Prayer in its true light is a line of communications which we must keep open between ourselves and God. Prayer is a channel through which our love flows to God and God's love back to us. The meaning of the definition of prayer is "a lifting of the mind and heart to God' and the words are the least important element in prayer.
For most of us the big prayer-problem is that of distractions. Whether at Mass or during our rosary or our morning or night prayers, always it seems that we start out with good intentions, then suddenly find ourselves halfway through our prayers without any recollection of how we got so far. This is not so surprising if we have come to prayer with a mind full of worry, some great anxiety oppressing us or some major decision facing us.
But the truth is that so often our distractions are concerned with such trivialities, ridiculous at least compared with the majesty of God in Whose presence we stand. "What shall I get for dinner today......I wonder if I should get a new dress for that dinner party next week.....I must take the kids to the dentist......hope Joe is in a better mood when he comes home..." Not the best of thoughts are they, as maybe we kneel with down cast eyes for our thanksgiving after Holy Communion.
The truth is that mental concentration is tiring, and the mind seeks to relax, seeks to escape. Some people have greater powers of concentration than others, but for the average person the attention spam is comparatively short. This means that prayer is hard work. It means that even the best of us will have trouble disciplining our thoughts so that we can give undivided attention to God.
We know that God does not expect the impossible of anyone. To pray well it is necessary only that we have the intention to pray, that we eliminate avoidable distractions (turn off the TV!), that we do direct our mind and heart to God as well as we can, and bring our mind back to God when we discover it wandering.
Not long ago a young mother called on me. I had known her as a girl but had not seen her for some years. She had gone out of her way to pay me this visit, and I was both touched and pleased at this evident fondness for her old pastor. Lacking a baby sitter, she had brought her three small children with her. They had the natural restlessness of children and our conversation was interrupted constantly by her efforts to keep the youngsters from pulling over a lamp or handling the bric-a-brac, by getting them a drink or taking them to the toilet. Actually her attention was on the children oftener than on me. Yet the very fact of her coming to see me in spite of such difficulties, gave evidence of the warmth of her feeling. When she left, shooing her three little distractions ahead of her, she left behind a bit of brightness for the rest of the day.
Similarly when we undertake to visit with God, we may spend a good part of our prayer time, perhaps most of it, in chasing after our restless, vagrant thoughts. The amount of actual attention that God gets may be small. Yet God is pleased with our efforts, pleased with our honest intention to talk with him. Indeed, the harder it is for us to pray, the more pleasing to God our prayer may be.
It is as though we said (and sometimes we can say nothing else) "Dear God, I do so want to talk to You of my love for You, of my trust in You and of my gratitude to You. I do so want to tell You of my needs and then quietly listen as You answer me with You guidance and with Your strengthening love. But You can see that my mind just will not follow my will. I kneel in Your presence and all I can do is to keep chasing after my wandering thoughts. Please God, let my very distractions tell You that I love You."
There is no dishonor to God in a prayer such as this.
Source: Fr. Leo J. Tresse