PRAYER: Ways Of Praying (2) — The Prayer of Desire (includes Lectio Divina) by Andrew Dreitcer

Ways Of Praying (2) — The Prayer of Desire (includes Lectio Divina) by Andrew Dreitcer

From Prayer Practices for the Way of Peace: Choosing Peace Through Daily Practices, edited by Ellen Ott Marshall

(This is a continuation of a piece, the first part of which was posted on an earlier date.)

As I have suggested, the Christian tradition has developed a richness of prayer.  There may be a form of prayer for every sensibility.  In this section, I present a number of ways of praying that may be practiced in order to help form an interior foundation for peace in oneself and in the world.

The Prayer of Desire

Christian pray-ers throughout the ages have insisted that prayer begins with desire, with longing.  According to Ann and Barry Ulanov, “We long for contact, for connection at the center, that grounding that brings full-hearted peace of mind and soul.  We want to be in touch with what lives within every thing that matters, with what truly satisfies.  (Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer)  Even though our longing for God “hides in lesser desires,” it is our yearning for the Divine that turns us to seek a sense of God’s peace in our lives.  It is our desire for God that fuels our search to build God’s peace in the world.

The Psalmist expresses this yearning again and again:

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek [God’s] face!”
Your face, O Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me. (Psalm 27:7-9)

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
So my soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)

Three Prayer Practices Around Desire

The following three prayer practices are meant to help us know ourselves in relation to God.  Throughout Christian history the process of knowing self has been inseparably linked to knowing God.  John Calvin, instance, puts it this way in the opening section of his Institutes of the Christian Religion: “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God . . . . [T]he knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”

It is important to recall that in the dominant understanding of “knowing,” God is not limited to intellectual understanding, knowing about God.  Instead, “knowing carries the meaning of “multifaceted experience” or, as one scholar puts it, “existential apprehension.”  Such knowledge is similar to the way the Hebrew Bible employs “knowing” as a term for sexual union.

In the case of the three prayer practices below, the part of the self we are coming to know is our desire for God.  The Christian spiritual tradition insists that as we identify our deepest longing (perhaps a longing for peace), we will be led toward God, for we will follow the desire we uncover.  In other words, our desire nurtures in us a growing sense of God’s deep and expansive intimacy in our lives.  There, in the midst of this expanding intimacy, is the place where the still and powerful peace of God dwells in us. 

1. Lectio Divina I: Engaging Words

a.  Prepare to read Mark 10:46-51a.

b.  “Recollect” yourself (see The Prayer of Preparation)

c.  Slowly read the passage several times (preferably aloud at least once), ending with the phrase, “What do you want me to do for you?”

d.  Repeat this question to yourself again and again.  That is, ruminate on it, chewing it over and over until the question seems to be asking itself.  Perhaps this rumination will last for minutes.  Perhaps it will linger for days.

e.  At some point in your rumination, you may sense an urge to respond.  Follow that urge.  Speak or write the desire that comes to you.

f.  Conclude with a prayer that expresses to God what has arisen for you in this time.

2.      Lectio Divina II: Engaging the Imagination

While the prayer above may be accessible to those who easily and fruitfully engage word-formed ideas, this prayer may be more accessible to those for whom the imagination holds particular power.  Central to this kind of prayer, which is especially associated with Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century, is the ancient belief that God inspires our imaginations through the stories of the Bible.  According to this tradition, the richness of a scripture-inspired imagination offers a fertile context for revealing our deepest selves in communion with Divine Presence.

a.  Prepare to read Mark 10:46-51a.

b. “Recollect” yourself (see The Prayer of Preparation).

c.  Slowly read the passage twice, ending with the phrase, “What do you want me to do for you?”

d.  Set the passage aside and begin to review in your memory what you have read: the people, the place, the actions, the conversations.  As you review these elements of the passage, let your imagination begin to construct the scene they form.  (Do not worry about getting the scene “right.”  In this way of praying, scripture inspires a richness of images that exceeds the written details.)  What do you see?  Hear?  Smell?  Feel?  Whom do you see?  What colors are visible?  What buildings and vegetation?  What do you notice about Jesus?  As the scene unfolds, imagine that he ultimately turns to you with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Hear that question again and again.  Notice how Jesus asks it — the way he looks and sounds.

e.  Begin to answer Jesus’s question.  You may wish to carry on a conversation with him, either imagining it within you or writing it out as a dialogue.

f.  Conclude with a prayer that expresses to God what has arisen for you in this time.

3.       A Prayer of Noticing

a.  At the beginning of the day, pose these questions to yourself: “What does desire look like in my life?”  What does desire for God look like in my life?”

b.  Invite God to draw your attention to your desire as you go through your day.

c.  Throughout the day, where do you notice desire appearing?  Is it desire for God?  If so, what keeps this desire for God contained?  Where do you imagine it is headed?

d.  At the end of the day, recall what you noticed and offer a prayer that expresses to God what has arisen for you in this time.

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