Fr. Amand Nigro, SJ
A. Suggestions for shared prayer:
1. Preparation: Set aside 30 minutes or more. The setting is important - comfortable chairs or pillows on the floor, candles, low lights.
- may sing a hymn to begin. Have a scripture passage ready.
- Reader invites all to relax, be
comfortable, listen carefully to God’s Word, reminding them of
"Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them."
- Reader begins with a short spontaneous prayer aloud:
"Speak to us, Lord. Help us to listen to Your Word and enjoy being silent in each other’s presence. Move us to speak when You want us to and to remain silent when You prefer that. Teach us to speak to You and the Father and to praise You aloud uninhibitedly" or some such prayer.
- If reader senses any uneasiness, fear, anxiety or other evil influence, silently exorcise it:
Command it in the name of Jesus to be gone. Call on the Holy Spirit to fill the group and consecrate them to the Sacred Heart.
B. The Prayer Itself
1. Read the passage slowly and distinctly, with pauses, so that the listeners may hold the phrases in their hearts.
2. Settle in silence for awhile. Then each in turn shares what the reading said or meant to him personally: "I heard this...This struck me...To me it said...I felt this.
- Keep contribution very short - the fewer words the better - and personal. Say I, not we. Be honest and simple, not preachy, not applying lessons for others. Be careful not to make this a discussion. That will kill the prayer experience. (Discussion may follow the prayer time, but should not take place during it.) Rather, peacefully, humbly, sensitively LISTEN to God’s word, and simply share what it said and meant to you personally.
- Feel at peace during the silent gaps. These moments are golden, and give rare opportunities for letting God’s message echo and deepen in us. RELAX AND SAVOR His Word or someone else’s contribution during the silences.
- When we humbly and honestly share the meaning and impact for us of God’s Word, we exercise our gift and responsibility of prophecy for the benefit of each other. A prophet speaks God’s message to others. If we do not share what God says to us, we are stingy, and we deprive others of nourishment.
3. After the first round of sharing, the same passage is read again slowly by the same or another reader. It is a richer listening experience this time because the remarks have shown new meanings. God speaks to all present though one another, too.
- A second round of sharing, usually richer than the first, follows. If anyone is moved to pray aloud spontaneously, they should do so. But this round is again mostly shared insights: "I hear...I felt..."
4. The same passage is read slowly a third and last time. This prayer is primarily a listening experience. We come to it willing and expecting to listen 99% of the time.
- After the last reading only spontaneous prayers are spoken aloud - directly to the Father, or Jesus, or the Spirit, or the Mother of God. "Father, we offer You our lives." "Jesus, thank You for speaking to us. Help me to be more aware of Your presence in myself and in others." "We praise you, Lord." "Come, Holy Spirit."
- There should be at least two readings of the passage; three is often better. There should be spontaneous praying after the last one. Anyone may invite the group to sing a hymn at any time. A hymn may be sung at the end if desired.
In such prayer God’s presence becomes very real. While one prays aloud, the others are not mere listeners. They join in spirit and sometimes aloud, making that prayer their own.
- This shared prayer with Scripture is excellent for families, clubs, CCD classes, married couples. It is best with ten or less. Frankly discussing it afterwards may improve it.
- In communities and families, surely once or twice a week is not too often. It need not be added over and above the regular prayer periods of the community. It may substitute for other prayers of the day. I have seen such shared prayer transform the religious life of familles and groups and even religious communities.