Bad thoughts when praying

Whenever I try to pray bad thoughts (impure thoughts, mocking the rosary mystery when I’m trying to mediate, and sometimes bad words etc) enter my head especially when I am praying a novena and especially the rosary etc… I always think I have to start praying over again or restart my rosary when I get those thoughts and I am so afraid God thinks it’s me that says or thinks those things.

How can a person tell if these thoughts are more temptations of the devil that should simply be dismissed as quickly as possible or conscious thoughts conjured by me that are sinful and need to be confessed? I am very annoyed by this please help?

Whenever I try to pray bad thoughts (impure thoughts, mocking the rosary mystery when I’m trying to mediate, and sometimes bad words etc) enter my head especially when I am praying a novena and especially the rosary etc… I always think I have to start praying over again or restart my rosary when I get those thoughts and I am so afraid God thinks it’s me that says or thinks those things.

How can a person tell if these thoughts are more temptations of the devil that should simply be dismissed as quickly as possible or conscious thoughts conjured by me that are sinful and need to be confessed? I am very annoyed by this please help?

If you are intending to pray the rosary, it’s quite clear that these thoughts are not your own. Whether or not they come from the Adversary or simply stem from anxiety, OCD, or any other number of mental factors, is not something most people can determine.

Don’t identify with these thoughts and continue praying. If they really bother you, speak to your priest. I sincerely doubt you will need to confess them.

  1. God cannot be fooled. You do not need to worry about Him being confused and thinking you mean things you don’t mean.
  2. You do not need to start your prayers over because of accidental thoughts.
  3. It is not sin unless you consent to it. Explicitly. You don’t have to worry that “well maybe I really did mean them” or anything like that. From the 10 Commandments for the Scrupulous:

6. You shall not consider yourself guilty of bad thoughts, desires, or feelings, unless you can honestly swear before the all-truthful God that you remember clearly and certainly consenting to them.

This is a very important commandment. The whole area of impure thoughts and desires causes scrupulous people much anxiety. Unfortunately, scrupulous persons often believe that the very appearance of thoughts or desires in their thoughts or imagination means that they have committed a sin. This is most certainly not the case. In fact, it is humanly impossible for us to have absolute control over our interior faculties. Such thoughts and images are going to happen, whether we like them or not.

Because we simply do not have absolute control over our interior faculties, the emphasis of the commandment is on clear and certain consent. Only a free consent, that is clear and certain, constitutes a sin. You can not accidentally or involuntarily be guilty of sin. [Emphasis added.]

In fact, your whole post sounds like scrupulosity, in about 5 different ways. I suggest finding a regular confessor and following his advice on all such issues.

From what you’re describing, it sounds as if you’re having intrusive thoughts. These thoughts may be causing you anxiety; the more anxious you feel about these “impure” thoughts, the more of them you may have. Unless you have major problems with OCD, push past the feeling that you need to start over with your prayers and/or rosary. If you’re able to do this and ignore the thoughts, it is likely they will diminish. They are not sinful; it’s not like you want to think about them! :slight_smile: If your difficulties increase, you should probably talk to someone about it. Discussing these things with your confessor might be a good idea.

What these guys said. These thoughts won’t trouble you forever- trust me.

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
“I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”
“If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

  • St Pope John Paul II

The Devil wants to make you mess up, he wants to dis-courage you. Don’t let him. When you do have thoughts during your meditations, they are not sins… unless you linger on them and start “enjoying” them. Don’t fall into the devils traps. He hates the Rosary, and the Blessed Mother. Rebuke him!

Temptations or conscious thoughts…no matter. Both need to be quickly dismissed…and so long as you do, then they are not sins and there is no real need to restart your rosary/prayer.

Good news for you: Your pray may be more pleasing to God in this state if you persist.

See, every return to prayer takes an act of the will AND is an act of love! You glorify God and show how much you love Him everytime you make the choice to come back to your prayer and say no to evil…also, if you keep persisting in your prayer and being able to resist temptation… u can REALLY strengthen your prayer life and willpower.

