Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wandering Thoughts during Prayer

by St. Theophan the Recluse (from Letter 31)

Thoughts wander when one is reading spiritual works and during prayer. What should one do? No one is free from this. There is no sin in it, only vexation. Having wandering thoughts becomes a sin when one willingly allows flightiness of mind. But if thoughts scatter involuntarily, what fault can there be? There is fault, though, when one notices thoughts wandering and, taking no action, one wanders along with them. When we catch our thoughts wandering off, we must bring them back to their proper place at once.

To be free from the tendency to have wandering thoughts during prayer, one must concentrate and pray with warmth. Before prayer, one should prepare for such an effort by making prostrations and by a moment of reflection.

Accustom yourself to pray your own prayers. For instance: it is the essence of evening prayer to thank God for the day and everything that happened, both pleasant and unpleasant; to ask forgiveness for all wrongs committed, promising to improve during the next day; and to pray that God preserve you during sleep. Express all this to God from your mind and from your whole heart.

The essence of morning prayer is to thank God for sleep, rest and regained strength and to pray that He will help us do everything to His glory. Express this to Him with your mind and with your whole heart. Along with such prayers in the morning and evening, present your greatest needs to the Lord, especially spiritual needs. Besides spiritual needs, present your worldly cares, saying to Him as would a child: “See, O Lord, my sickness and weakness! Help and heal!” All this and the like can be spoken before God in your own words, without the use of a prayer book. Try this and, if it works, you may leave the prayer book altogether; but if not, you must pray with the prayer book, otherwise you might end up with no prayer at all.


  1. Are there verses in the bible that correlate with wandering thoughts during prayer?

    This one list. Maybe you can find others. Talking with a God demands our full attention and many of the characters in the Bible had the kind of faith that allowed them to receive His grace for total concentration on God Himself.


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