Author Topic: Focus in Prayer  (Read 536 times)

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Offline JimCBrooklyn

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Focus in Prayer
« on: September 03, 2011, 11:57:40 PM »
Greetings all,
I'm curious what some of you think about this issue, which I know is not unique to me, though I fear it is often excessive in my case.

I often have a very hard time maintaining anything like focus during prayer, especially during longer prayers, like preparation for Holy Communion. My mind wanders a LOT, I think of other things, think about how I shouldn't think of other things, think of them more, feel bad about it more, think about how my back hurts (I do have some fairly significant back issues...), in a couple different places, how long this is taking, and then realize I haven't digested the last page I read, and get more frustrated, etc.

This isn't always, but when it happens, I hate it. I yearn to be able to obtain a much deeper level of prayer, or at least to consistently be very engaged in all of my prayers. Any thoughts from people who have struggled with this?

In Christ, Jim
It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.
-Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Offline PrincessMommy

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2011, 12:19:49 AM »
I think it is expected and not unusual.   I remember reading in one book that one of the Athonite Elders (Paisios??) said it was like buzzing bees flying around our head during prayer time.  That about sums it up for me.

Offline augustin717

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2011, 04:48:14 AM »
I'm on the level where I pray as I breath and see the taboric light, so, sorry, I can't relate.

Offline JimCBrooklyn

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2011, 09:33:32 AM »
I think it is expected and not unusual.   I remember reading in one book that one of the Athonite Elders (Paisios??) said it was like buzzing bees flying around our head during prayer time.  That about sums it up for me.
Right.

I don't have unreasonable expectations here, though. I'm not trying to attain anything like perfection, or total calm; I'm just wondering if any of you have managed any ways, when it's one of those really bad times, to quiet it down a bit?
It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.
-Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Offline myrrhbear

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2011, 09:22:10 PM »
I'm just now reading a chapter in the book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil, by Archimandrite Meletios Webber who addresses this. Very interesting how the mind works! He writes that we should acknowledge and accept the distractions and they will cease to be distractions. I think he means to not become annoyed with distractions and just let them pass on through. Perhaps the others who post here can explain it better than I.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Offline biro

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2011, 09:47:07 PM »
That happens to me too, especially at liturgy. I just try to concentrate on the voice of the chanter, and that helps bring me back into focus.
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Offline FormerReformer

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2011, 10:28:09 PM »
I'm on the level where I pray as I breath and see the taboric light, so, sorry, I can't relate.

Can I have a picture of you for my icon corner?  :P

To the OP- myrhhbear's on the right track. Basically the point is to ignore the thoughts- they will pop in there regardless, just let them float through and do not engage. It's like the proverbial pink elephant- the more you try not to think of one the more he sticks around. Remain vigilant, if you realize you haven't actually read anything you've been "reading" re-read it, but don't maintain your focus on the fact you've been distracted.

In a way the time of prayer is much like a microcosm of life- you most likely will sin, the same sin, over and over. Keep repenting, when you fall get back up, when you drift recenter, but above all don't despair.
"Funny," said Lancelot, "how the people who can't pray say that prayers are not answered, however much the people who can pray say they are."  TH White

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Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2011, 10:35:41 PM »
I had the same problem, generally with stuff popping into my head that wasn't relevant to the prayers, but which I didn't want to forget either (sometimes important, like a phone call I forgot to make; sometimes unimportant, like an idea for a thread on oc.net). Eventually I just decided to keep a notepad and pen close by. I suppose that would horrify many, that I would stop my prayers to write down something, but it was the lesser of two evils. As it was, I would get these things in my head, and I would try to push them "to the back" (so to speak), such that they didn't interfere with my prayers, but I would still remember it afterwards. Never worked. Generally it just distracted me for several minutes, and then once I finally got past it I would totally forget it. So I would get screwed twice over. Now I just take 5 seconds to write it down, and then forget about it; it'll be there on paper when I'm done. Of course, it helps that I'm praying alone. Hopefully I will eventually have less of an issue with the problem...
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Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Re: Focus in Prayer
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2011, 10:43:13 PM »
While I was reading preparation prayers last night I spent almost the whole time thinking about a nice new arrangement for my icon corner. Anything to avoid concentrated prayer, it seems.

This is totally common and not something to beat yourself up about. Just accept that it comes, and try your best to accept it. Usually for me if I keep praying for about 30 minutes it seems that I have a breaking point where I begin to fly. I think that the demons get frustrated after a while and figure out that I'm going to keep reading no matter what they do, so eventually they just give up and leave me alone. Then, at times, I feel free and almost weightless. The prayers begin to take over.

My most practical suggestion is to not eat or drink much for a while before you pray. I seem to pray better on an empty stomach.