Common Questions on Prayer and Recommended Reading
Every time I try to pray, I just think about things for my day or I become distracted.
This is a very common experience, especially for beginners. In a very busy world, our minds are not used to periods of long silence. In some ways, we need to acclimate ourselves to this new environment. Taking 5 minutes to prepare our minds and hearts for prayer is recommended.
At the same time, it’s natural to be distracted in prayer. There are two things you can do. Some distractions are crucial decisions you are making or events from the day. It is completely valid to bring these experiences to prayer and ask God to help you. When we place ourselves in the story of Scripture, it is not uncommon for Scripture to speak into these issues. For distractions that are of little importance, there is no need to get frustrated. Simply bring your focus back to the passage that you are reading or the thought you were meditating on. Use the moments of distractions as an opportunity to persevere in your prayer.
I try to pray, but by the end of the day I am usually too tired.
Prayer at night can be very difficult. Our brains tend to lose focus and our bodies tend to want to fall asleep. Spiritual directors through the history of the Church have always suggested prayer before noon. While this isn’t a mandate, it can be a helpful tip on how our minds work and what has been successful for prayer in the past. Also, make sure prayer is in your schedule. The saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If we allow our priorities to be tossed around by the events of the day, we will rarely find time to pray. As one modern author has said, no one starved from having a lack of time to eat. The lesson is we find time for our top priorities.
I missed a day of prayer, what do I do now?
There will be times where unexpected events cause you to miss a day of prayer. The key is to make sure you limit this time to just one day. Begin your prayer routine again the next day and keep trying to establish the habit.
At first, prayer was exciting and enriching, but now I don’t seem to get anything out of it.
While some struggle with prayer at first, some quickly find great consolation and joy from their first few times in prayer. But, after time, these same individuals can find prayer to be dry and boring, lacking the previous excitement and enriching experiences. This is a common process in the life of faith. It seems that God gives us this grace at the beginning of prayer to help us form the habit and see the joy in our relationship with Him. Later on, God will take away some of this joy. Why? In the end, it helps to test our motives in prayer. Do we seek to pray simply because of what we get out of it? Or, are we faithful to prayer and our praise of God no matter what we receive in turn? God has some great ways of calling us to humility and fidelity.
I finished thirty days of prayer, now what?
First, congratulations. I hope that these thirty days of prayer brought you closer to Jesus Christ. One recommendation would be to continue to read through the Gospels using the type of meditation found in this book. Also, the books below go deeper in regards to how to pray and different methods of prayer. These resources might help you find the next step. Finally, you might consider finding a spiritual director to help your prayer life. The experience of spiritual directors can help you find the next step in your particular prayer life.
Recommended Resources on Prayer
Time for God by Jacque Philippe
Meditation and Contemplation by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV
Prayer Primer by Fr. Thomas Dubay
Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.
Interior Freedom by Jacque Philippe