From Birth: A Guide for Prayer
Lord, teach us to pray. (Luke 11:1)
Prayer is our personal response to God’s presence. We approach the Lord reverently with a listening heart. God speaks first. In prayer, we acknowledge the Divine presence and in gratitude respond to God in love. The focus is always on God and on what God does.
The following suggestions are offered as ways of supporting and enabling attentiveness to God’s Word and our unique response.
A. DAILY PATTERN OF PRAYER
For each period of prayer, use the following pattern:
† Plan to spend at least twenty minutes to one hour in prayer daily. Though there is nothing “sacred” about sixty minutes, most people find that an hour better provides for the quieting of self, the entrance into the passage, and so on.
† The evening before, take time to read the commentary as well as the Scripture passage for the following day. Just before falling asleep, recall the Scripture passage.
2. Structure of the Prayer Period
† Quiet yourself; be still inside and out. Relax. Breathe in deeply, hold your breath to the count of four, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times.
† Realize you are nothing without God; declare your dependency.
† Ask God for the grace you want and need.
† Read and reflect on your chosen scriptural passage, using the appropriate form, for example, meditation for poetic and nonstory passages, contemplation for story-event passages, and so on. (See Forms of Solitary Prayer, in Section B.)
† Close the prayer period with a time of conversation with Jesus and his Father. Speak and listen. Conclude with an Our Father.
3. Review of Prayer
The review of prayer is a reflection at the conclusion of the prayer period. The purpose of the review is to heighten our awareness of how God has been present to us during the prayer period.
The review focuses primarily on the interior movements of consolation and desolation as they are revealed in our feelings of joy, peace, sadness, fear, ambivalence, anger. Often it is in the review that we become aware of how God has responded to our request for a particular grace.
Writing the review provides for personal accountability and is a precious record of our spiritual journey. To write the review is a step toward self integration.
In the absence of a spiritual director or a spiritual companion, the writing helps fill the need for evaluation and clarification. If one has a spiritual director, the written review offers an excellent means of preparing to share one’s prayer experience.
Method: In a notebook or journal, after each prayer period, indicate the date and the passage. Answer each of the following questions:
† Was there any word or phrase that particularly struck you?
† What were your feelings? Were you peaceful? loving? trusting? sad? discouraged? What do these feelings say to you?
† How are you more aware of God’s presence?
† Is there some point to which it would be helpful to return in your next prayer period?