See! All good things for those that love God.

A little trick for ya: If the temptations keep coming and disturbing your prayer… Just say, " I’m sorry Lord for all these disturbances… I’ll bear these disturbances out of love for you… and every time a temptation comes during this prayer time… may u use the sacrifice I offer for all your children who deal with lust temptations"…or something like that…if it’s the devil, he’ll be hurting himself by tempting you while you pray :thumbsup:

My friend, I’m sorry to admit I have had these types of thoughts as well. I always go back to when I converted and my Deacon said that it’s called (dark faith, or dark night or something) basically the closer you become with God the harder Satan tries to tear you away. Just my thoughts, if you figure something out I’d love to know!!!

Thank you for posting this. I just came back from adoration and I was about to make a similar post of how I couldn’t help but think angry thoughts in adoration.

I once read there was a saint (can’t remember who) who when praying would have bad thoughts. This saint would simply incorporate that in prayer by saying ‘God, I am having bad thoughts right now’ IOW they did not let the bad thoughts drive them away from God but honestly admitted to God what was happening


Agree with every preceding post: it’s not a sin. Keep praying and, if you want, double your efforts. Instead of one Rosary, say two! Instead of one Our Father, say three! Have a Blessed Day!:thumbsup:

I remember working with a very religious young girl years ago and I told her that I hated it when I was praying and got terrible thoughts in my mind, like a flash. I was really surprised when she said she did, too. So, when I get them, I ask God, St. Michael and my Guardian Angel for help and continue praying. That’s all we can do. If we don’t consent to them, the thoughts become less distracting.

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


This is a great thread! I have and continue to have problems with this, it’s good to know I’m not alone in it.

If you detest and disapprove of the bad thoughts, and don’t want them, then you can be assured that they are only temptations to blasphemy, and that God is very pleased with you for rejecting the thoughts. Do NOT repeat your prayers whenever you have these blasphemous thoughts – just ignore them and keep on praying – you will gain great merit this way and will be most pleasing to God by doing so. St. John of the Cross talks about such temptations to blasphemy in God’s plan for the purification of certain souls who are close to Him… God bless you.

You know I have something else to add. Now this was taught to me when I was a Nazerene before converting and I was attempting to follow God in that path. I’ve always used it, I believe in it and know it helps, but I’ve never heard of Catholics talking about it.

So when I’m afraid, nervous, feeling temptation, being tested I send the Devil away with the power of Christ. All I do is say…

Satan, demons, evil that may be around, I order you to leave me, my family, this place. You cannot be here and with the power of Jesus Christ I am ordering you to leave at once.

The only time it didn’t work is when I started thinking lustful thoughts again and I knew that I had just let temptation back in, that demon had made it’s way back because of me,

So anyway, when I am having trouble (for instance all of a sudden I’ll say horrible words in place of the correct ones during the Rosary, I’ll fall asleep uncontrollably during mass, prayers, even though I’ve taken my Narcolepsy meds, etc…) I order Satan and his demons to leave me. Or leave the church, or my house or whatever… As long as I believe, and attempt to keep myself pure God always comes through…

Concerning unspeakably blasphemous thoughts (Saint John Climacus)

… This atrocious foe has the habit of appearing during the holy services and even at the awesome hour of the Mysteries, and blaspheming the Lord and the consecrated elements, thereby showing that these unspeakable, unacceptable, and unthinkable words are not ours but rather those of the God-hating demon who fled from heaven because, it seems, of the blasphemies he uttered there too against the Lord. It must be so, for if these dreadful and unholy words are my own, how could I offer humble worship after having partaken of the sacred gift? How could I revile and praise at the same time?

