If prayer is easy for you, your’e either very holy, or you may be doing it wrong. Prayer is difficult spiritual work that goes against our fallen nature. Our fallen human nature resists prayer. We’d rather think of other things, or do other things. Prayer can become peaceful and sweet our prayer lives develop, but there will always be obstacles to prayer, no matter how mastered we are of the interior life. If our fallen nature is not being needled by our spiritual work, then we’re likely not “doing it” right. It follows, then, that if prayer is difficult for you, you’re on the road to holiness.
What are some reasons for prayer being difficult, and what are the techniques that can address them? Here is some advice that may help you in your prayer life.
Our minds are distracted by noise (in our ears, or in our thoughts).
Train yourself to quiet your mind for a period of time before your prayer time. Our minds are like a spinning top and we spend a lot of time spinning it to keep it from tipping over. If we don’t give it time to slow down and stop spinning it will keep us from focusing. So turn off the music. Stop activities where you’re able. Find quiet space. When you want to get a little deeper into your prayer (perhaps before bed?), take a minute or two to just sit or kneel in silence before you actually begin to pray. The space shuttle used 96% of its fuel just for takeoff. One of challenges of prayer is the “take off”. It can be hard to settle down, hard to quiet distractions, etc. Don’t burn up your fuel in the take-offl! Sit in silence 2 or 3 minutes before you start to pray.
The devil doesn’t want you to pray.
He will tempt you with hopelessness, anger, sinful thoughts, and natural anxieties. The Lord restricts some of this assault, but he doesn’t remove it. If you remember that this is normal to the experience of prayer, it won’t discourage or unsettle you. Soldier on!
It can be helpful to tell the enemy to be silent in the name of Jesus. Ask the Blessed Mother to make the enemy mute so that you can pray in peace, or ask your guardian angel to help you to focus. In my experience this sometimes works like a light switch, where suddenly all distractions are removed and I experience total interior quiet. But sometimes the effect is more subtle, and sometimes too subtle to perceive. The Lord allows the enemy to try us in order to make us stronger. Trust the process and soldier on.
Prayer is the root, the fountain, the mother of aSt. John Chrystostom
Prayer sometimes loses its sweetness
Sometimes prayer can become laborious or tedious. It’s human nature to want novelty. We don’t like to become bored. We find peace and fulfillment in the unchanging-ness of some things, while we want variety in others. The God who loves variety so much that he made multiple varieties of any single thing he created is the God who built this into us.
So if your prayer life begins to bore you, modify the routine. The Holy Spirit guides prayer. He will guide you to some routines that may never change, and some that He wills to change. Know the difference. Ask the Holy Virgin to help you. There are some routines in my prayer life that have never changed since I was young(er) and there are other routines that have either shifted, evolved, or have been completely overhauled. It’s okay to try something new. Prayer is a skill and we build that skill by working at it from different angles. That’s how anyone masters the interior life—from St. Joseph, to St. Anthony, to Saint-You.
These tips will help you to overcome the obstacles to a good, rich and deep prayer life.
Need more advice? Drop a comment below. I don’t usually open up comments, so take advantage of this one while the going is good! 😉
Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!