The verdict is guilty. The charge is distraction during prayer.
Last week during the monthly holy hour at my church, Father gave a brief homily after reading from scripture. He talked about being present in body, but having a mind that is elsewhere. It’s not uncommon, not only in prayer but at other times as well, and it’s something that we’re all guilty of doing. Ironically, in the private prayer session before his reading and reflection, I found myself thinking about all the things I had to complete for my current job before starting my new one, and then wondering about what my new job would entail. Father’s words felt like they had hit the target dead center. It was almost like he was reading my mind!
I did feel a bit guilty about my mind wandering while I was at adoration. Here’s Jesus present in the Eucharist and visible in a beautiful monstrance and I was caught up in myself. I can’t even remember how my mind started to wander; it may have been in thanking God for the new job. When I realized where my train of thought was, I did apologize and place all that was consuming me in the Lord’s hands. I want to do my best and wrap things up at my current job to lessen the sting of my leaving. I also want to start out well in the new chapter of my career, one that I believe God had a hand in orchestrating. These are weighty subjects and one can explain away why I was so easily consumed in thinking about them. Just because there are reasons for the distractions however, it does not mean that I should indulge them when they come.
I recall hearing that distractions will occur at prayer, and we should acknowledge them and let them pass, and allow our mind to return to our prayer. Condemning ourselves when we find our minds wandering will not stop it from happening in the future, and may be a cause of stress, worry, and more distraction. Perhaps some of our mind wanderings during prayer could help reveal what we need to bring to God in prayer. Conversing with God is what prayer is all about. If we bring our entire selves to prayer — body, soul, mind, and emotion, it seems only natural that deeper recesses of ourselves will clammer for God’s attention.
God knows us even better than we know ourselves. While He is merciful to us in our distractions, and knows this is part of human nature, I think He blesses us even more when we realize our focus has slipped in prayer and return to seeking Him. He loves us so much He sent His Son so that we can be in communion with Him. If within our busy lives we take the time to still ourselves and be present to Him, our efforts to seek a relationship with Him will have more lasting blessings than any punishment we might give ourselves for being distracted.