God Speaks To
God desires communication with us and does so in many different ways:
How To Go About
In prayer this can be done best in silence and solitude. Select a short passage from scripture. Read it through a few times to familiarize yourself with it. Put a marker in the page. Try to find a quiet place where you can be alone and uninhibited in your response to God's presence. Try to quiet yourself interiorly. Jesus would often go up to a mountain alone to pray with his Abba. In an age of noise, activity, and tensions like our own, it is not always easy or necessary to forget our cares and commitments, the noise and excitement of our environment. Never feel constrained to blot out all distractions. Anxiety in this regard could get between ourselves and God. Rather, realize that the word did become flesh -- that God speaks to us in the noise and confusion of our day.
Sometimes in preparing for prayer, relax and listen to the sounds around you. God's presence is as real as they are. Be conscious of your sensations and living experiences of feeling, thinking, hoping, loving, wondering, desiring, etc. Then, conscious of God's unselfish, loving presence in you, address God simply and admit: "Yes, you do love life and feeling into me. You do love a share of your personal life into me. You are present to me. You live in me. Yes, you do."
God is present in you through the Spirit, who speaks to you now in scripture, and who prays in you and for you. Ask for the grace to listen to what God says. Begin reading Scripture slowly and attentively. Do not hurry to cover much material.
If it recounts an event of Jesus' life, be there in the mystery of it. Share with the persons involved, e.g., a blind man being cured. Share their attitude. Respond to what Jesus is saying. Some words or phrases carry special meaning for you. Savour those words, turning them over in your heart.
When something strikes you, e.g.,
This is God speaking directly to you in the words of Scripture.
Spend time in your prayer just being conscious of God's presence in and around you. If you want to, speak about the things you are interested in or wish to thank God for, your joys, sorrows, aspirations, and so forth.
Summary -- 5 `P's'. 1 `R'.
Take the position of
a little child, not a knowledgeable adult,
Let your thoughts flow
on their own....
This is a very easy
form of prayer because we are not working.
Many have thought of
this as distraction,
You might drift off
in this prayer ... if so,
Don't fashion the flow
if something starts to happen;
Sometimes we experience a lack of freedom in ourselves, an inability to cope with something, an inability to forgive, a fear, a problem with uncontrollable anger, or something like that. No matter how we pray or what we do, nothing seems to help.
The first step is to discover the root of the problem. Very often it helps to talk it over with a spiritual guide. Sometimes our weakness or unfreedom is a result of an inadequate prayer life. Sometimes it is a result of an unwillingness to face the truth, or to let go of something we want, or a lack of discipline in our lives. Sometimes it is because we are too busy or too tired. Sometimes it's because we have not forgiven another. In instances like these, what we need for healing is repentance, not prayer.
There are times, however, that the issues are rooted in the past, even in the time we were being carried in our mother's womb or in the process of birth. No matter how loving our home life has been, no matter how happy our childhood, it was not perfect. During the various stages of growing we have experienced the oppression of others as well as that of institutions and structures. So we carry in ourselves the wounds of bad experiences, some of which we have not thought about in years.
There is a way of praying for the healing of past experiences. It is sometimes called "healing of memories," sometimes "psychological healing." It rests on the fact that Jesus is the Lord of all time, past, present, and future, that he can even change the effects of the past.
Some time ago a woman in Joseph's community said to him in passing that he had a lot of bitterness in him. Joseph was busy at the time and busy afterwards with a lot of things, so he did not do anything about it. From time to time her remarks reoccurred to him, and he did realize that occasionally a sharpness would develop in his tone of voice, a certain harshness would colour his relations with others. He would ask forgiveness when he could and move on. Finally he did learn to pray over these experiences and experienced through prayer a great deal of healing.
The following is his
record of healing through prayer:
Sometimes this must be done more than once. You know when you are healed when the child or person in the memory is smiling and happy because of the presence and love of Jesus.
(This explanation may help you to appreciate better the method that is suggested for most of the prayer exercises in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The method is called by various names such as Gospel Contemplation, Method Of Contemplation, Ignatian Contemplation. It makes use of guided imagery and active imagination within the framework of a gospel story from Jesus' life.)It happened one morning in an 8th century Italian monastery. On waking, the monks all dressed in their cells and then filed down the corridors to a central meeting room. There they sat quietly until a monk, standing at a lectern, began to read a passage from the Gospel of John. He read clearly in a leisurely manner verses 13-22 of chapter 2. He paused for 30 or 40 seconds.Then he reread the same passage in the same clear, leisurely manner. Again, he paused for half a minute, then read the same passage a third time.
