Sleepiness, Distractions, and Fervent Prayer- By Linda Padgett
What do you do for a prayer life? Do you follow a set study or book? Do you and your husband pray together? I get these questions on a regular basis. Most people of any faith or spirituality who regard prayer as important, try to find a way to include it into their busy lives. Prayer is so important. Not only does it deepen our relationship with God in the same way communication benefits any other relationship, but it can also bring peace of mind and help relieve stress to our very selves.
There are so many books written about prayer. There are entire studies done, courses to take, and advice to give. All of this information can lead a person into the belief that there is actually a wrong way to pray. If I’m not following a certain formula or spending enough time, then my efforts may be ineffective.
Anyone who has ever tried to make prayer a regular part of his or her life will have experienced some of the difficulties that come with it. If the room is too quiet, I may fall asleep. If there are too many distractions, I can’t focus. My mind wanders thinking about everything else I need to be doing instead of sitting there. I feel like I have nothing to say or fear that I may say it wrong. So, how can I make it work? How can I include regular prayer into my life and make it so that I see the benefit, which is ultimately a closer relationship with God.
Blessed Jordan of Saxony, who was one of the first leaders in the Dominican Order, has a great quote for us. When he was asked what the best form of prayer was, he answered, “The way in which you can pray most fervently.”
The best way to make prayer work into your active, busy life is to find the way that works best for YOU. It may not be in a book or on a blog, but when you pray in a manner that works for you, you feel focused, connected to God, and fervent in your supplications.
Personally, I love going to an adoration chapel and sitting in silence. Maybe, it’s because silence is such a rare commodity in my home and I can sit in one place without a little body interrupting my thoughts and asking me to help them. Yes, I do struggle at times with staying awake, but there is nothing wrong with that. God knows how hard I work, and he made my body to get sleepy when it relaxes. As long as I don’t bring my pillow and blanket and crash on the floor, my sleepiness is quite acceptable. I also struggle with distractions. It’s amazing how well my mind focuses on every other aspect of my life, while I’m sitting still and trying to focus on God.
In his book, Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems, Fr. Joseph Esper gives this refreshing advice concerning those mental distractions in prayer. He encourages us to stop resisting those distracting thoughts, instead use them in your prayer. For example, if I am excited about the party I am planning and can’t focus on my “real” prayer, I should talk to God about my excitement and the plans I have for the party. Further, if a man is excited for the football game he will be attending, he can share with God his excitement and turn it into a prayer of gratefulness. After all, prayer is about building a relationship with your creator, so don’t be afraid to share all of yourself with him. St. Peter Julian Eymard encourages us to be natural in our piety. He would even discourage the use of books during meditation if it prevents us from really being genuine with God. He says, “...our Lord wants our heart and not that of someone else’s.”
Our lives are so full. We are constantly busy, rushing, stressing, and being fearful about something, even if it is a small matter. We work hard at putting on and wearing masks and veneers to keep people from seeing how messed up we really are. Most of us want to hide the real pain and confusion that fills us. But be assured that God does not want you to be that guarded with him. He already knows everything that is in your heart, so why not share it all with him in the manner that fits you best. Most of the time, my prayer life might resemble a casual stroll in nature. To an onlooker, it may seem that I am out getting my exercise and jamming to my music. But in reality, I am having a heart wrenching conversation with the only person who can read the inner workings of my heart and mind. I need my moments in nature to set my mind and will back in line with God’s. My best, most focused, and fervent prayer times happen in tennis shoes on a dirt trail. I’m not kneeling before an altar or studying my Bible. I'm singing, crying, arguing, and finally finding resolution with the great lover of my soul. My favorite “chapel” is the one God created with his own hands.
Find what works for you. It might vary from day to day and year to year, but make it your own. When you do, you will find that missing key you have been searching for.