Yesterday after having put our son down for the night, my wife and I decided to pray the rosary before going to sleep ourselves. During prayer ( and this is never an isolated incidence ) there are many distractions that often plague us. Some distractions differ depending upon the person but here are some we experienced yesterday:
Yawning and Lethargy: In the middle of praying the Rosary out loud I could not stop yawning. So much so that I pulled a muscle ( or something snapped ) in my ear causing me a moment of pain and I had to ask my wife to stop for a second and the return to the prayer. That’s it isn’t it? have you ever had this? You begin to feel very tired, almost as if you had just had too much to eat ( which also causes lethargy ) but you are aware that previous to praying you had not just digged into a big meal but were wide awake. This is of course the enemy who has unleashed the demons upon us in order to do all he can to stop us from praying Our Lady’s Rosary or Jesus Prayer. Ok so he is failing at that tactic and you continue to pray so what next?
Bad or useless thoughts: Here the enemy distracts us with sinful thoughts or likes to remind us of our past sins and incidents from the past we would never have guessed suddenly rising from the muddiness of the dark waters within our subconscious begin to come to the surface and forefront of our minds. Then come the thoughts such as: ”How will I manage to pay the Electricity bill?” or ”What was that noise? I hope nobody is breaking into my house” or it could be ”I wonder if I locked the car door after coming in earliar”. Of course these useless distracting thoughts can occur when not in prayer but they become more vivid and active in prayer as opposed to being in a situation where we are not contemplating God.Ok so we return to our prayer and keep praying. Whats his next tactic? hmmm
Good and Holy Thoughts: Oh the cleverness and wiliness of the devil becomes even more clever than we think now huh?. Sometimes we even get ( what looks like ) good and holy thoughts during prayer. We begin to see Jesus or speak to Jesus or Our Lady in our thoughts whilst we ( sort of like a mantra ) just babble the words of the devotional prayer from our lips. We have now lost all concentration upon the prayer itself and are now concentrating on these thoughts. But these thoughts are another distraction from the enemy. Do not take me up the wrong way. There is nothing wrong with having Holy Thoughts about holding Jesus or being near him because this is prayer. But when we are already in the form of communication to Our Lady and Jesus through their rosaries this other form of communication is clearly a distraction to keep us from using that one means of communication we already begun. It confuses the whole contemplation of God up and takes us away from our concentration upon the Jesus prayer or Holy Rosary of Our Lady.
The Grand Finale: All of the above can hit those who are aware or unaware of it, it does not matter your situation. But through intensive prayer and by the Grace of God these quickly diminish in their assaults. But those who are not aware of it can often become turned off prayer as such conflicting thoughts can do this to a person. But those who are aware of it can through understanding continue to get hit but pick themselves back up and carry on. And there are times when those too who are aware of these thoughts get turned off and had enough. And this is ok as long as they do their best to return to the prayer itself.
And so the Devils grand finale is to hit you with all three of the above. We then suddenly feel like we are just sitting under a bees nest being stung left right and center, but if we persever Our Lady will heal our wounds when the battle is over.
One Final Note: We also tend to sometimes pray and expect something spectacular to happen. If we do this then we really do open the door for the devil to walk in and deceive us even more. No! we must not pray with expectation but pray with a giving heart and allow God to respond in his own time. And should something spectacular happen then to deny it at first and if it grows stronger than it could well be from God but we must seek out a prayerful priest and spiritual director in order to help us discern it. Is it from God? or is it from myself? or worse …is it from the enemy?
So just like my mother used to say to me when I was young and going out to play with my friends: ”Have a good time but be watchful of the roads and always look to your left and to your right for oncoming traffic.”
the same with prayer. Enjoy prayer for it is indeed the most enjoyable practice but…be watchful at the same time otherwise you might just get run over and something bad happen.
In a nutshell, prayer can be likened to the story of the Prodigal Son in scripture. Sometimes we wander in our thoughts and eat the bad fruit but eventually by the grace of God we will return to our senses and back to saying the prayer.
The Domestic Monk.
p.s If you fail to find a good and Holy priest for spiritual direction might I suggest you read St.John of the Cross books? the Philokalia serves as a great tool also.