When he paused this time, some of the monks began to return to their cells in order to pray over the passage. Others waited for the fourth reading and even the fifth before they, too, left for their cells.
What was happening? These repetitive readings saturated their imaginations with a gospel scene of particular energy and colour. This saturation would, of course, minimize distractions, and encourage a frame of mind and heart conducive to prayer. Perhaps it would enable a monk to identify with some particular person in the gospel episode, and even to discover the inner feelings of Christ. The mystery of the gospel event would so take hold of the person at prayer that the past would become present through the instrument of the imagination and memory. The memory of the person at prayer would be influenced by the memory of Jesus present now to the person praying.
This is how you can enter into the life of Jesus through prayer:
1. Select a short concrete/action passage.
First, from one of the Gospels, select an action passage, preferably fast-moving and colourful in detail. When you first begin to use this method do not attempt to pray a parable or a sermon.2. Relax and settle into God's presence.
Ask for a particular grace that you are seeking or the particular gift you need at this time - perhaps to know Jesus more intimately, or to become more compassionate, or to be healed in a particular area of your heart etc.3. Read aloud the passage several times, pausing half a minute or so between each reading while the gospel episode takes hold of you.
Slowly read the passage once - aloud, if circumstances allow. Then for 30 seconds or so look up from the page and let the scene sink into your imagination. Do a second oral reading, noticing details which you missed in the first reading. Again look up from the page for 30 seconds or so, until these new details fit into the total scene in your imagination. In the third reading, you will see more details for the first time, also insights, questions and interpretations will begin to occur to you. Use a half-minute to let them settle into your memory. Then read a fourth or even a fifth time until almost all the distractions have disappeared, and the Gospel scene totally saturates your imagination.4. Now place the bible aside and let the scene happen.
Do nothing to promote it except to stay alert to its developments. As you let yourself sink into the scene, you will tend to lose the sense of yourself and to identify with the situation. Suppose, for example, that you have read about Jesus quieting the storm on the lake. You may imagine the wind howling, the boat pitching, the apostles struggling at the oars. If this identification deepens, you will find yourself in the boat, e.g., at the oars, or you may find yourself to be in Peter or Philip. Sometimes you will discover yourself drifting in and out of the scene, in and out of various people of the scene.5. Allow yourself to take part in the scene which is now present to you.
Be as passive as possible while being as alert as possible. In fact, let everyone else control the event: Jesus, Peter, Mary, Martha, John. You merely interact with the persons, listen and reply to their words, take part in their activity - conversing with them, accompanying them, helping them in their occupations, in whatever ways you find yourself as part of the event that is present to you.6. Do not moralize or try to make applications.
Don't moralize (for example, "I should be more spontaneous like Peter when I am with my friends ...") or draw theological conclusions (for example, "Notice how the three temptations of Jesus parallel the temptations of the Israelites ...") or try to make clever applications ("It's amazing how the Pharisees are so much like the people I am working with ...") By losing yourself in the persons, words and activity of the gospel event your whole being is affected and influenced. You won't need applications because you will notice what happens to you either in the period of reflection after your prayer or, more subtly, in the effects in your life as almost by osmosis you begin to put on the mind and heart of Jesus's Spirit.7. After your period of prayer comes to an end, make a review for a few minutes by reflecting upon what took place during the prayer.
What happened in you during this prayer exercise? What did you notice as standing out even slightly? Is there something you should return to in a later period of prayer? Give thanks to the Lord for being with you during this time.
Lectio Divina (Latin, lek-see-o de-vee-na) is the one method of prayer fostered by all traditions of Christian spirituality. Sometimes this method is translated as "meditative reading" or as "spiritual reading." This method would better be called Prayer of the Listening Heart, because many people who first used this method in the early Christian times couldn't read! It goes back to ancient times and was used constantly by the early monks many of whom also couldn't read! The "lectio" of Lectio Divina is a listening with the heart, as one does quite naturally and spontaneously while appreciating a sunset, or when pondering with fondness any touching human experience. One listens with the heart also when one reads slowly, with pauses and 'relishes or drinks in' the words of scripture or any other special writing. By thus listening with the heart, one is led automatically to reflection upon the experience, or writing, or event. From this reflection one is led automatically to respond, and in time one becomes more and more open to the influence of God's Spirit.
