

“You should be so in love with God that even though you can do nothing in his presence, you should nevertheless be glad to be near Him, were it only to see Him and look at Him from time to time.”

“He who ardently loves God does not turn back his gaze upon himself to discover what he is doing, but keeps his heart occupied with God, the object of his love. A heavenly chorister takes so much delight in pleasing God, that he desires no pleasure from the melody of his voice, save as it is pleasing to his Sovereign.”

One who deeply loves God persists in prayer: “If we can speak to our Lord in prayer let us speak to Him, praise Him, listen to Him. If we cannot speak because we are spiritually hoarse, let us stay nevertheless and make Him a reverence.”

One who prays well is devoted to God: “We must be constant in aspiring to the perfection of holy love, in order that love may be perfect; for the love which seeks anything less than perfection cannot fail to be imperfect.”

St. Francis readily acknowledged that we are obliged to perform the duties of our particular stations in life. Concerning those occasions when the temporal necessities of human life seem to interfere with our spiritual life, he has this to say: “If what we are doing be necessary, even though it distract our attention from God, we need not be troubled. We are taught to do all our actions for God, and by so doing we keep ourselves in his presence. Beware of thinking it necessary to offer each action to our Lord, for that would interfere with the simplicity of the practice of the Presence of God.”

So, take heart and rest assured, for the gentle Bishop of Geneva says: “Frequently behold our Lord who looks down upon you, poor little creature that you are, and sees you in the midst of your labours and distractions.”

Quotations from Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales, translated by Ella McMahon (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1884).

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