Prayers With Mouth And Heart

Pondering the Scriptures

Helps that support formal prayer moments

Centering prayer / prayer of tranquillity

Writing as a form of prayer

Remembering as a way of praying

Praying over your decisions

Praying with the Spiritual Exercises


God Speaks To Us First
This fundamental truth makes it possible for us to pray. God has been concerned for each of us long before we became concerned for ourselves.

God desires communication with us and does so in many different ways:

  • through God's own word made flesh in Jesus;
  • because we are joined together in Christ Jesus, God speaks to us through others (the church, wisdom of the ages, etc.);
  • creation took place in the Word (Jn 1:1) and is another form of God's self-revelation;
  • through the events and experiences of our lives;
  • through the scriptures, a real form of God's presence.
The use of scripture in prayer is the mode of communication that we are concerned with here. Since God invites us to listen. Our response to God's initial move is to listen to what is said. This is the basic attitude of prayer.

How To Go About Listening
What you do immediately before prayer is very important. Normally, it is something you do not rush right into. Spend a few moments quieting yourself and relaxing, settling yourself into a prayerful and comfortable position. In listening to anyone, you try to tune out everything except what the person is saying to you.

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.,

  • you feel a new way of being with Jesus or he comes to you in a new way ( e.g., as healing or accepting you in a way different than other times);
  • you are happy and content just to be in God's presence;
  • you are struggling with or disturbed by what the words are saying;
  • you experience new meaning;
  • you are moved to do something loving.
This is the time to ... p a u s e.

This is God speaking directly to you in the words of Scripture.

  • Do not hurry to move on.
  • Wait until you are no longer moved by the experience. Don't get discouraged if nothing seems to be happening. Sometimes God lets us feel dry and empty in order to let us realize it is not in our own power to communicate or to experience consolation. God is sometimes very close to us in seeming absence (Ps 139:7-8). God is for us entirely, in a selfless way, accepting us as we are, with all our limitations -- even with our seeming inability to pray. A humble attitude of listening is a sign of love for God, and a real prayer from the heart. At these times remember the words of Paul, "The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness, for when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, it is the Spirit who expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words" (Rom 8:26-27).
Relax in prayer. Remember, God will speak to you in God's own way. "Yes, as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do" (Is 55:10-11).

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'.

Passage of Scripture
     -- Pick one and have it marked and ready.

     -- Where you are alone and uninhibited in your response to God's presence.

     -- Relaxed and peaceful. A harmony of body with spirit.

Presence of God
     -- Be aware of it and acknowledge and respond to it. When you are ready turn to the ...

     -- Read it very slowly aloud and listen carefully and peacefully to it ... pause
Listen with your heart as you would a love-letter. Read aloud or whisper with pauses and repetitions when and where you are drawn. Don't be anxious, don't try to look for implications or lessons or profound thoughts or conclusions. Be content to be like a child who climbs into a caring person's lap and listens to a story. During the prayer exercise and, certainly just before closing, it is helpful to carry on a conversation with God or with Jesus or some safe wisdom figure concerning what you hear.
Review -- After the period of prayer is over reflect upon the experience of prayer just finished. This review will help you notice what God is doing in your experience.

(adapted with gratitude from my famous cousin, Armand Nigro, S.J.)

Prayer Of A Child

Take the position of a little child, not a knowledgeable adult,
who is learning things for the first time...
and take whatever bothers you about God or God's ways, life, yourself, etc ... and bring it to the Gentle One ... and ask God to show you all sides of it ...
and then just let things come to you in prayer ....
Block out nothing.

Let your thoughts flow on their own....
put your feelings into the hands of God
and then, with your imagination and memory
just let things happen ....

This is a very easy form of prayer because we are not working.
We are letting God work.

Many have thought of this as distraction,
but our life has to be part of our prayer.
Be willing to do this over a long period of time ... even months.

You might drift off in this prayer ... if so,
come back to your centre merely by recalling your concern
and then let things happen again ...

Don't fashion the flow if something starts to happen;
let it unfold even if it does not appear to have anything to do with prayer.

