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How do you stay attentive?

Volnutt

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I sometimes have the problem of going on "autopilot" as I read my prayers. My attention drifts in and out and I sometimes feel like I'm barely "aware" of what I'm reading as I'm reading it. I also find that I sometimes have a problem with rushing through my prayers to "get it over with." This could also apply to while I'm Church, if in slightly different ways.

What are some things that you do to make sure that you keep "meaning it" the whole time and keep your mental presence up as you're reading your prayers? The last thing I want to do is wind up validating the "vain repetitions" stereotype with my own life.
 

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i also suffer this problem in general i just notice my voice going more quiet and soft and snap back to reality and focus on my prayers (not much help sorry!)
 

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Orthodox_Slav said:
i also suffer this problem in general i just notice my voice going more quiet and soft and snap back to reality and focus on my prayers (not much help sorry!)
It's alright. In the end, that might be the only real solution to it lol!
 

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Perhaps try a fixed amount of time of prayer vs. merely getting through a set of prayers.

 

Ainnir

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Memorizing helped me a good bit.  I have to start over sometimes, though--at least a given section; like the prayer of the hours, for example.  Extra Jesus prayers and crossing thrown in when it's particularly bad; it comes and goes.
 

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Somewhere a saint talks about, when going to prayer or worship, imagining that you are standing before an emperor, and how you'd want to make everything perfect, how nothing would draw your mind away from them, how you'd make the most of your time, how you'd fear approaching things flippantly or inattentively, and all that just for a mortal man; then imagine how it must be to stand before the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe. Doesn't really help me much, but it might work for others...
 

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Ainnir said:
Memorizing helped me a good bit.
Memorization hasn't come easily to me...

St. Theophan the Recluse has got my number lol:

Why is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book, and still not have prayer in his heart? I think the reason is that people only spend a little time lifting themselves up to God when they complete their prayer rule, and in other times, they do not remember God. For example, they finish their morning prayers, and think that their relation to God is fulfilled by them; then the whole day passes in work, and such a person does not attend to God. Then in the evening, the thought returns to him that he must quickly stand at prayer and complete his evening rule. In this case, it happens that even if the Lord grants a person spiritual feelings at the time of the morning prayer, the bustle and business of the day drowns them out. As a result, it happens that one does not often feel like praying, and cannot get control of himself even to soften his heart a little bit. In such an atmosphere, prayer develops and ripens poorly. This problem (is it not ubiquitous?) needs to be corrected, that is, one must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.

In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day. Beginning anything, for example, say ‘Bless, O Lord!’ When you finish something, say, ‘Glory to Thee, O Lord’, and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart. If passions arise, say, ‘Save me, O Lord, I am perishing.’ If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: ‘Lead my soul out of prison.’ If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, ‘Set me, O Lord, in the way’, or ‘do not give up my feet to stumbling.’ If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, ‘Lord, have mercy’, ‘Most Holy Theotokos save us”, ‘Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me’, or other such words. Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them come from your heart, as if squeezed out of it. When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers. Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

— St. Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 2
Delivered 22 November, 1864
Ainnir said:
I have to start over sometimes, though--at least a given section; like the prayer of the hours, for example.  Extra Jesus prayers and crossing thrown in when it's particularly bad; it comes and goes.
I thought I read Fr. Hopko advise against this somewhere. And if his reasoning was that it can turn into an endless spiral of just repeating things over and over again because you never feel like you "did it right," then I definitely agree with him lol.
 

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Asteriktos said:
Somewhere a saint talks about, when going to prayer or worship, imagining that you are standing before an emperor, and how you'd want to make everything perfect, how nothing would draw your mind away from them, how you'd make the most of your time, how you'd fear approaching things flippantly or inattentively, and all that just for a mortal man; then imagine how it must be to stand before the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe. Doesn't really help me much, but it might work for others...
I also have a tendency to space out and drift in my attention when I'm talking to people face to face, though lol.

I guess that imagining God killing me for my impudence has helped a little in the past. Not sure I want to make a habit of that lol.
 

Ainnir

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I wasn't super clear; I'm sorry!  The starting over a section and extra crossing and such is for significant or even total mental derailment, not messing up a line or a word.  Memorization actually keeps the vague sort of drifting at bay for me, precisely because it's not easy at first, and also because then it's in me instead of in a book.  It was one at a time, pretty slowly, and I'm not done.  I don't see anything mutually exclusive between St. Theophan's advice and recitation/memorization, either.  It seems to be about disposition more than logistics.  :)  It's hard though; these are just ideas.  You sort of need to know your own strengths, weaknesses, and current needs and work specifically with those to achieve whatever goal you've set.
 

