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Remedies against Wandering Thoughts in Prayer.

If we feel our spirits apt to wander in our prayers, and to retire into the world, or to things unprofitable, or vain and impertinent:

1. Use prayer to be assisted in prayer; pray for the spirit of supplication, for a sober, fixed, and recollected spirit; and when to this you add a moral industry to be steady in your thoughts, whatsoever wanderings after this do return irremediably are a misery of nature and an imperfection, but no sin, while it is not cherished and indulged to.

2. In private it is not amiss to attempt the cure by reducing your prayers into collects and short forms of prayer, making voluntary interruptions, and beginning again, that the want of spirit and breath may be supplied by the short stages and periods.

3. When you have observed any considerable wanderings of your thoughts, bind yourself to repeat thy prayer again with actual attention, or else revolve the full sense of it in your spirit, and repeat it in all the effect and desires of it; and, possibly, the tempter may be driven away with his own art, and may cease to interpose his trifles when he perceives they do but vex the person into carefulness and piety; and yet he loses nothing of his devotion, but doubles the earnestness of his care.

4. If this be not seasonable or opportune, or apt to any man’s circumstances, yet be sure, with actual attention, to say a hearty Amen to the whole prayer with one united desire, earnestly begging the graces mentioned in the prayer; for that desire does the great work of the prayer, and secures the blessing, if the wandering thoughts were against our will, and disclaimed by contending against them.

5. Avoid multiplicity of businesses of the world, and in those that are unavoidable, labour for an evenness and tranquillity of spirit, that you may be untroubled and smooth in all tempests of fortune; for so we shall better tend religion when we are not torn in pieces with the cares of the world, and seized upon with low affections, passions, and interest.

6. It helps much to attention and actual advertisement in our prayers, if we say our prayers silently, without the voice, only by the spirit. For, in mental prayer, if our thoughts wander we only stand still; when our mind returns we go on again — there is none of the prayer lost, as it is if our mouths speak and our hearts wander.

7. To incite you to the use of these, or any other counsels you shall meet with, remember that it is a great indecency to desire of God to hear those prayers, a great part whereof we do not hear ourselves. If they be not worthy of our attention they are far more unworthy of God’s.

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