Losing Sight of God
I get distracted easily, not just in my prayer life, but in my spiritual life as well; how can I help myself get back on track when I lose sight of God?
Remember that story of Hansel and Gretel? The two kids who leave a trail of bread crumbs behind them, only to end up the main course for some little forest hag witch, with an empty stomach and some bad intentions?
Wow…what a screwed up story that is for kids. But that’s a different discussion. You might be wondering, “What does Hansel and Gretel have to do with my question?” Well, follow me on this one…
Distraction is a part of life. We can’t control the things that happen around us anymore than we can control all the things that happen to us. There are ways, however, to take ourselves “out of the path” of distraction and place ourselves more in the path of grace (of God). That does not mean that all distractions will be eliminated…the devil wants to distract you and will use any means possible to do so (1 Pet 5:8), to keep you from God. There are things you can do, however, to better direct and focus yourself in your prayer life and spiritual life, as a whole.
Here’s a quick list of suggestions:
1. Create a prayerful environment
Often times we get distracted because we are in distracting places. Quiet (even silence) is essential, especially in the early stages, for maturing in your prayer life. If you can’t learn to pray in silence, you won’t learn in the midst of noise. Go into your room and close the door. Light a candle. Possibly play some quiet music. Turn off your phone. Light a candle (but don’t fall asleep…a four alarm fire is not a relaxing prayer environment).
Better yet, get by the chapel at your Church and sit as close to the Tabernacle as possible. And don’t forget your posture…kneeling goes a long way in helping us to focus ourselves. It’s important to be comfortable, but if you’re too comfortable, you might fall asleep because you’re so relaxed. Vary up your posture to insure your awareness.
2. Offer up distractions for God’s glory
If you find your mind “wandering” constantly while you pray, offer up those distractions to God. I mean that literally. Say to God, “Lord, you know how consumed I am with this relationship or this situation right now, I offer them up for your glory.” If the distractions are being placed there by the devil (to keep you from prayer), the distractions will vanish; the devil will never do anything that gives glory to God. IF they are not from the devil, than take that as a sign that God wants you to pray about that relationship or situation. Talk to Him about it and ask yourself the tough question…not “what do I want?”, but “what does God want?”, “what is God’s will?”
3. Utilize guided prayers and meditations
The Church is such a great guide for us. She gives us prayers for just such moments and occasions. You always have the Our Father as the ultimate prayer. In addition, you have the Hail Mary which, if prayerfully recited, will take you to deep levels of meditation, unlock amazing insight and bring great grace. There are thousands of guided meditations, novenas, prayers of consecration…literally, you could spend hours online or in bookstores sorting through an endless treasure trove of incredible, prayerful insights that will lead you deeper into the very heart of God, even when your mind is racing and you might find it “difficult to concentrate” on your own. Take advantage of the richness and beauty of our 2000 year tradition as Church.
4. Manage your time more effectively
Sometimes we get distracted because we wait to pray. I’ll give you a few examples. Maybe we try to “wake up and pray”, but we do that lying in bed half asleep rather than after a shower or a cup of coffee. Sometimes we choose to pray at night, but we wait until we’re in bed, instead of an hour before we brush our teeth or get ready for sleep. Possibly we wait until the food is on the table and our stomachs are churning to utter a (very brief) prayer of thanks, rather than praying while preparing the food, or while it’s finishing. Do you get the idea?
The further ahead we “schedule” prayer, the more disciplined we will become. Learn about things like the Liturgy of the Hours. Create a “prayer schedule” where you can set times and forms of prayer in stone over the course of the week. That schedule is the easy part. Now, step 2 is to follow it. That is the hard part. But it is do-able, so stick with it. Research states that it only takes 21 days for something to become a habit.
5. Find a prayer partner
The old cliché is that prayer is like working out…if you’re not used to it, it’s good to have an accountability partner to keep you dedicated to it, daily. Ideally, this would mean someone whom you could pray with. At the very least, it’s important to have someone in your life who will “call you out” when you’re getting lazy and someone who you can empower to challenge you consistently.
6. Become an intercessor
How many of your prayers incorporate “I” or “me”? That doesn’t make you bad, it makes you (and I) human. It’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t ever pray for yourself…it is to say that proportionally, how often do you pray for yourself and how often for others? Spend more time as an “intercessor”, let your prayers be intercessions for others. The power of prayer is unmistakeable, and if you doubt your own prayer power, think again. You can’t change people, but never underestimate the power, by God’s grace, for others’ to change.
7. Keep your Bible within reach
Before you leave the house everyday you probably insure that you have what you need…money, cell phone, keys, etc. How often to you check for your Bible? If our Bible is (at any time) nowhere near us, we might want to double-check that we’re not too far from it (or Him). What a great gift to have the living Word an arm’s reach away at any and every time of day. If you don’t have a “travel” Bible you can throw in your backpack, on your car’s passenger seat or in your carry-on bag, every day…get one. We’ll never grow in the Word until it’s close enough at every minute that we can hold it and be challenged by it.
Now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with Hansel and Gretel, as I mentioned at the beginning. Notice that Hansel and Gretel set out to explore, traveling far from home…they put forth the effort, they moved out of their comfort zones, and took a different path then they were used to. That shows initiative. Notice, too, that the bread was supposed to lead them back home.
When all else fails in your prayer and personal devotions, realize that (at the very least) you always have Christ with you, in His true presence in the Eucharist (John 6:52-58). You don’t have to say a word if you don’t want to. In fact, most of the time it’s better if you just sit, just kneel in His presence silently, and just listen.
While the devil (and his distractions) are prowling (1 Pet. 5:8) and willing to devour you (just like in “Hansel and Gretel”), Christ is waiting to consume you with grace and love…follow the Bread (John 6:41).
To stay “on the right track” you need two things…to remember where you came from (God) and to know where you are going (back to God).
Have a good journey.
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