What’s your experience of praying while you’re tempted? And don’t tell me that you’ve never had that problem before. Everyone gets tempted from time to time, even the most spiritually experienced. A few years ago a sister who was on retreat with me told me that she had a hard time praying with Ignatian contemplation, that is, imagining yourself in a Scripture passage. She said that she had no imagination. I wasn’t sure what to say about that, until an idea dawned on me. I said, “Sister, have you never once had a sexual fantasy?” And she laughed out loud, and I said, “I guess you do have an imagination!”
But temptation in prayer isn’t limited to those kinds of distractions; it’s something broader. You can be tempted to all sorts of things while you’re praying. You can be tempted to anger over something minor. Or to a desire for revenge towards someone against whom you’ve held a grudge. Or temptation to think more about material things, like buying a new phone, when you should be focused on God. What do you do with these temptations? Well, first, recognize them, and don’t let them disturb you. Let them go if you can and refocus on God. But if you can’t let them go, then bring them into your prayer. It might be an invitation to ask God about them. Or it may simply be an invitation to pray while you’re tempted. Maybe you can say, “God, I’m tempted but I’m still with you.” God will understand. After all, the Gospels tell us that even Jesus was tempted. Remember that God is always with you, even while you’re tempted.