This deceiver, this destroyer of souls, has often caused men to go mad. And no other thought is as difficult to admit in confession… In fact nothing gives demons and evil thoughts such power over us as to nourish them and hide them in our hearts unconfessed…

If you have blasphemous thoughts, do not think that you are to blame. God knows what is in our hearts and He knows that ideas of this kind come not from us…

Those unclean and unspeakable thoughts come at us when we are praying, but, if we continue to pray to the end, they will retreat, for they do not struggle against those who resist them.

This unholy demon not only blasphemes God and everything that is divine. It stirs up the dirtiest and most obscene thoughts within us, thereby trying to force us to give up praying or to fall into despair. It stops the prayer of many and turns many away from the holy Mysteries. It has evilly and tyrannously caused the bodies of some to be worn away with grief. It has exhausted others with fasting and has given them no rest. It has struck at people living in the world, and also at those leading the monastic life…

Anyone disturbed by the spirit of blasphemy and wishing to be rid of it should bear in mind that thoughts of this type do not originate in his own soul but are caused by [the] unclean devil… So let us make light of him and pay no regard whatever to his promptings… To tackle the demon of blasphemy in any way other than this is to be like a man trying to hold lightning in his hands. For how can you take a grip on, seize, or grapple with someone who flits into the heart quicker than the wind, talks more rapidly than a flash, and then immediately vanishes? Every other kind of foe stops, struggles a while, lingers and gives one time to grapple with him. But not this one. He hardly appears and is gone again immediately. He barely speaks and then vanishes.

This particular demon likes to take up residence in the minds of simpler and more innocent souls, and these are more upset and disturbed by it than others…

Try cleverly to fight it and you will end up by surrendering, for the man who tries to conquer spirits by talk is like someone hoping to lock up the winds.

There once was a zealous monk who was badly troubled by this demon. For twenty years he wore himself out with fasting and vigils, but to no avail, as he realized. So he wrote the [sinful thought] on a sheet of paper, went to a certain holy man, handed him the paper, bowed his face to the ground and dared not to look up. The old man read it, smiled, lifted the brother and said to him: “My son, put your hand on my neck.” The brother did so. Then the great man said: “Very well, brother. Now let this sin be on my neck for as many years as it has been or will be active within you. But from now on, ignore it.” And the monk who had been [bothered] in this fashion assured me that even before he had left the cell of this old man, his infirmity was gone. The man who had actually experienced this told me about it…

From John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), translated by Colm Luibheid and Norman Russell, pp. 211-3 (original work composed in the 6th century).

(to re post an older post of mine)

All sorts of thoughts can happen to us out of the blue…

The fact that a though happened to one- does not mean per se there was any sin.

And for mortal sin one needs not only grave matter, but full knowledge and deliberate (complete) consent…

(And some need some medical/professional assistance in this area…such as medication etc and often a regular confessor )


For the next few moments --try real hard NOT to think of an Apple.

then scroll down.

What did you think of?

An apple.

Even though your will was against it -you did not want to think of an apple.

Now back to unwanted thoughts…

The best thing to do with such thoughts is not to fight them directly --not fear that they will come—simply do not consent and simply and calmly turn to something else…(or it may be best to keep doing the good thing one is doing…like they come out of the blue when your at work …keep working…keep praying …etc)

(one can gently - conversi ad Dominum - turn towards the Lord -perhaps with a look of love or a short prayer which is a very ancient practice - pm me if you if you need more).

Ignore such unwanted thoughts like one would ignore a hissing goose or a barking dog. One does not stop to argue with a hissing goose or a barking dog does one? No one keeps on walking…

(as noted above the image there comes from a Carthusian Monk from centuries ago…)

Great post! I have also done what you do, but it’s good to be reminded of the power of Christ as exhibited in your life. Thank you. I wish you peace.

Blosius: “He should trouble himself no more about the blasphemous and other absurd imaginations suggested by the devil than he would about a number of flies buzzing round his head. He should at once turn quietly from them.”

“God not unfrequently permits even perfect men to be annoyed by the importunate
inroad of useless and even bad thoughts and imaginations, in order that by resisting them
they may be profitably exercised in spiritual warfare.”