-- J. Roger Greenwood

Healing Of Memories For Oneself

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:
"(Finally) ...I had occasion ... to use my prayer time to be healed of the effects of bad experiences in my past. I began by settling quietly in God's presence, and after reminding myself of God's perfect love and desire to heal me, I asked God to bring to my mind the memories of the experiences which were at the root of this buried bitterness. The first memory came back almost at once. I saw myself on the stairway of my high school the first day of my freshman year. I was a fat little twelve-year-old between two much larger boys. It was a scene that I had not thought about in over 25 years. I saw their faces clearly and I even remembered their names. A priest walked by and I said, "Hello." I had served Mass for him many times. The other boys did not know the priests and began to ridicule me for trying to 'get in with them'. I was both hurt and confused. I wanted very much to be friends with my  classmates, but it looked as though I was getting off to a very
bad start. I really couldn't understand why saying hello was so misunderstood. At that point in my recollection I forgave each of them. Then in my imagination I walked back into that scene with Jesus by my side. I could imagine each of the boys becoming self-conscious and confused as they saw Jesus. I could see Jesus forgiving them and urging them to be more loving and understanding. Then he turned to the little boy (me) and he let me know that what I had done was all right, that the other boys were wrong in what they did and they were sorry. I really felt his love. I could see the little boy begin to smile, and then we walked out of the recollection. In the course of a week's prayer I had about fifty experiences like that, and I find that much of the bitterness and harshness has disappeared from my behaviour."

The elements of such prayer are simple:
  • Begin by resting in the presence of God.
  • Recall God's love and power.
  • Ask the Spirit's help in recalling the memories of the bad experiences of the  past which affect you now.
  • Be quiet and let them come to mind.
  • Walk back into those recollections with Jesus and imaginatively reconstruct what would happen.
  • Thank Jesus for his love and healing.

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.

Gospel Contemplation  -- A Fuller Explanation

(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

     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 To Reading
     The reading is done slowly, pausing periodically to allow the words and phrases to enter within you. When a thought resonates deeply, stay with it, allowing the fullness of it to penetrate your being. Relish the word received. Respond authentically and spontaneously as in a dialogue.

Lectio Divina Applied To Some Remembered Event
     Recall the experience and stay with it before God. Let the feelings and thoughts associated with the experience 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 a dialogue.

Posture During The Time 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. One can judge whether one posture rather than another is helpful by the following criteria:

  • Does this posture help in disposing oneself for the grace one is seeking?
  • Is this posture helping one to be at ease and yet attentive, reverent, relaxed?
  • Therefore one uses any posture that helps -- kneeling, sitting, standing, lying prostrate.
  • Walking, too, may lend itself to praying well if it can dispose one for the relaxation and the openness of the heart needed for the prayer exercise.
        On the other hand, walking often interferes with such openness by its restless effect upon one's inner being. Often a certain rhythm of kneeling and sitting, standing or lying prostrate may help one keep in harmony with the variety of moods being expressed within the prayer exercise.

        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.

Review Of Prayer

        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:

  • What happened inside me during the period of prayer?
  • How did I feel about what went on? What was my mood, change in mood ... what feelings flowed through me?
  • What thoughts came in and out of my mind ... where was I drawn to dwell?
  • How were God and I present or absent to each other?
  • Is there some point I should return to in my next period of prayer?
        During this review I thank God for favours received and ask pardon for any carelessness on my part. This review is an instrument to help you reflect upon what was happening in your heart during the times of prayer. It helps you notice your interior reactions. Thus it enables you to be spontaneous during the actual prayer time and to go with the flow of experience.

        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 is not the repeating of the material for prayer as one repeats a study assignment for more thorough understanding.
  • Nor does it mean that one returns to the same matter for prayer in order to dig for something new or different.
  • Nor does it mean that one always returns to all the material of the last prayer period.
What Repetition IS
        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.

Some Examples
        I have prayed over the scripture account of the Last Supper. In my review I notice that I have spent much time absorbed in the adoration of the sacrament; I also notice that I had a struggle reflecting upon the persons  present at the Last Supper. In the following prayer period I return to both the real presence and to the various persons present.

        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. 

  • First, repetition allows spiritual movements to take place: Since one of the goals of daily prayer and of the directed retreat is to discern the interior movements in one's being, repetition is the way we allow these movements. If the one praying moves from scripture passage to scripture passage even with/in the same theme, that person will tend to cut off significant interior movements.
  • Second, repetition is a help to NOTICE interior movements:Since many of our interior reactions at prayer happen without our noticing them, repetition gives the time for the interior reaction to be experienced more distinctly.
  • Third, repetition is the way we can respect God's communication: Just because a prayer period has ended, we should not suppose that God has nothing more to say to us through the particular passage we have been using. Repetition respects God's communication for we keep on returning to the same material until we sense that God wishes us to move on. 
  • Fourth, repetition is a means by which desolation becomes consolation:
     As stated above, repetition is used where there has been struggle, distraction, discomfort, ennui. Often these latter experiences indicate that God's Spirit is trying to communicate with us at a deeper level and we are resisting. When we return to those points which were experienced 'negatively' we often discover that the Spirit overcomes our barriers and desolation gives way to consolation; darkness to light; struggle to surrender.
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.
"What were you just doing?" "Oh I was just looking at God and letting God look at me."

"What were you just doing?" "Oh I was just looking at God and letting God look at me."

"What were you just doing?"
"Oh I was just loving God and letting God love me."

