Dealing With An Unfocused Prayer Life

by Natasha Wong

If you have struggled with prayer, you are not alone! How many times have you tried to pray…especially at night, before you sleep and oh dear, it is the next morning already!

Let us do an activity – when you imagine someone praying, what comes to mind?

For myself, I envision a person on their knees, by their bedside, in full concentration with their eyes closed, praying.

What do you visualize when you imagine a person in prayer?

Expectations and Disappointments

From the exercise we have done, these visualizations subconsciously make up the expectations we have for ourselves in prayer. Our ‘ideal’ state – to be so fully in communion, away from distractions that we can hear the voice of God so clearly in reply to us.

Being human, we have expectations of what outcomes we wish to have before taking part in an activity. In prayer, we have expectations of God’s revelation, a tangible encounter, an audible reply. However, inadvertently, sometimes we place ourselves at the helm of our ship – desiring an outcome and wishing to attain it, by our means of prayer. After countless tries of trying to communicate with Him, nothing – and we are tempted to give up. When we form these expectations, we tend to limit ourselves and set the “maximum” of what prayer can be for us, in turn also limiting how much we allow God to transform us as well.

The antidote to prayer-lessness
You guessed it right! It is to persevere through prayer! Praying is a choice, to say yes Jesus, I recognize that you are the true living God, You have never left my side even when I do not feel like You are there, and because You are always present, I want to recognize that You are here!

Prayer is hard for us and Christ knows this. He knows the fundamental struggle us humans have with faith. That trust in God to take that leap and believe in the hope that prayer has that divine value so that we do not think we are talking to ourselves. He still tells us to pray, because “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29)”, in fact, he teaches us to pray as well through the Lord’s Prayer.

Patience, trust, and pixie dust
It is difficult to grasp, and often harder to persevere.

Sometimes we cannot see the fruits of prayer until we reflect upon them, usually in hindsight, sometimes the fruits are so subtly attained that we may not be aware of having them!

For example, when praying the rosary over time may seem less of a “chore”, the fruits of these may be patience and perseverance.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3)”

The disposition of humility is so important when we pray. It is essential to recognize that we do not know how to pray, and it is only through God’s grace that we learn how to. We cannot control or expect to control what comes to us in prayer, for God works in such wondrous and mysterious ways. We can however, prepare our hearts to receive whatever is to come in our time of prayer, be it silence, an image or even a sweeping revelation.

Expect everything, anything, and nothing at all in prayer then, to be wholly surrendered to His will, indifferent to the outcomes but sensitive to the truth that God is always with you at every moment.

How to pray? 3 simple ways to get you started
1. Pray The Rosary

Mother Mary is amazing! The rosary has long been called the Sword of faith because Our Lady is the Queen of Heaven and she has such amazing love for her children, like you and me, that she is right by our side when we call to her.

If you struggle with concentrating on the meditations or do not know where to begin, here is a good Spotify playlist to pray with when you are on the train to work or school.

2. Divine OfficeHow beautiful it is to begin your day with prayers and readings prayed by the entire Catholic church in a ceaseless global prayer? Begin your day with lauds and end your night with compline, and hey, how about grab a prayer buddy to pray with each other every day?  More information on the divine office can be found here.

3. Journal

Keep track of your prayer life, sometimes God flings at us so many truths that we cannot simply place them in our memory, these treasures may fade into non-existence and when we really need to be reminded of them, where would they be? Your journal is a treasure chest of truths that God has curated especially for you, unique to your struggles and life. Reflecting on the daily gospel and writing them down helps to shed light on how much you have grown in your faith journey.

My life, and my prayer life
There is a subconscious dichotomy of ‘my life’ and ‘my prayer life’, the pursuit for authenticity of being a Christian in this day and age is often mired by the demands and circumstances we face in our lives. In our vocation as students, working adults, etc.,  it may seem the priorities of our duties take precedence over things like prayer.

“The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive” – St Irenaeus

Every moment of our lives is a gift from God, the fact that we are living, breathing and able to read this article from our devices, is an unmerited gift we have from the Father. Furthermore, prayer is a response to His graces and blessings, in thanksgiving, in recognizing his presence in our lives and activities, and as an offering to God for His glory. St Teresa of Calcutta so beautifully sums up what a ‘prayer life’ is – “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love”.

The call for us to reconcile our lives with our prayer life is to recognize that there is no difference between the two. In fact, the only difference is that one life recognizes that each action, each word spoken, each ordinary activity that we deem as irrelevant to faith, can be a prayer to God.

Let’s take this opportunity to pray!
Dear Lord, I thank you for the gift of life, I thank you for being by my side, I offer up to you my week ahead and pray for perseverance and strength to be reminded of your everlasting love for me, so that I may love you more and more every day. Amen.

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