Does Anyone Pray Without Distractions?

Lenten Reflections 2015: Readings from Augustine

When people pray, they are crying out to the Lord. If they do it only with their voices and not with hearts intent upon God, who doubts that they do it in vain? If they do it with their hearts, however, even when their voices are silent, then their prayer may be hidden from any other human beings, but it is not hidden from God. Whether we pray aloud, as needed, or silently, we must cry out with our hearts when we pray to God. The heart’s cry greatly concentrates our thoughts, and when it is done in prayer, it expresses how greatly a person desires and pleads that the prayer will not be without effect. We cry out with all our hearts when we are not thinking about other things. For many people such prayers are few and far between; for a few they occur often; whether anyone’s prayer is always like that I don’t know. But that is the kind of prayer commended by the Psalmist when he says: “I have cried out to you with all my heart; hear me, Lord.” (EnPs 118[119]/29, 1; PL 37, 1585)

A word of comfort for us who have a problem with distractions in prayer? Some comfort, I guess, from knowing that very few are capable of it, that maybe no one achieves it. We always want to hold something back from that “with all my heart.”

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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