The Way Some People Pray

Before the time of prayer; you usually succeed better when you have marked off a definite time and a definite place to pray, and keep them carefully.

You will more readily go to prayer when you have gotten ready for it, particularly by looking over the materials you intend to use.  For instance, you will have identified which passage in the Gospels you intend to contemplate, or what ideas you intend to consider.

At the time of prayer:
Since prayer means raising your mind and heart to God, you always begin by reverently asking the Lord God to let you come into the divine presence.  You recognize that you are already totally known by God the Creator, who is making you moment by moment from nothing.  So you will come before God consciously just the way you are at the moment, with the fears and joys, the convictions or doubts, the victories or defeats you now carry.

As you begin, you will sometimes compose yourself in a concrete place.  For instance, if you are praying about the prodigal son’s father, you might compose yourself at the place in the road where the father runs and meets the son.  If you are considering the lilies of the field, you probably want to imagine yourself for a moment in a field riotous with wild flowers.  Many of the period of prayer in the Spiritual Exercises suggest that you compose yourself in a specific place.  Some call this “the composition of place,” but keep in mind that you are rather composing yourself than a place.

At times, too, when you are considering something historical, you will want to remember very briefly where your material fits into its own history.  For instance, how the Nativity fits into the course of human salvation, or how it comes after the Annunciation.  You have to decide whether this little recollection helps or not, because it is the kind of thing that helps some and hinders others.

Just as a start, remember to ask God the Lord for what you want.  Each part of the Exercises offers some special gift, like accepting God’s creative love or coming to know and love Jesus of Nazareth.  Never omit asking God what you want just now.

While you are praying:
You do not have to “cover” a certain amount of material.  When you find some notion or feeling that holds you, quietly stay there.  When you are finished with some prayer, move along.

About positions:
When you are standing up and praying along readily, you have no reason to change your position.  When a position - say, sitting on the floor - begins to distract you, then change it.  You are right to try whatever position occurs to you.  The point is to pray; the position makes a difference only in that light.

You help yourself a lot, and show generosity to God, when you do little things that match what you are praying about.  For instance, when you are praying about sin, diet a bit or skip a couple of parties.  After all, we go whole into prayer, not just our minds, so we need to prepare our whole self for it.

When you are coming to the end of the time you set for yourself, pause to ask yourself what you want especially to bring to God.  Then talk with God the way you do to any revered friend.  You might talk with Jesus of Nazareth, or with one of the apostles or one of the group of women who stayed with Jesus.  during your prayer, you might think of God either as “You” or as “He,” but when you end it, you ought always to think of God as “You.”

Unless you have decided on another prayer, always end your time with the Our Father.

After that, take time for another kind of exercise, Review of Prayer.  Jot down what you did during your time, and what you experienced - ideas, emotions, affects, convictions, prayers.  You will help yourself a great deal by this, and it leads directly into preparing for further prayer.

Well before this time you set for prayer (for instance, the evening before a time of morning prayer), look over the materials you intend to pray with.  Sometimes you will even see certain points emerge from the material, and note them down.

As long as you are going through the Exercises, you will tend to reflect on how well you are performing them and how seriously you are taking them.  You might want to establish a specific time to do this reflection.

In everything, remember that you never make a generous gesture to God the Lord - determinedly being faithful to prayer on an occasion when it is very difficult, for instance, or putting in some added time to reflect and pray - that will exceed God’s generosity to you.  God always pours out gifts with regal largess when we offer to our Creator any of our own little gifts.