When we come to prayer, we need to collect our scattered thoughts and affects so that we come to God with a single heart. Writers give this process various names. Some talk about coming to quiet, or reaching a sense of harmony with all beings. Some talk about reaching self-concentration, so that my thoughts and desires are not running all over, but come to coherence and rest. Many talk about "centering," meaning that we can come to the core of our self for a moment and desire and act out of that center.
Whatever name you use, recognize that some quiet and concentration help very much as we begin our prayer time.
Here are some ways of accomplishing that "centering" that you might find useful. You might already have your way of doing it. If not, test various ways until you are able to pray a little more readily.
1. Stand or sit (or take some other position that you come to find helpful). Concentrate for just a moment on yourself standing, or sitting, or in whatever position. Attend to each part of your body: to the tiny feelings on your scalp and face, to the pressure of clothing on your neck; to the position of your arms and hands; to the pressures of chair or floor on back, stomach, rump;, to the feelings on the thighs, knees, calves; to the pressure of the floor on heel or sole. Then just sense yourself in this total position, and go on to ask God to let you feel your presence to your Creator and Lord.
2. Take a quiet position. Slowly and gently concentrate your attention on your breathing, focusing down onto the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Keep focused on that moving air for a while until you are quiet.
3. Breathing that way, you might begin to think some words as you breathe. So, think "Lord Jesus Christ" as you breathe in, and "King of Eternal Glory" as you breathe out - over and over. Or use the Jesus Prayer, thinking "Jesus Christ" as you breathe in, and "have mercy" as you breathe out. After continuing this for a time, gently turn to the prayer materials you have prepared. Understand that we never "finish" this kind of praying, we simply turn from it to another kind.
4. Take a quiet position. Gradually grow aware of what you are hearing. Listen to each sound, trying to distinguish single sounds from the general noise. Simply hear the sounds, without trying to figure out where they are coming from or to interpret them..Consciously let the sounds continue on their own, aware of the fact that they do not attack you or violate you or depend on you. As you let them go on entirely on their own, grow aware that you are present to your Creator and Lord.
5. As you can grow aware of the sounds you are hearing, so you can also grow aware of the sights you are seeing, and even of the odors and fragrances you smell.
6. Instead of becoming quite still, you might come to concentration by gentle gesture or movement. For instance, you could think some prayerful thoughts - "Lord, You are God; I come to You; I give these moments to You alone; You hold me utterly" - and as you think them you could gesture or dance them out. Slowly raise your hand, slowly bow from the waist, slowly hold up your hands together as though they were filled with gifts. After a time of this, you will know to grow still and turn to the matters you have decided to pray upon.
7. Others use other means. Light a candle for its fragrance and presence. Gaze at a small object before you, such as a little stone, carefully seeing everything about it, until you can feel the fact that God our Creator and Lord keeps making you and the stone. Play some quiet music. Burn incense.
Note these general rules:
We each find a way to concentrate. We commonly find one or another way more useful at a time than at others. We sometimes feel more dissipated than usually and need to use some means of centering that we would not ordinarily use. Centering proves useful, but is not an end in itself, and on occasion it expresses or leads to a kind of self-absorption that makes praying a little more difficult. Centering at the start of prayer ordinarily makes praying more feasible.