Pope Francis continued his catechesis on prayer at his weekly General Audience in the Vatican on Wednesday, May 19, by urging the faithful to overcome the difficulties in praying.
“Praying is not easy: many difficulties present themselves in prayer. It is necessary to know them, recognize them and overcome them,” he said.
The pontiff identified three challenges that people often experience in prayer: distraction; feelings of dryness or barrenness; and “acedia,” or listlessness.
He said “distraction” is a common experience, not only in prayer but in everything that people do.
“The human mind finds it difficult to dwell for long on a single thought,” he said. “We all experience this constant whirlwind of images and illusions in perpetual motion, which accompany us even in our sleep,” added the pope.
He said everyone should fight distractions because one cannot do anything if it’s present. “To do so, we must embrace the Gospel virtue of perseverance,” he said.
Meanwhile, to overcome “aridity” or “dryness” in prayer, on can rely on “pure faith,” said the pope.
“Often we do not know what the reasons for barrenness are: it may depend on ourselves, but also on God, who permits certain situations in the outer or inner life,” he said.
“The heart must be open and luminous, so that the light of the Lord can enter. And if it does not enter, wait for it, with hope. But do not close it up in grayness,” added the pontiff.
“Listlessness,” or sloth, meanwhile, “is a real temptation against prayer, and more generally against Christian life,” said the pope.
He described it as a form of depression due to “lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, and carelessness of heart” and “is fueled by conceit, and can lead to the death of the soul.”
“All the saints have passed through this ‘dark valley,’” he said.
“We must learn to remain constant in prayer,” he said, adding that “believers never stop praying.”
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