Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aids to Help Remain Focused at Prayer

This is really one of those "do as I say, not as I do" posts because this a topic that befuddles me the same as everyone else.  Sometimes, I can remain remarkably focused and at others?  Well,  as I commented over at Abbey Roads a few months back, it amazes me that the human mind can simultaneously repeat the words of a familiar prayer AND think about what's for dinner, what I forgot to do at work, etc.  A lot of times I feel like I SAY my prayers rather than PRAY them.  St. Therese struggled especially with private recitation of the Rosary, and knowing that, we should never get discouraged and give up.  Prayer is exercise for the soul, and no one goes out and runs a marathon without having first trained and conditioned themselves for it.

Here are some aids I have employed that I think helped me.

Divine Mercy Chaplet

All you have to do is a pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news, and you'll find plenty of people to pray for.  Sometimes, when I pray the chaplet, I dedicate each decade to a criminal or some other vile creature in the news who has done something so heinous it's not to be believed.  I pray for that person to accept the Holy Spirit and convert, and I pray for their victims as well, particularly if someone was killed, that God may show the deceased His Mercy.  Another helpful aid is to pray for the souls in Purgatory.  You can offer each decade or even each "for the sake of His Sorrowful Passion" for someone you know who has died.

The Rosary

There are a few things I sometimes do to help me remain focused.  One of my favorites, particularly when praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, is to have an image of Christ suffering before me, whether it be a Crucifix, a picture or a painting.  Likewise, for the other mysteries, having some visual which captures their essence is helpful, like praying before a Nativity or an image of the Risen Christ.

Believe it or not, I find candles to be immensely helpful in aiding concentration.  All it takes is one simple little votive candle that you let your eyes rest upon as you pray.  I am loathe to mentions this here, but it is very true.  Right before I returned to the Catholic faith, I attended an Anglo-catholic church.  It was perfect for me visually speaking because it was dark and had many recesses, etc.  One of the things about it I found most helpful were red hanging votive lamps that descended from the ceiling above the altar.  So, in lieu of those hanging votive lights, I let my eyes rest upon the Sanctuary Lamp, and for reasons known only to God, this aids me in remaining focused.

St. Therese Chaplet

You might think that given my great love for The Little Flower, I might be able to pray her chaplet with the greatest concentration, but you would be mistaken.  One of the things I use to help myself is to try to recall her childhood from Story of a Soul and thank the Blessed Trinity for something extraordinary she did or impressed upon someone else at that age.  For instance, at the start of the chaplet, I try to recall some thing that Blessed Zelie said or recalled about her, or perhaps some sad event, such as Therese being sent away to be nursed, etc.  Then, as I work my way throughout the rest of her life, it becomes easier, such as recalling her Christmas Eve conversion or her entrance into the Carmel.  You could apply a similar method to any chaplet.


  1. Oh, lots of good stuff here! Thanks, Joyce.

  2. I have often thought churches should be darker in the pew area with light directed towards the alter area. It would help me to focus rather than be distracted by everything around me.

  3. "it amazes me that the human mind can simultaneously repeat the words of a familiar prayer AND think about what's for dinner, what I forgot to do at work, etc. A lot of times I feel like I SAY my prayers rather than PRAY them."

    See, that's why I don't care for repeatitive prayer sets. I drift and lose my concentration. That's why I have a set of six prayers that I say (Our Father, Hail mary, Glory Be, Act of Contrition, Fatima Prayer, and my version of an Act of Love). I try to focus on every word so that I mean it. Quality over quantity is what I say. :-D

  4. The Holy Spirit guided me to the
    Rosary even though I am not confirmed
    yet. For 2 months I have been working
    with it and having memorized all the
    prayers it has become a part of me.

    I use an image of the Blessed Virgin
    that I got at St.Jude shop.

    I have experience in Buddhist meditation
    so I am gratefully able to concentrate
    in private prayer, as well as Mass.

    I guess in the Church we call it the,
    "centering", prayer, and it is just
    common mindfulness without any of the
    eastern philosophical trappings.

    I think some Catholics are already doing,
    "mindfulness",practice during the times
    when they adore the blessed sacrament or
    the tabernacle.

    Thanks for your posts, I value the ideas
    that Catholics have in this way because
    I get an understanding of what is going
    on with sacramentals.

  5. Pete, that is great that you are saying the Rosary. This is the prayer that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave us, and it was her explicit request at Fatima that we pray it every day. To me, it is a very sad thing that so many ignore her pleas. The saints themselves sometimes struggled with it. I'm not sure why we think we should only do what's easy and then expect to profit spiritually.


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