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.
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.
Posted by TLW at 9:39 AM