Volnutt

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Oh, I know, I didn't think St. Theophan was warning away from memorization. Just that he encapsulates why I suck so much at it lol.
 
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I just maintain a sense of interdependence on the Lord’s commands to pray & give alms in Matthew 6.Each one nurtures the other.
 

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recent convert said:
I just maintain a sense of interdependence on the Lord’s commands to pray & give alms in Matthew 6.Each one nurtures the other.
In what ways do you do that?
 

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Volnutt said:
Asteriktos said:
Somewhere a saint talks about, when going to prayer or worship, imagining that you are standing before an emperor, and how you'd want to make everything perfect, how nothing would draw your mind away from them, how you'd make the most of your time, how you'd fear approaching things flippantly or inattentively, and all that just for a mortal man; then imagine how it must be to stand before the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe. Doesn't really help me much, but it might work for others...
I also have a tendency to space out and drift in my attention when I'm talking to people face to face, though lol.

I guess that imagining God killing me for my impudence has helped a little in the past. Not sure I want to make a habit of that lol.
Oh, yeah, probably not the best route!  Maybe just snap a rubber band on your wrist when your mind starts wandering...  8)
 

Dominika

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hecma925 said:
Perhaps try a fixed amount of time of prayer vs. merely getting through a set of prayers.
That's one of my priest's advices.
Another one is to try chant/sing some of the prayers.
 

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Dominika said:
hecma925 said:
Perhaps try a fixed amount of time of prayer vs. merely getting through a set of prayers.
That's one of my priest's advices.
Another one is to try chant/sing some of the prayers.
That's not a bad idea.
 

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Dominika said:
hecma925 said:
Perhaps try a fixed amount of time of prayer vs. merely getting through a set of prayers.
That's one of my priest's advices.
Another one is to try chant/sing some of the prayers.
what if you can not chant or sing?
 

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Orthodox_Slav said:
Dominika said:
hecma925 said:
Perhaps try a fixed amount of time of prayer vs. merely getting through a set of prayers.
That's one of my priest's advices.
Another one is to try chant/sing some of the prayers.
what if you can not chant or sing?
I just do the best I can. I don't think God minds if it's not perfect :)
 

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"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD."  :D
 

Dominika

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Orthodox_Slav said:
Dominika said:
hecma925 said:
Perhaps try a fixed amount of time of prayer vs. merely getting through a set of prayers.
That's one of my priest's advices.
Another one is to try chant/sing some of the prayers.
what if you can not chant or sing?
Private prayer (actually, every prayer) is not a singing competition. I'm sure that God is interested not in beauty of the voice, but in beauty of the prayer ;)
 

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Ainnir said:
Memorizing helped me a good bit. 
Singing/chanting (with the same tunes as in Church) helped me memorize the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Rejoice, O Virgin/More Honorable.
 
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Volnutt said:
recent convert said:
I just maintain a sense of interdependence on the Lord’s commands to pray & give alms in Matthew 6.Each one nurtures the other.
In what ways do you do that?

I understand prayer to be substantiated by my commitment to trying to do a good work. In prayer I ask God for the work to be by His commandments and his will in the hope of doing good for others and to work out my salvation. This is amidst living out the daily ups & downs in life.
 

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recent convert said:
Volnutt said:
recent convert said:
I just maintain a sense of interdependence on the Lord’s commands to pray & give alms in Matthew 6.Each one nurtures the other.
In what ways do you do that?

I understand prayer to be substantiated by my commitment to trying to do a good work. In prayer I ask God for the work to be by His commandments and his will in the hope of doing good for others and to work out my salvation. This is amidst living out the daily ups & downs in life.
Huh. Interesting perspective. Thanks :)
 

Ainnir

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hecma925 said:
Ainnir said:
Memorizing helped me a good bit. 
Singing/chanting (with the same tunes as in Church) helped me memorize the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Rejoice, O Virgin/More Honorable.
We don't chant the Lord's Prayer or the Creed, actually.  But I grew up in the UMC, so the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed were already known.  Services have definitely helped with learning the other two.  There's a lot to learn, though.
 

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Volnutt said:
I sometimes have the problem of going on "autopilot" as I read my prayers. My attention drifts in and out and I sometimes feel like I'm barely "aware" of what I'm reading as I'm reading it. I also find that I sometimes have a problem with rushing through my prayers to "get it over with." This could also apply to while I'm Church, if in slightly different ways.

