When you pray, you engage the three faculties of your soul; the intellect, the memory and the will.
The most important part for us is our "will." God greatly rewards our desire for prayer and holiness. Before each prayer session try a simple prayer for purity of intention. "God I want to pray right now. Help me to pray better."
The intellect is that "thinking" part of our soul that is easy distracted during prayer. It's the part that mentally composes a grocery list during our set-aside prayer time. St. Theresa of Avila describes the intellect as "the mad woman in the house!" While calming the intellect gets easier with practice, God has assured St. Theresa that we will all struggle with a distracted intellect until we die.
That leaves "memory." Memory is the "gunk" in our brains, the residue from everything that we've seen, heard and or tasted in the past. Everything from our senses gets imprinted into our memory. Often times this gunk can distract us during prayer.
If we're trying to pray better, one of the most important things we can do is strive to keep our memory 'clean'. We can avoid negative images that distract us from God and instead court holy, positive images that lift our minds and hearts to heaven.
The good news is that to strive to keep a clean memory, doesn't require a massive effort to shut off every TV channel except for EWTN. If we spend regular time in prayer, God will take care of the rest.
For example, a couple in my Carmel community loved to watch comedy routines together. This was a major part of each evenings entertainment for them. The wife told my husband that after four months in Carmel, she and her husband could no longer watch some of their favorite comedians. They had to turn off the TV in the middle of a formerly beloved comedy hours because the jokes had become too painful to listen to anymore.
My husband told her that this was a healthy sign of a growing prayer life. Formerly, mean spirited jokes and the constant misuse use of Lord's name didn't bother this couple. Now that this couple prayed more, they became more "sensitive" and could easily decide to tune out things that negatively impacted their memory.
St. James tells us to keep our thoughts on heaven and not on earth.
Happy Praying this Easter Season!