Lectio Divina Applied
Lectio Divina Applied
To Some Remembered Event
Formal prayer can be made in almost any bodily position. Certain positions are more helpful for some people than for others, just as certain positions are more helpful at one time in prayer than at another. One can judge whether one posture rather than another is helpful by the following criteria:
Once one has adopted a position in prayer and the prayer is going well, one should not readily change position. The outward restlessness or shifting of position can jar the inner calm of prayer. One should remain with the posture while one is finding what one desires. Remain with it until there has been a sense of completion "for now."
Sometimes it is important either to change or refrain from certain positions; for example, when one finds that certain postures interfere with the flow of the prayer or are a distraction for others as someone lying prostrate on the bench or floor in a church or public chapel.
After a period of meditative and/or contemplative prayer it is helpful to make a review. This is done by reflecting upon the experience of the prayer exercise just finished. The focus of the review is what happened during the prayer exercise itself -- not so much what finished ideas you had but rather what heart-felt understandings were emerging. In other words the interior reactions of the heart. Therefore, the movements of consolation, desolation, fear, anxiety, boredom, distractions, especially if they were deep or disturbing. Questions like the following may help:
If you were to monitor yourself during the period of prayer, you might be interfering with the free flowing communication between you and God. Let happen what is happening during the prayer time. Afterwards, take a look to see what the Spirit means through all this.
During the review make a brief record of these happenings. Note down those moments and experiences that strike you. With this you can more easily prepare for your next period of prayer. The Spirit may be inviting you to go back to a point where you were moved. St. Ignatius says that one should remain quietly meditating upon a point until one has been satisfied, i.e., until the movement has been completed (the insight completed; the struggle resolved; the consolation ended; the meaningfulness finished ... for now.) This written record is also a help for you to discuss your prayer experience with the spiritual guide. In addition, this practice in time will empower you to discern for yourself.
The review is not a continuation of the prayer; nor is it a journal as in the Progoff Journal or in Cameron's The Artist's Way. It is not a moving forward with the process of experience. Rather it is a looking backward in order to judge how to move forward when I go to prayer. So the review is not a notebook of insights and partial essays or letters. Because this instrument is different from the prayer exercise itself, it is helpful to symbolize the difference by separating the place where you do this activity from the place you make your prayer exercise.
Repetition is an important way to notice the interior spiritual movements in one's heart and thus listen for the prompting of God's Spirit. St. Ignatius would recommend its use both during the directed retreat and for one's daily prayer exercises.
What Repetition is NOT
Repetition means that I return to those points where I have experienced "greater consolation, desolation or greater spiritual appreciation" [from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius #62]. Hence I return to those points where I have experienced significant movements; not to the whole scripture passage itself; not to a parallel scripture text from another Gospel. Rather I return to the remembered experience and, more importantly, to those points of the prayer exercise or parts in scripture where the experience occurred.
I am using my imagination in praying over the Baptism at the Jordan. In my review after the period of prayer I notice that I was with Jesus but his back was to me and I had a feeling of sadness. So in the next period of prayer I return to the place where Jesus was turned away from me and the experience of sadness occurred.
I am praying over the hidden life of Jesus. In the review I notice that I could not get settled; that I was filled with distractions and anxiousness. So in the next period of prayer I return to the same material.
I am praying over my cooperation with evil, my sinfulness, and I am requesting from God a deeper awareness of those hidden disordered tendencies that affect the decisions I make. This is now being given to me. In my review I have a sense that the Spirit desires to show me more. So I keep on returning to the same material.
Repetition helps one listen more carefully to God's communication.
Finally, repetition helps one to experience the Holy One's mystery more deeply:
When Ignatius writes in the Spiritual Exercises -- "I will remain quietly meditating upon the point in which I have found what I desire without any eagerness to go on till I have been satisfied." -- he means not only within the one period of prayer, but also over several periods of prayer, and even days of prayer. Through repetition we allow God's mystery to touch our mystery at deeper levels of our being. Often, through repetition a kind of simplification of our own activity takes place as we become more and more passively receptive to God's activity. Often what starts off as meditation, through the use of repetition, eventually becomes stillness.
"Oh I don't really know, I was just with God!"