What are some things that you do to make sure that you keep "meaning it" the whole time and keep your mental presence up as you're reading your prayers? The last thing I want to do is wind up validating the "vain repetitions" stereotype with my own life.
I would say don’t do too much.  Pray the Psalter, a Stasis or a Kathisma and mean it.  The little Hours, Vespers, or Compline without worrying too much about combining propers and such.  The Hours of Prayer is an excellent prayer book for such a rule.
https://www.orthodoxgoods.com/hoursofprayer.html
 

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Still waiting for someone to misread the thread title as "How do you stay attractive?" and start posting about head scarves, toiletries, ankle-length skirts with 19th century Eastern European patterns, beard gels and trimmers, etc.
 

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Asteriktos said:
Still waiting for someone to misread the thread title as "How do you stay attractive?" and start posting about head scarves, toiletries, ankle-length skirts with 19th century Eastern European patterns, beard gels and trimmers, etc.
That was the modesty thread of yore.
 

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The Jesus prayer
 

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In the English Philokalia, it talks about the subject of Watchfulness.
 

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The Church probably already knew that people were going to fade at times, since there is more than once that the Liturgy states, "Let us be attentive."
 

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Sometimes it helps for me to have certain preparatory rituals to focus my intent on what I'm about to do. Lighting candles, prostrations, etc. Sometimes it also helps to switch things up a little. For instance, instead of the familiar morning prayers, a kathisma from the psalter (with the accompanying prayers at the end) or a canon.
 

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Attention does not make your love truer or your prayers more acceptable to God.  As a matter of fact, an inattentive prayer when it's all one can offer God is, IMO, more pleasing to Him, for one then is striving to pray regardless of any difficulty.

I once woke up with a hang over after a night of poor sleep and all that I could do were prostrations and the sign of the cross.  After some minutes and a tired body, it felt, subjectively, as one of the deepest prayer experiences I've had, which is probably due more to my shallow prayer life than anything else.
 

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Iconodule said:
Sometimes it helps for me to have certain preparatory rituals to focus my intent on what I'm about to do. Lighting candles, prostrations, etc. Sometimes it also helps to switch things up a little. For instance, instead of the familiar morning prayers, a kathisma from the psalter (with the accompanying prayers at the end) or a canon.
Can I do that with you? . .
 

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Iconodule said:
Sometimes it helps for me to have certain preparatory rituals to focus my intent on what I'm about to do. Lighting candles, prostrations, etc. Sometimes it also helps to switch things up a little. For instance, instead of the familiar morning prayers, a kathisma from the psalter (with the accompanying prayers at the end) or a canon.
+1

One thing I like about using a Benedictine breviary is that each hour has set prayers that you pray every day, but some of the offices (Vigils, Lauds and Vespers) also have changeable parts for each day, so there's the comfort of the familiarity, but your psalms and other readings (the one I use has scriptures and Fathers, depending on the day/feast) rotate.
 

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Agabus said:
Iconodule said:
Sometimes it helps for me to have certain preparatory rituals to focus my intent on what I'm about to do. Lighting candles, prostrations, etc. Sometimes it also helps to switch things up a little. For instance, instead of the familiar morning prayers, a kathisma from the psalter (with the accompanying prayers at the end) or a canon.
+1

One thing I like about using a Benedictine breviary is that each hour has set prayers that you pray every day, but some of the offices (Vigils, Lauds and Vespers) also have changeable parts for each day, so there's the comfort of the familiarity, but your psalms and other readings (the one I use has scriptures and Fathers, depending on the day/feast) rotate.
Where did you get your copy of it?
 

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Volnutt said:
Where did you get your copy of it?
On the web at http://www.ibreviary.org/en/tools/ibreviary-web.html or the app at http://www.ibreviary.org.
 

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Volnutt said:
Agabus said:
Iconodule said:
Sometimes it helps for me to have certain preparatory rituals to focus my intent on what I'm about to do. Lighting candles, prostrations, etc. Sometimes it also helps to switch things up a little. For instance, instead of the familiar morning prayers, a kathisma from the psalter (with the accompanying prayers at the end) or a canon.
+1

One thing I like about using a Benedictine breviary is that each hour has set prayers that you pray every day, but some of the offices (Vigils, Lauds and Vespers) also have changeable parts for each day, so there's the comfort of the familiarity, but your psalms and other readings (the one I use has scriptures and Fathers, depending on the day/feast) rotate.
Where did you get your copy of it?
I use "Benedictine Daily Prayer" from Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. It was recommended on an Orthodox oblates site. (I am not an oblate.) It uses the Grail Psalter and generally contemporary language, though it also has side-by-side Latin texts of some of the most used traditional prayers (Our Father, Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimmitis, etc.). Probably the biggest place you will notice a divergence from EO prayer is in the litanies and the hymns at the beginning of each hour, though they're not offensive -- just different and, in the cases of the hymns, metered.

You can find it online in a few places.
 

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Thanks, you both!
 
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