"What were you just doing?" "Oh I was just enjoying God and letting God enjoy me."
"What were you just doing?"
"Oh I don't really know, I was just with God!"

A Written Meditation On A Scripture Reading

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."

5. Looking 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
there a storm in my life? Am I like the leper, or Lazarus, or the blind an in some way? The point is not to analyze, but to make associations and connections as they arise.

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.

A Written Meditation On A Personal Experience

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?

Addressing God by a personally chosen name begins to focus your
thoughts and feelings and to establish a sense of Presence.

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.

7. Remembering 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.

Remembering God's Presence In My History

        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.
        The material over which I shall pray is the story of my own personal history -- the events, the experiences, the people who have crossed my path, the jobs I have held, the gifts I have been given, my accomplishments, my failures. After placing myself in the presence of God, I go down memory lane and ponder contemplatively the events of my own personal history. I seek how the Divine Shepherd has been involved in my life.
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.

    I begin by remembering. This remembering is an awareness of the exterior events in my life and my interior reactions to them. My memory makes them present to me. I remember those that give meaning to me (both pleasure and pain) or those I still can't find meaning for but that I am still searching out. Some key experiences that have been traumatic may remain hidden, but I will be aware of something because of other events recalled. Let one memory touch another by association. This may be neither logical nor chronological.

The following headings may help to begin this process of remembering:

guardians    friends    school        baptism
first communion       health        incidents of childhood     grandparents
relatives   male-female companionship     experiences of church
struggles    talents  five senses    helping others   positions I have held

 ... 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).

    After I have been in touch with the many ways in which I have been gifted I now begin to notice H O W God has been present in my life. I can approach this by recalling first those peak experiences where I have felt profoundly God's presence or those very empty experiences where I have perceived God's absence. Both the "positive" and the "negative" awareness of God can be indicators of God's presence in my life. Then I can begin to investigate the more subtle ways God has been present.
    Although it may help to list these moments, it is very important to spend time just remembering and savouring each of these moments to receive a deep-felt appreciation of them. "If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I sink to the nether world, you are present there" (Ps 139:8).

        Now once again look over your experiences right until now. This time, try to discover where in your life you experienced God in the ways revealed through some of the following images and names:

Light ... Truth ... Mother ... Father ... Friend ... Lover ... The Holy One ...
Judge ... Creator ... The Faithful One ... My Rock .... My Husband ...
Mercy ... Great Spirit ... Hidden One ... Nameless One ... Caring One  ....

        After I have been in touch with such moments I can once again "remember" but this time with a different perspective. This time I shall attempt to notice how God has been with me  c o n s t a n t l y  in a much more dynamic way -- not only in isolated or separated moments of time but continuously as companion, as friend, as lover, as guide - not as observer but as participant. My own personal history indeed has been a salvation history. "When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers, you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned. The flames will not consume you. For I am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your saviour" (Is 43:2-3).

    Before this point I have spent time growing in the awareness of God continuously present in my life. Now I move to this fifth point which may be more difficult to get hold of. Enlightenment on this point may come at a much later date. It concerns the way or pattern in which God interfaces with me. As a unique person with a unique history, I am loved by God in a unique way. God, always the Faithful One, encounters me according to my own personality, gifts, character.

    I can begin this investigation of remembering by trying to get hold of the various rhythms of my life, for example,

  • the cycles of success and failure;
  • lean years (months) rich years (months);
  • periods of being alone and periods of being with others;
  • periods of fogginess and periods of seeing clearly;
  • periods of fatigue and periods of energy;
  • cycles of work and cycles of leisure;
  • patterns of joy - suffering - fear - courage - desire - generosity.
    Does God seem to be dealing with me according to some recognizable pattern?
    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.

Dialogue with God
        From time to time throughout this exercise I shall express my feelings and thoughts to God. I can use those names and images of God that harmonize with the ways God is continually present to me.

(adapted from the work of John English, S.J.)

Gospel Contemplation
(a simple way of praying the gospel stories)

    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.
Enter the story just as if you were there:

  • Watch what happens; listen to what is being said; feel the actions with your body.
  • Become part of the mystery either by being yourself or by becoming one of the persons in the story.
  • Listen, taste, smell, feel, and watch what happens. Allow yourself to interact with the other persons in the event: enter into conversation with them, listen to what they have to say to you and to each other, etc.
  • Allow the event to unfold through your imagination.
  • Be as passive as possible to allow this to take place.
  • At the same time, remain more or less within the framework of the gospel story.
  • Respond spontaneously in a conversation with God, with Jesus or with one of the persons within the gospel story.

Finding God In The Events Of Your Own Life

      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.
B. Settle into a prayerful mode.
C. Remember the details of the experience you had at the time.

                        ... WATCH ... LISTEN ... FEEL ...