1. How shall I call upon God? The first step in entering upon the meditation is to reflect upon how God appears to you in the passage to be contemplated. What name or image do you wish to use in your personal dialogue? Great Spirit, Teacher, Healer, Life, Light, Mother, Suffering Servant, Beloved, Friend, etc? Addressing the Holy One by a personally chosen name begins to focus your thoughts and feelings and establish a sense of presence.
2. State the heart of the matter. Write a brief, general statement of what is happening or being expressed in the passage. Try to capture the overall tone or quality and the essential point of the passage.
3. Describe the context, background, and inner feelings involved in the situation in greater detail. Allow your imagination to freely create an environment and a historical background to the scene. This allows for subjective feelings, memories, and associations (consciously or unconsciously) to become part of this prayer exercise. Respect the facts, but don't be afraid to elaborate on them creatively.
4. Ask for what you want. What I want to understand more deeply is ... What I desire to be freed of is ... For example, "Divine Friend, help me to understand my own blindness (paralysis, pharisaical hypocrisy, etc.) and heal me of it."
and listening. Focus upon different aspects of the passage such
as physical details, persons, words, the event of healing, forgiveness,
death, etc., and let thoughts, images, feelings, and other associations
present themselves. Keep returning to the word, image, or event. As you
concentrate on these, what presents itself to your mind? Record what comes
to you in writing. Sometimes the connections are obvious and direct. At
other times they are more obscure. Record them all without judgment. Be
aware of symbolic connections. For example, is
6. Dialogue. Feel or imagine God's presence and then begin to speak with one another in a totally open way. Say what is on your mind, and then allow God to speak to you. Sometimes it may help to imagine what God would say as you give space for God to speak with you. Record the dialogue as it comes to you.
7. Remembering and evaluating. Review in your mind the sequence of feelings, free-flowing thoughts and experiences involved in this prayer exercise. Record these.... Then re-read the whole meditation and note the emotions that arise as you read and also how you feel about the experience as a whole.
1. How shall I call upon my God? The first step in entering upon this prayer exercise is to reflect upon how you wish to address God at this time. What name or image speaks to your present experience? Friend, Beloved, Healer, Teacher, Mother, Creator, Life, Light, Father, Rock, Saviour, Suffering Servant, Shepherd, Holy One, Unknown One, or some other name or image from scripture or your own experience?
God by a personally chosen name begins to focus your
2. State the heart of the matter. Briefly write a general statement of what you intend to dwell upon. What's on my mind is ... What I would like to talk about is.... For example, you may wish to focus upon a relationship with another person, an event that has significance for you, a feeling of anger, grief, joy, anxiety, fear, hardness of heart, control, need to forgive, pain, etc.
3. Describe the context, background, and your own feelings about the situation in greater detail. Begin to fill in the overall picture. It all started when ... It took place at ... My feelings at the time were ... My feelings now are ... This should be done freely and without censorship or judgment. "Irrational" feelings are not to be excluded.
4. Ask for what you want. What I want to know is.. What I need your help with is ... For example, "Lord, give me insight into this relationship. Heal me of the hurt and bitterness I am experiencing."
5. Waiting and listening for what presents itself. After focusing your desire, wait in stillness for whatever comes to mind. What images, feelings, memories, or thoughts present themselves? Record without judgment whatever bubbles up from within. Keep returning to what you desire and then wait for whatever appears.
Don't follow long chains of associations. Keep focused on the matter at hand. For example, you might imagine the content of the meditation as the hub of a wheel. The thoughts, images, and feelings are like spokes connected to that hub. After each spoke presents itself, return to the centre or hub and wait for another association to arise. Some of the associations may be understood, others may seem strange and obscure. Some may clarify at a later time. At this point the important thing is simply to gather thoughts, feelings, and associations without judgment as these occur. Forming connections, seeing patterns, or achieving insight may well happen, but one should not feel anxious if this does not happen.
6. Dialogue. Feel or imagine Jesus (or God or saint or wisdom figure) present with you. Begin to speak with one another in a totally open way. You may be helped by including the person whom you have been praying about and allow them to enter into the dialogue. Say what is on your mind, and then allow Jesus or the other to speak to you. Record the dialogue as it happens.
and evaluating. Review in your mind the sequence of feelings
and experiences involved in the meditation. Record these. Then re-read
the whole meditation and note the emotions that arise as you read and also
how you feel about the experience as a whole.
