Whether we are beginning our personal prayer time, settling in to reading Scripture, or coming before the Lord at Mass, it’s always a good idea to take a few moments to focus our hearts. We can take our cue from the desert fathers or the long line of monks and nuns who have spent hours in prayer.
Step 1. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths.
Step 2. Tell yourself that it’s time to seek the Lord. Remind yourself that your other concerns and anxieties can wait a few minutes; you can take them up again after you’ve prayed. If some recent event or small sin begins to bother you, repent quickly and turn your mind back to the Lord.
Step 3. Find a way to focus your attention. If you are at Mass, try gazing at the crucifix. If you are pondering Scripture, you can focus on a short verse from the passage you are reading. If you are in prayer, you can repeat the name of Jesus as you picture him in your mind. Whatever you do, focus on just that activity, not on the thoughts you are trying to put aside. They’ll only distract you more!
Step 4. Keep this practice up until your mind comes into focus. You’ll probably find yourself breathing a little easier. You may find yourself relaxing a little more. You may even find yourself smiling a little more broadly!
Don’t worry if it takes a little while for you to focus your heart. It’s not always easy, especially in times of great stress or anxiety. Don’t even worry if you don’t feel successful in calming your mind. Remember the divine exchange. You have just offered yourself to the Lord, and he has responded by giving you his peace.