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 | By Michael St. Pierre, Ed.D.


Giving God Our Full Attention

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and saw their eyes darting all around, paying attention to everything but you? Distraction is a reality for all of us. We want to be “in the moment,” but find it hard to do so.

Why is that?

We could pin the blame on social media or the 24/7 news cycle. We know the battle for our attention is fierce, and it is big business.

These external forces can also impact our interior lives, making us less focused when we pray. We may get to Mass a few minutes early and yet find it difficult to still our minds. We may pray the rosary and forget which bead we are on. We may find that, in a holy hour, a few minutes of silence feels like an eternity.

There is no question that distraction is something we all wrestle with in prayer. In the previous column, we discussed the first habit of prayerful people, which is Passion and Pursuit.

The second habit, Presence, answers the question, “How can I give my full attention to God when I pray?”

To be more fully present to God, you must carve out a regular time for daily prayer. Don’t rely on willpower alone, as it will wax and wane depending on your physical energy or the number of items on your plate. By adding a bit of intention to your daily prayer time, you will be able to train your mind and heart, telling both that “this is prayer time.” The rest of the day can wait. This habit can then be replicated at various times later in the day, recalling when you least expect it a word from Scripture or the awareness of God’s presence.

Second, when you pray, share with God what’s on your mind. Do this especially at the beginning of your prayer time. If it matters to you, it matters to God. Talk to the Lord about your anxieties and concerns. Simply hand them over to God, not withholding anything. This process gets these aspects of your life, albeit temporarily, off your mind so you can better pray with a sense of focus.

Finally, employ the power of a prayerful pause. Your prayer time may be filled with Bible reading, intercessory prayer or even the use of a journal. Give yourself permission to go slowly, daydream, look out the window and then gently return to prayer. Prayer is an experience of intimacy with God, of sharing your life with him.

In his book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People: A No-Excuses Guide to Strengthening Your Relationship with God (Ave Maria Press), Mike St. Pierre gives practical tips to build up your prayer life – one day at a time.

Michael St. Pierre, Ed.D. is the executive director of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, the founder of Nonprofit Productive and the author of The Five Habits of Prayerful People: A No-Excuses Guide to Strengthening Your Relationship with God.