The Practice of the Presence of God contains not only conversations but letters from Brother Lawrence. He mentions he shares the letters (to whomever he was writing) on the terms that the recipient shares them with no one else (somebody dropped the ball on that one). Lawrence is asked about his methods for arriving at a “habitual sense of God’s presence,” and he mentions lots of things he would do throughout the day to focus his attention on God. Lawrence says, too, it wasn’t easy but he did all these things “without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind has wandered involuntarily.”
I’ve experienced and heard others express the frustration that comes when the mind wanders during prayer. I’ve prayed where one moment I’m focused, praying away and thinking only of God and God’s presence. I don’t even realize it’s happened when a moment later my mind is on football or what I need to get at the grocery store or the kid who did me wrong in third grade. It’s frustrating. In those wandering moments it’s easy to get upset with oneself. I’ve chewed myself out plenty of times for not focusing, for allowing my mind to go on its journey.
Nothing good comes, though, from giving yourself a good cussing when your mind wanders in prayer. Lawrence understood nothing positive happens when we “trouble or disquiet” ourselves over a distracted mind. The disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” understanding that prayer is a learned experience. We learn to pray, and we fail along the way, and God knows how our minds work and loves us in the midst of our distraction. The best thing, when our mind wanders in prayer, is to lovingly and gently set it back on the right course.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict