Distractions in Prayer
I have been asked to say something about my battle for prayer and, in particular, what distractions I have, how I cope with dryness and temptations I face in prayer, and how I overcome them.
In spite of the invitation, I do not think my readers would want to be bored to tears by an account of what goes on in my head during prayer! Distractions are my unfailing companions at prayer; but I have learned that prayer doesn't go on in the head, in the brain-box, but in that secret heart that is choosing to pray and to remain in prayer no matter what it feels like or seems like to me. I am totally convinced that our God. the God we see in Jesus, is all-Love, all-Compassion and, what is more, is all-Gift; is always offering God's own Self as our perfect fulfilment. I believe, through Jesus, that we were made for this and that it is divine Love's passion to bring it to perfect fulfilment in us.
So when I set myself to pray I am basing myself on this faith and refuse to let it go. I just take it for granted that, because God is the God of Jesus, all-Love, who fulfils every promise, this work of love is going on, purifying and gradually transforming me. What I actually experience on my conscious level is quite unimportant. In fact I experience nothing except my poor, distracted self.
It is a case of blind trust; not a desperate trust, but the sort of brazen, unshakeable trust a child has in good parents. I see nothing of what is going on, of whether the inner garden is beautiful and blooming or not, and have given up all desire to see it because I want God to have it all.
You see, that means I can never have any illusion that whatever has happened and is happening in me is my achievement. My part, that little bit that I can do, is simply never to be discouraged, never to give up even for a few minutes, no matter how disgusted with myself I feel, no matter if I have allowed my mind to dwell on what pleased me instead of looking into the Nothing which faith assures me is All. I go on refusing to take my head off God's breast (I'm thinking here of Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son with his head pressed to his father's heart), and I believe that this obstinate, blind trust is what Our Lord wants more than anything else.
I have learned that prayer doesn't go on in the head, in the brain-box, but in that secret heart that is choosing to pray and to remain in prayer no matter what it feels like or seems like to me.
So, I admit that there is a temptation to anxiety and discouragement. It could never lead me to give up prayer but I could waste time on it, dwelling on myself rather than throwing myself on God's love. Formerly, it could have prompted me to seek some other way of going about prayer that would ensure that this endlessly clacking mill of mine had plenty to occupy it, but I have come to understand that, for me, it would be a way of hiding from God, hiding my own spiritual inadequacy from myself.
Real prayer is utterly truthful. This is what makes it hard. We have to be there before God as we really are, maybe upset, angry, worried, emotionally at sixes and sevens. This is the self I set in God's loving gaze; this is the little creature He loves and has to deal with. In this way, what are usually thought of as temptations are all turned into real prayer.
From Essence of Prayer, by Ruth Burrows