I have been away from mental prayer for some time, and I wanted to start drawing near to God again by spending the first fifteen minutes of my day in quiet prayer.
It wasn’t easy. I get distracted by the many thoughts that enter my mind. This includes ideas I could use in writing. The ironic thing is that many of these ideas are about religious topics.
It’s funny how the mind finds it hard to simply be still. Even for a few uninterrupted minutes.
Distraction seems to be the norm of our time. It has shaped how our minds function.
Have you ever noticed how your brain processes information these days?
A simple thought can pop in and you instantly have the urge to do something about it. It could be a question about a trivial thing. But out of curiosity, you find yourself immediately searching for answers over the internet.
It used to be that we could just set aside such thoughts and discard them later on to prioritize doing other things. But since we now live with high-speed internet and computers, we think we can get away with gathering all the information we can find.
Because of this, we can get distracted even if we don’t want to. It’s so hard to get a minute of undiluted silence within our minds.
It’s like getting a habit that is hard to break.
If you have also noticed being distracted in the same way, what are the things you can do to start disciplining your mind?
Here are just some of the things I think we could do to bring back our capacity for stillness in prayer:
1. Learn to put off your curiosities
Make it a habit to avoid following your impulses in seeking information you may not even need. Before searching for something over the internet, ask yourself these questions:
“Is this useful?”
“Is this necessary?”
“Can I just look for this later on?”
Control your appetite for information. Information overload does not make you more productive. It overwhelms your mind and gives you less space for more important things.
2. Focus on the task at hand
Whether it is cooking, washing the dishes or folding the laundry, try to keep your mind focused on what you are doing.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t find moments of quiet reflection while you work.
But it means filtering out your thoughts so you don’t think about unnecessary things.
3. Get used to boredom
Boredom is not a word I grew up with. When I was younger, my sister and I never got bored. We always found things to keep us busy such as making our own toys or creating stories.
These days, however, I often hear this word from younger people. It’s as though we can no longer live in quiet without doing something on our mobile phones.
Set aside some time to live your life without your digital device. You can even go for a walk in nature and simply get used to all that quiet time away from too much information and stimulation.
4. Form a habit of silent prayer
It may not be easy at first, but you can start forming a habit of praying in silence.
Set aside time each day when you could simply sit or kneel before God’s presence. Talk to Jesus and then listen to His response. Even when all you could hear at first is silence.
Train your mind to observe silence and stillness. Keep your gaze upon Jesus.
“God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”- Mother Teresa
Final Thoughts on Prayer and Stillness
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 (NRSVCE)
We need silence for prayer. Silence to keep away the distracting noise of the world and of our own anxieties. Silence to be able to listen well to God.
While we may not immediately succeed in our attempts, we should keep trying again and again and have faith that God will give us the grace to please Him.
Pray unceasingly, and whenever your mind starts to get distracted, bring your thoughts once again towards God.
“If the heart wanders, or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.” – St. Francis de Sales
“Be still, and know that I am God!” – Psalm 46:10 (NRSVCE)
You may also want to read “What Does Our Social Media Addiction Show About Our Spiritual Life?”
Do you have a question for God? You may want to read the book Questions to God.