I have prayers that I pray every day. Sometimes they seem to be a burden, sometimes I withdraw wholeheartedly into them. But more often, I am just plain distracted during prayer. I fear that I may never get beyond the first level! But I persevere in hopes of Divine assistance to increase in my ability to pray with my whole heart, mind and soul.
I came across a page on a diocese website that had a lot of references from Saints and other writers on how to deal with distractions; these are some of the quotes that I found resonated with me:
“To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for Him and lead us resolutely to offer Him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2729
St. Teresa of Avila: “Never address your words to God while you are thinking of something else.” God is worthy of our full attention. It’s admirable to pray as we work or while we drive or do other things — as long as we make the Lord’s presence central.
St. Francis of Assisi, whenever he was about to enter church for Mass or to pray, would say, “Worldly and frivolous thoughts, stay here at the door until I return.” Then he would go inside and pray with complete devotion.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux stated, “I have many distractions, but as soon as I am aware of them, I pray for those people, the thought of whom is diverting my attention. In this way, they reap the benefit of my distractions.” Talking to Him in a very loving and comfortable way, just as we would with any other friend or loved one, can be a helpful means of overcoming distractions.
Some valuable advice on praying comes from St. Paul of the Cross: “When you want to pray, it doesn’t matter if you can’t meditate. Make little acts of love to God, but gently, without forcing yourself.” St. Paul also says, “Concerning distractions and temptations that occur during holy prayer, you don’t need to be the least bit disturbed. Withdraw completely into the upper part of your spirit to relate to God in spirit and truth..”