While distractions during prayer are normal, it’s important to try to fight them. Here are some tips on what to do with distractions in prayer.

1. Start prayer time by recognizing God’s presence

From St. Ignatius of Loyola to St. Teresa of Ávila, many prayerful saints agree: begin your prayer time by recognizing God’s presence.

Acknowledging God’s presence helps orient our mind, body, and soul toward the One we want to be with. This is especially powerful when in adoration or in front of a tabernacle where Christ is truly present.

If there is no adoration or tabernacle, the Trinity dwells within you as a baptized soul in the state of grace.
 

Adoration - Eucharist in a Monstrance


2. When a distraction first arises, gently return to prayer without fear or guilt.

As fallen creatures, our minds are weak. Distractions are normal. In fact, the Catechism describes them as the “habitual difficulty in prayer.”

We shouldn’t feel guilty for having them. Instead, when we recognize what’s happening we should return to Christ. Oftentimes, this will be the last of that distraction.

3. When a distraction arises again, mention it to God and then gently return to prayer again.

If the same distraction comes up again, feel free to mention it specifically to God. In a conversation with God, we should feel free to share our hearts anyway, our fears, hopes, and desires.

Mentioning a distraction can be another one of those things to calmly share.

4. When a distraction comes up a third time, pray about it with God.

This continuous distraction might reveal something that we should talk to God about. Distractions can at times reveal what we are attached to.

If we are attached to something other than God, there is no better way to fix things than to bring it to God in prayer time.

5. Try to avoid distracting places, times, and postures when praying.

Praying in a loud or distracting place is not a good idea.

Jesus suggests praying in your room by yourself. He also repeatedly shows us how He prayed by often going off alone to pray to His Father in solitude, away from the crowds.

You can also take things up a notch by choosing to do your prayer time during adoration or in a chapel with a tabernacle, relating to tip #1.

Besides locations, try not to pray when you’re too tired, such as very late a night. Also, don’t pray in a posture that is so relaxing that you fall asleep or a posture that is so painful that you can’t focus.
 
Sleeping Along the River
This prayer posture is probably a bad idea.

6. Remember that distractions can be a source of sanctification.

Any temptation that we overcome helps us to grow in virtue. Overcoming the temptation to give into distractions strengthens our minds, helps us to pray in the future, and purifies our love for God.

As tip #4 says, overcoming distractions helps us to overcome what we are attached to. If we can choose God in our minds over created things, our hearts grow in connection to God.

God can use everything in your life to bring you closer to Him if you let him, including your distractions in prayer.

7. Learn about the potential sources of distraction.

We must know that some distractions can actually come from the evil one. The last thing that Satan wants is for you to have good prayer time with God. It goes against everything that he stands for. Instead of losing your peace at this possibility, remember tip #6: God can use Satan’s temptations to help us.

Other distractions can come from us:
  • Distractions due to levity: If we habitually allow any and all types of media into our lives, this will spill over into prayer. Do we allow any type of media into our lives, even if it’s true, good, or beautiful? Do we not have any self-control about how much media we consume? Do we make any time for silence in our lives, or do we fill it with noise instead?
  • Distractions due to passion: If we have negative thoughts like anger, jealousy, or hatred, our heart will follow. We should try to remove negative thoughts and emotions, both inside and outside of prayer time.
  • Distractions due to employments: Our job and any duties associated with our vocation can flood our mind during prayer time. A lot of this is normal and we can fight these distractions with the earlier tips. But, are we attached to our work? Is something disordered? Try bringing this into prayer.
  • Distractions due to weakness: We’re fallen creatures and distractions will come. It’s hard to focus on anything for an extended period of time. These will always arise.
Recognizing where distractions come from can help us prevent them before they ever arise to begin with.