“Who am I kidding?” I said after 20 minutes of sitting still. I had my journal, my bible, my Divine Office but all in vain. Not one of these could stop my wandering mind. At one point, I set them all aside and sat there gazing at the glimmering red Sanctuary light, counting its strokes as the flame danced around the enclosed glass casing. Turning my attention toward the golden Tabernacle adorned with a delicately embroidered cloth, I waited, expecting Jesus to simply sweep me away from my distractions while adding a bit of grace in the process. It seemed fair, I mean after all I didn’t plan on coming to Adoration with a bag of intellectual distractions. It just happened . . . “Oh no,” I said to myself: “here we go again,” and plunging head first I dove right back into my pool of thoughts.
Silence does not always guarantee silence, does it?
I could almost hear Jesus say: “you have an intellect, you already determined that after its wandering spree. But have you considered your will?”. That was my cue to reexamine the honest effort I put into reeling my thoughts back in. I have to admit some of these thoughts were entertaining and others were logically helpful for future planning. Some introduced me to past conflict, others recalled recent conversations. Any effort of bringing them back into submission was far from being made.
How easily I allowed myself to bask in my weak resolve. I choose distraction over heavenly attraction; temporary happiness over lasting joy; limited pleasure over eternal delight. Jesus cannot be promised my heart only to be taken away seconds later. The faculties of the mind are functions that have the capacity of animating themselves at any given moment but when the heart gives an impulse to the will and informs it of its true longing, its real desires, these faculties can be subdued. Sitting in prayer and ruminating over God’s Mercy in past lived experiences is not all bad but when the filter of grace is taken away and the flood comes rushing in it can become an uncontrollable river of emotional distraction. If the peace of heart is disturbed and God’s presence suddenly takes the back seat it is a SURE sign that the mind has taken over and the heart has halted from its enjoyment in the current of dialogue it was immersed in.
I quickly learned that fighting these distractions, especially if they are sinful in nature, only makes them linger on. God is present and ready to receive them I had to remind myself of that. The battle is never fought alone! Jesus is waiting for our permission to take these images of the mind, these thoughts of past experience, present passions, and future longings, and tame them. The elevation of the heart can trigger this kind of abandonment of the mind. Instead of trying to suppress the intellect we can acknowledge its hold on us and offer it to Christ who purifies and redirects its every intention.
“Christ does not force our will, He takes only what we give him. But he does not give himself entirely until he sees that we yield ourselves entirely to him.” – Saint Teresa of Avila.
There is no shame in recognizing our weakness in self-control during prayer. This humble recognition is a grace and it is the key for growth in virtue. I will never forget the advice I received during one of my visits to the confessional: “whenever you enter into prayer, the first thing you should always do is abandon yourself to Christ . . .” “and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22