D. Now relive it through your imagination.
             How was Jesus present (or absent) to you during this event?
                     What were your feelings then about this?

If this event was a happy experience for you, simply express these feelings to God or to Jesus:

  • Tell Jesus how this event made you feel.
  • Dialogue with Jesus.
  • End with an appropriate response.
If this event was an unhappy one where you need healing, after Step C above, imagine Jesus entering the event:
  • Walk back with Jesus into this recollection.
  • Imaginatively reconstruct what would happen if Jesus were perceived as present then. 
  • Dialogue with Jesus about your reactions; thank him for his healing love as you walk out of the recollection with him.
E. After you have completed this exercise, reflect upon what happened in your heart.

Pondering The Scriptures With Your Heart

         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.

  • Read the passage slowly, aloud, or in a whisper....
  • Let the words wash over you....
  • Savour each phrase or word....
  • Re-read the passage lovingly as if you were reading a letter from a dear friend....
  • Stay with the words or phrases that especially catch your attention.... 
  • Absorb them the way the thirsty earth receives the rain....
     Allow your heart to be moved; when a thought or feeling resonates deeply, stay with it.... Allow it to penetrate your being.... Express it to God....
     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.

Conversing With God

     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.

Bodily Posture During Times 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.
     Once I have adopted a posture for prayer and my prayer is going well, I should not readily change position because again the outward restlessness or shifting of position can jar the inner calm of prayer. Often a certain rhythm of kneeling, sitting, standing, or walking is helpful according to the moods during the time of prayer.

An Awareness Examen

Settle Into Prayer With An Attitude Of Gratitude
I begin by placing myself in the presence of God, who is father and mother to us and so much more than we can imagine. I try to become aware of God beholding me.... I thank God for accompanying me on my journey whether I recognize God's constant presence or not.
Ask For What You Seek And Desire
I ask for the guidance of the Spirit to help me get in touch with what has been happening in me and around me today. I ask for the ability to recognize how the Spirit is leading me through these happenings.
Reflect On Your Experiences Of The Day

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?

 2. a) What did I feel as the incident happened? There may have been a mixture of feelings or a noticeable lack of feelings. Was I aware of my feelings as it happened or did I become aware of them later?
 -- b) How did I respond to these feelings? Suppress them? Laugh? Cry? Take them out on others? etc.
 -- c) What are the aspects of the event that help me understand what went on within me and outside me?

3. How is the Spirit of God present for me in this? Are there any signs of the Spirit that I recognize in that experience? Are there any indications that some parts of the experience were not in harmony with God's Spirit? What does this indicate? For example, my own needs? the needs of others? questions? awareness of fears? awareness of gifts? etc.

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.)

Centering  Prayer

        Centering prayer is a very simple form of prayer,  frequently without words; it is an opening of our hearts to the Spirit dwelling within us. In this prayer we spiral down into the deepest center of ourselves. It is the point of stillness within us where we most experience being created by a loving God who is breathing us into life. To enter into centering prayer one is helped by a belief and recognition of our dependency on God. One can go about it in this way:
  • Sit quietly, comfortable and relaxed
  • Rest within your longing and desire for God
  • Move to the center within your deepest self. This movement can be facilitated by imaging yourself slowly descending in an elevator, or by walking down flights of stairs, or descending a mountain, or going down into the water, as in a deep pool.
  • In the stillness, become aware of God's presence; peacefully absorb God's love.
In centering prayer we go beyond thought and image,  beyond the senses and the rational mind  to the center of our being where God is working a wonderful work.
  • Ps 46:10    Be still and know that I am God!
  • Rm  8:15   The Spirit cries out within is "Abba ...  Father".
  • Rm  8:26    The Spirit expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words.
(based on the work of  Christopher Rupert, S.J.) 

Centering  Prayer  Using A  Mantra

        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.

  • Choose some suitable mantra.
  • Stretch and relax for a few moments. 
  • Thank God for God's goodness.
  • Take any comfortable posture that will not lead to sleep. (Any posture is suitable that keeps the shoulders straight with the back erect and head up.)
  • Repeat the mantra you have chosen over and over again to yourself in rhythm with your breathing until your mind is blank.
  • Cease the mantra until a distraction enters your mind. At this point recognize the distraction, label it and "put it in the bag" to look at later.
  • Resume the same mantra until your mind is once again blank. Then proceed as before when distractions occur.
  • Cease after a comfortable period, but not beyond twenty minutes. You may find an alarm clock helpful at the beginning. As you come out of the prayer do so gradually. Usually it is helpful to recite the Lord's Prayer or some prayer of praise very slowly.
  • After the Centering-Mantra exercise is over you may desire to unbag your distractions and take note of any that merit further attention.
(based on the work of  Christopher Rupert, S.J.)