Chaos in choir as our brethren sang community prayers in Grenada ! To their alarm they saw a land crab scuttling between their feet. Fearing it would nip their toes they hastily lifted their legs from the ground. They were not sufficiently agile to leap onto their seats.
This incident got me thinking. How should we cope with interruptions and distractions when we are trying to pray ? Certainly the crab had to be put outside the chapel for the safety of the brethren’s toes. Is that how we should treat the distractions we all have when we pray ?
What are distractions ? I suppose they are the interests of our daily lives which really hold our attention, but which intrude into our prayers. They may be trivial or momentous, joyful or sorrowful. To consider them as distractions means they have nothing to do with God and that we should only pray about godly, religious matters.
Everything else is a distraction, and, like the crab, should not be allowed into church, or, ejected as quickly as possible. This sounds fine until we realise that this approach excludes God from all activities except the short time we spend in prayer. God is shunted into a backwater, well clear of the mainstream of our daily lives. It suggests that our daily interests and concerns have nothing to do with God. He is confined to a brief god-slot of prayer, hermetically sealed from the outside world. That doesn’t seem right.
Let’s see if there’s a better way of coping with so called ‘distractions.’ These are what really grab our attention and hold our interest. God is interested in everything that concerns us. So, instead of driving away these distractions let’s bring them into our prayers. If we share everything with a trusted friend, why not God ?
This way our distractions will disappear, as they become part of our prayers. We can thank and ask him to bless all that is good in our daily lives. We can ask him to heal and forgive all that is bad. If we are suffering we can identify with the crucified Christ, who shared our pain and was able to draw good out of evil. We can and should pray about our temptations, honestly telling God about them and asking his help in coping with them. We can see that all our joys and longings will find their fulfilment in the kingdom of heaven. Praying about our ‘distractions’ will help us get our pre-occupations into perspective, God’s perspective. This way we bring our whole selves before God and get him involved in all that we are, all that we do.
This approach is very different from simply day dreaming about whatever interests us. That’s not prayer. To turn our distractions into prayer we must relate them to God. That can require a bit of ingenuity and imagination. But with practice we will get the knack. It’s worth giving it a try. You will find that everything can be related, one way or another, to God and is summed up in the Mass.
Isidore Clarke O.P.