We know by faith that we can find God present in all things. Our creator is present in all the events and dimensions of my life. But has the awareness of this presence throughout my life really taken hold of me? This exercise is a help to discover the presence of our Triune God in the events of my own life, past and present. Memory is the sacrament of God's presence.As you settle into prayer ask for the gift of a deep felt appreciation of how my Creator God has been present in my history.
The following headings may help to begin this process of remembering:
... I come from others, from a familial network of some kind, where I became who I am. My guardians, aunts, father, uncles, mother, brothers and sisters shaped me to what I am. The great majority of my opinions, of my likes and dislikes, of my values and appreciations have been stamped by them. This "familial" touch reaches deep into my subconscious: my prejudices, my prior judgments, my behaviour, my tastes, my logic are moulded by the community I come from.
(adapted from Van Breeman: Called by Name)As I remember all these events and items in my life history I try to notice the gifts that I have received. "Name something you have that you have not received" (1Cor 4:7). "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. God gave and God has taken away, blessed be God's Holy Name" (Job 1:21).
Light ... Truth ... Mother ...
Father ... Friend ... Lover ... The Holy One ...
I can begin this investigation of remembering by trying to get hold of the various rhythms of my life, for example,
Have there been any recognizable calls in my life?
Has there been a similarity about each of these calls?
"The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel...."(Jer 31:31). The people of Israel could interpret what was going on in the events that affected them because they experienced the pattern of covenant. This was God's way of dealing uniquely with them. This same pattern of covenant gave them a touchstone for recognizing the leading of God's Spirit. This dynamic pattern could give them the right to hope and expect such an approach from God in the future.
The patterns by which God encounters me can be a help to recognize God's presence, a touchstone to discern authentic consolation and the peace of Christ in my life.
In this method, we enter a gospel story about Jesus by using our powers
of imagining. The concrete details of the gospel story serve as a guide
to our imagination.
In this method, we allow Jesus to enter into some remembered past event of our own life. Our experience unites with the experience of Jesus and in this process we are led to greater self-acceptance, healing, and gratitude. Here is a way you can approach this method of prayer:
A. Decide on the one
event on which you would like to focus.
... WATCH ... LISTEN ... FEEL ...
D. Now relive it through
If this event was a happy experience for you, simply express these feelings to God or to Jesus:
A very good way of pondering a passage of scripture with your heart is to approach the scripture text as you would a love letter.
Occasionally you might want to ask yourself questions concerning this passage: why? how? when? how might this apply to me now? Let further feelings and thoughts well up in your heart as you ponder to find deeper meaning or understanding or a different way of seeing things.
Respond authentically and spontaneously as in dialogue.
In every prayer period, it is helpful to have a dialogue with God. Sometimes the word "colloquy" is used as a fancy name for this dialogue. It is a term that describes the intimate conversation between God and me, Jesus and me, and so on. This conversation happens on the occasion of my putting myself as totally as I can into the setting of the prayer; I will find that I speak or listen as God's Spirit moves me -- sometimes as sinner, sometimes as child, at other times as lover or friend, and so on. As with all conversations, the colloquy goes both ways. I say something to Jesus and then I give Jesus time to say something back to me. Sometimes it even may be helpful to imagine Jesus responding as if he were sitting beside me. At times, this little technique really helps establish the two-way flow of conversation. A colloquy takes place at any time during the period of prayer.
Formal prayer can be made in almost any bodily position. Certain positions
are more helpful for some people than for others, just as certain positions
are more helpful at one time in prayer than at another. The important aspect
of posture is whether I can be at ease and yet attentive, reverent and
yet relaxed. And so kneeling, sitting, standing, lying prostrate are all
potential positions for prayer.
Settle Into Prayer
With An Attitude Of Gratitude
1. -- I remember various moments of the day. On what one event or experience do I want to focus? For example, enjoying, or being repulsed by, or being attracted by some person, event or thing?Respond To God
I dialogue with God who is with me and loves me profoundly in the midst of this reality. I talk over with God how I am being called now.
(Sometimes you may want to read a passage of scripture to let the Word shed light on your experience.)
(based on the work of Christopher Rupert, S.J.)
One means of centering is the use of the "mantra" or "prayer word". The mantra can be a single word or phrase. It may be a word from scripture or one that arises spontaneously from within your heart. The word or phrase is repeated slowly within oneself in harmony with one's breathing. For example if one were to use the phrase "Jesus, redeemer," one might say "Jesus" while inhaling and "redeemer" while exhaling.