Q: Archbishop J, teach us ways of praying.
TO pray is to live and become fully alive in Christ. I will focus here on methods and tools to assist your prayer but remember disposition and desire are essential.
Prayer is raising the mind and heart to God. It is a conversation with God and sitting in His presence. Prayer is a cry from the heart to a loving Daddy. You will be drawn to one type of prayer more than others. The best prayer is the one we make a habit of: we need a habit of prayer and a routine within the habit.
Daily Mass creates a rhythm that sustains you. If you cannot participate every day, add at least one day to your weekend commitment. In the morning when you awaken, read at least one of the readings of the day—either the gospel or First Reading. Mull over it during the day.
At Mass, recognise that those gathered make up the Body of Christ and are integrally connected. Enter into an examination of conscience so as to identify your shortcomings. Ask God for mercy. Listen intently to the readings and homily for the word or phrase that God is speaking to you.
Offer yourself to God again in the Offertory. Pray through the Eucharistic Prayer, conscious of the one who comes to you on the altar. Receive communion with full, active, conscious participation. Ponder the mystery of God becoming food for the journey.
Experience the sending off at the end of Mass as missioning when you go out into the world filled with Christ, to take Him wherever you go. But also, look for Christ in every situation.
Go to Mass a bit earlier or afterwards sit in silence before the Blessed Sacrament or visit one of the Blessed Sacrament chapels on a regular basis. Be conscious of the one before whom you sit. You can include other forms of prayer in this devotion.
For Lectio Divina, Divine Reading, find a place conducive to prayer. Choose a scripture reading—the gospel or First Reading.
* Lectio: Read the text slowly and prayerfully. The text is a portal through which we encounter the Living Word, Jesus Christ. We open our heart to the ‘tug’; listen for the word or phrase that will jump out at us.
* Meditatio: Meditate on the word; mull over it; and begin a conversation with God as you delve deeper into the Word and the text. Is there a story in your life that is similar to the story in the text? What Word is God speaking to you?
* Oratio: Respond to God from your heart; see what the text asks of you and respond, giving your ‘yes’ to God. Are you ready to bend your heart to His will? Pray for the grace.
* Contemplatio: Sit quietly in a disposition of reception. Just be with God for no purpose or reason. Enjoy sitting in Daddy’s presence. Experience the love.
The third century Desert Fathers were champions at prayer, devoting their whole life to ascetical and spiritual practices. Their teaching is reflected in Christian Meditation, a prayer style developed by Abbot John Cassian (360–435). It comprises three elements:
* Posture: Sit in a chair with your back upright and feet on the ground. Hands on the knees either up for receiving or down for letting go. Become conscious of being in God’s presence.
* Breath: Notice your breathing and then slow it down till the breath is slow, deep and rhythmic. Breathe from the belly. Let the breathing be deep, slow and constant.
* The word: Christian Meditation uses the sacred word Maranatha ‘Come Lord Jesus’. St Paul uses the word at the end of his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:22). It is also found in Revelation 22:20. It is an invocation, a cry from the heart, a plea to God to come to His children and not delay.
The word is said with every breath in four syllables—Ma-ra-na-tha. Some say the whole word while breathing in and again while breathing out. I split the word using two syllables on each part of the breath. This allows me to slow the breath even more.
The practice is 20 minutes in the morning and in the evening. But start where you are comfortable and build up to the 20 minutes. For more information visit the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) website, wccm.org.
The Examen of Consciousness
St Ignatius says if you do not have time, pray the Examen every day and you will not be far from God. The Examen is a prayer process that invites you to reflect upon your day from five different perspectives. It is a recollection of the whole day, reliving the events and emotions.
* Become aware of God’s presence. Recollect. Breathe, focus, and become aware.
* Gratitude: Reflecting on the whole day, to whom and for what are you grateful? Be grateful!
* Petition: Recollect the whole day again; consider your emotions during the day. Ask God to show you what He wants to teach you.
* Discern: Review the day again, discerning when you were the best version of yourself and when you were not. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what led to the movements so you could learn from them.
* Forgiveness: Review the day again asking forgiveness of your Daddy for the times when you were not the best version of yourself. Imagine yourself in God’s loving arms. Ask for mercy and experience it.
* Resolution: Prayerfully, resolve to move closer to being the best version of yourself.
* Conclusion: Pray for your loved ones and situations you will face tomorrow; enjoy the time with God and transition slowly out of the prayer.
Saints were formed by praying the rosary. It is a prayer of giants. The mind meditates on the mystery being pondered, the lips say the words, the fingers slip each bead as you pray. Mary formed Jesus to grow in wisdom, stature and grace as a human; Jesus entrusted His beloved into her arms. She will form you and lead you to her Son.
Key Message: Prayer is possible anywhere but we need to have a rhythm of prayer and a way of praying within the rhythm.
Action Steps: Choose from these prayers to anchor your morning and evening. Use one in the morning when you wake. Choose a second one for the evening. Both times need rituals of prayer. Pray the Examen. Download apps for Mass (Universalis) and Christian Meditation (wccm.org).
Scripture passage: Lk 18:10–14.