The other day, I had a rather embarrassing breakdown while praying the Rosary. I was alone in my bedroom, muttering Hail Marys and trying with every ounce of my will to concentrate—but to no avail. In the few moments when my mind didn’t wander, I would hear noise from throughout the house that would draw me out of my attempted meditation. At every distraction, I would chastise myself and get discouraged, punishing myself for my short attention span. I wound up throwing a total temper tantrum—complete with tears, shouts and foot stamping. I found myself wondering why I bother trying to pray in the first place. I thought that God expected me to be patient, holy and focused every time I went to Him in prayer.
What my struggle with the Rosary has taught me was that I really cannot achieve anything on my own. I wanted so much to pray with the fervor and focus of a Saint, and when I did not accomplish that, I whined and cried about it. In that moment of frustration, I lost sight of what was truly important—my relationship with Jesus and His Immaculate Mother. I really don’t need to have it all together before going to them in prayer! Being a polite “adult,” I usually try to hide any of my negative emotions from others. Since I cannot fool God or His Mother, prayer often unveils my true spiritual, emotional, and psychological state—and often it isn’t pretty!
After reading all this, I’m likely the last person you would want giving you advice on praying the Rosary. I will list the small changes I’ve recently made in my prayer life to help me focus more (and if you have any suggestions, please add them in the comment box below!). This list is more or less a compilation of advice I’ve received from various books and blogs.
- Breathe. This is probably the easiest to do. Breathe in between words, pause between prayers… basically slow it all down and focus on praying well, not simply praying enough.
- Light a candle. I like to have something to focus on while praying, and as I learned in Children’s Liturgy, the flame reminds us of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Engage more of your senses. We need tangible signs to remind us of the unseen spiritual reality that transcends much of the human experience. During the Rosary, I’ve taken to lighting a rose scented candle with which I may associate prayer time. Playing soft instrumental music or holding textured Rosary beads may also help ground you in the meditation.**
- Allow scripture to guide you. The whole Rosary is a meditation on the life of Jesus—moments which happen to be documented in a very popular Book that you probably have at home.
- Ad Lib a little bit (I promise I didn’t make this up). You can add a statement about Jesus, the “blessed fruit” of Mother Mary’s womb! It can relate to the mystery you are praying, such as:
“Hail Mary, Full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, Who rose from the dead. Holy Mary, mother of God…”
Or if you are particularly troubled by something, you can add an affirmation of Jesus’ goodness, faithfulness and generosity:“Hail Mary, Full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, Who heals the sick. Holy Mary, mother of God…”
It is important to remember the purpose of prayer: to have a conversation with God. If there is something distracting you, God knows what it is and He wants to help you through it! Nothing is irrelevant when it comes to your relationship with Jesus and our Lady—they both wish to hear from you… in decades!
**If these sounds or objects only serve as a further distraction, try something else. Some of these suggestions may be more helpful for some than for others. What is important is to remain confident in God’s gentleness and mercy, and to always be in awe of His majesty—especially during meditative prayer.
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