Franciscan Spirit Blog

When Praying Is Difficult

Woman praying outside

As Catholic Christians, we know that we are called to be people who pray. As a matter of fact, through our earliest years, we have been taught to pray.

Most of us remember repeating prayers our parents taught us when we were very young as they sat on the edge of the bed. At first, we didn’t know exactly what we were saying but soon understood that we were talking to God and asking him to bless all those who were dear to us…. including our pets that were basically part of the family anyway.

We learned formal prayers as we got older, especially as we prepared for our first Holy Communion. We sang hymns in Church, which, in fact, were often prayers of faith and adoration of the Lord. We learned to pray an act of contrition when we approached the sacrament of confession. We prayed before meals and for our deceased when we gathered for funerals of dear loved ones. And we probably all remember praying fervently, no matter what age we were or are, when faced with a crisis or threat of some sort. In a word, prayer is part and parcel of our lives as believers. And even those who seemingly drift away probably still pray at times, though they may feel sheepish about it.

Lack of Good Feeling Can Lead to Discouragement

But let’s consider what we all run into from time to time in our journey from here to eternity. It’s the feeling that we no longer seem able to pray or that our prayers don’t really mean much or may even seem to lack sincerity. Perhaps it’s because we, for some reason or other, feel “distant” from God. Perhaps we entered a struggle with some old sin that makes us feel unworthy of the Lord, and we think, “Well, I better shape up before I pray.

If I prayed the way I feel now, it would seem like an insult to God.” Not at all. It is unfortunate that we so often feel we must move away from God before we sit down and talk with him. Perhaps there is no attraction to prayer when we believe we have to feel something when we pray. I’m not talking about great thrills or ecstasy, but for heaven’s sake, shouldn’t there be just a little good feeling inside when all I feel is blah?

Prayer Is Simply Talking to God

First of all, we have to remind ourselves that prayer is simply talking to God. Prayer is not determined by grammar or vocabulary; it is not measured in terms of length and creativity. It is simply speaking to God no matter what condition we are in! It may be a simple cry, “Help, Lord, I’m in trouble!” It may be simple plea, “Lord, I need you” or “Lord, I’m all messed up.”

It may be a simple word of thanks and gratitude for something good that has happened; it may be an awareness of some blessing we have forgotten about. It may be an expression of gratitude: “Oh, God, you are so good to me.”

All those simple expressions come from the heart, can be spontaneous and are indeed prayers. Remember, God made us for himself. He knows we need him. We can’t be happy without him. Wealth, fame, pleasure, power can never finally satisfy us.

One of the most precious moments we have for prayer is when we receive the Eucharist at Mass. Imagine, we have the eucharistic Jesus in our hand or on our tongue, the same Jesus we heard about in the gospel that has just been read. What an opportunity that is to pray for our families (“Lord, take care of them”); to ask forgiveness for our failings (“I’m sorry, Lord, for hurting you in what I said to my friend”); to ask, thank or praise Jesus who died for us and rose to promise us eternal life (“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will never die” [Jn 6:51]).

Distractions Do Not Detract from Prayer

I want to mention something that is very important in prayer. At Mass, or even in private times when we may sit and talk with the Lord, we can find our minds filled with distractions, wandering all over the place. We can be discouraged because even though we intend to pray we seem weak in our efforts. Remember, prayer is in the heart, not the head.

When we find ourselves distracted, we don’t fight them, we simply “drop away” and try again to be conscious of God’s presence to us and in us. And this may happen many times. It does not matter.

The times we are distracted does not mean that our prayer time is wasted. Prayer is in the heart and intention and therefore the time we give to the Lord in prayer, whether it is with the rosary or in church before Mass or perhaps at a time of quiet prayer when we are alone. Whatever it is, if it is our desire to pray, then it is prayer in spite of distractions and worries. God is always looking at our heart.

Perhaps you’ve felt unable to pray because you fear you can’t do it perfectly or think your efforts are not worth it or even pleasing to the Lord. Let me assure you that your desire is itself pleasing to God. God can read and understand your heart perfectly. He loves you.


10 thoughts on “When Praying Is Difficult”

    1. Watching the Franciscan in the video above and hearing his talk about prayer was worthwhile.

      Speaking of prayer, it’s been said that to sing is to pray twice. St. John Paul II said, “To be converted is to pray continuously and never lose heart.” Another thing I know about prayer is that is has to be regular. In other words, going to Mass on a frequent basis matters. All of those things the Franciscan mentions in the video are forms of prayer too. I like to think about God when I’m out exercising.

    2. George Pozesky III

      Wow. I Needed to read that. That was very helpful and me feel better. It’s in your heart, not your head… Thank God.

  1. As one who struggles with my perceived lack of “quality” in my prayer, this reflection gave me a better perspective. Thank you.

  2. I needed to see this about prayer, now. I was aware of some, felt it, but really needed to see it now. Thank God and you, blessings to all, especially those most in need now

  3. Thanks, this expresses what am going through for some time now since 2021 and i have been wondering if I am okay,I wont give up even when distracted lift my heart to God and keep in mind i am in His presence

  4. Great talk on prayer. It inspired me to not give up on prayer, however sometimes I do feel like it is just words without sincerity. I do think about God a lot during the day but never realized that those thoughts were actually prayers.Thank you so much for your insight and inspiration.

  5. I really could relate to this in so many ways. Thank you for this piece which brought me more peace about my prayer life. I liked the comments about prayers after receiving the Eucharist. I try to stay focused and not watch and look at others as they are walking back after receiving, and I will continue to work hard at focusing and remembering all those who may benefit from my reception of our Lord in communion.

  6. Thanks! Going through a difficult time trying to concentrate on my prayers. Felt guilty about the challenge I felt when trying to concentrate. I will now be more at peace with my prayer life.

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