Why do we believe that God can only come to us or speak to us in a “still, small voice”? Why do we feel that we must place ourselves in a posture of penitence or surrender in order to hear or be heard by the God of the Universe?
Richard Rohr writes that distractions can bring many positive (and necessary) benefits to a person’s prayer:
Prayer is not the avoidance of distractions, but precisely how you deal with distractions. Contemplation is not the avoidance of the problem, but a daily merging with the problem, and finding its full resolution. It is a way “to look over [our] shoulder” for God (the brilliant insight of the anonymous author of the 14th Century book, The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 32).
The persistence of the distraction can actually steady your gaze, deepen your decision, and increase your freedom and desire for God and for grace—over “this” or “that” passing phenomenon. The “shoulders” of the distraction become your necessary vantage point, and they create the crosshairs of your seeing. What you quickly and humbly learn in contemplation is that how you do anything is how you do everything.
I wasted so many years trying to deny, repress, or avoid distractions—which never worked. It is not the avoidance of problems that makes you a contemplative, but a daily holding of the problem, straight on. But not letting it hold onto you, and finding a resolution in the much deeper and more spacious “peace of Christ, which will guard your heart and your mind” (Philippians 4:7). I never knew it would take such hourly vigilance to guard my heart and my mind from anger, judgment, fear, jealousy, and negativity of any kind. Only the vast peace of Christ can do it. Now it is my only daily discipline, much harder than poverty, chastity, and obedience ever were. (Adapted from Contemplation in Action, p. 18)
Distractions and diversions, accepted into our prayer life, can be a source of growth and deepening in our spirituality and in our relationship with God. While keeping your eyes open during prayer may be a stretch at the moment, why not try it occasionally and see if stretching your mind in this way may actually bring in a new way of looking at prayer and a new way of praying—being fully alive and fully aware of all that is (and all who are) in this moment.