God Speaks to Us First
The fundamental truth that God is concerned for each of us long before we became concerned for ourselves makes it possible for us to pray to God. God desires communication with us and speaks to us continually:
-through Jesus Christ, God’s Word made flesh
-through the Church, the people who are the extension of Christ in the world
-through visible creation, another form of God’s self-revelation which is the physical context of our lives
-through the events and experiences of our lives
-through Holy Scripture, which is the mode of communication we are most concerned with in prayer.
God Invites Us to Listen
Our response to God’s initial move is to listen. This is the basic attitude of prayer.
How to Go about Listening
What you do immediately before prayer is important. Normally, prayer is something you do no rush right into. Spend a few moments quieting yourself and relaxing, settling into a comfortable, prayerful position.
When 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.
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. In an age of noise, activity, and tensions like our own, it is not always easy or necessary to forget our cares and commitments. Never feel constrained to blot out all distractions. Anxiety in this regard could get between us and God.
Rather, realize that the Word did become flesh and can speak to us in the noise and confusion of our day. Sometimes in preparing for prater, relax and listen to the sounds around you. God’s presence is as real as they are.
Be conscious of your sensations and experiences of felling, thinking, hoping, loving, of wondering, desiring, etc. Then, conscious of God’s unselfish, loving presence in you, address God simply: “Yes, you do love life and feeling into me. You are present to me. You live in me. Yes, you do.” Then ask for the grace to listen to what God says.
Relax. 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 our 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 with God about the things you are interested in or wish to be thankful for-your joys, sorrows, aspirations, etc. All along, or as you are coming to the end, think about what this all means to you: to your personal history, your world, your life, yourself.
Conversation with God Using the Scripture
Select a short passage from the Bible. As you open the book, be aware that you are in the presence of the Living Word, the One who guarantees all that is written. Read through the passage slowly and attentively; read aloud or whisper in a rhythm with your breathing-a phrase at a time-with pauses and repetitions when and where you feel like it. Do not hurry to cover much material.
If the passage recounts and event in the life of Jesus, enter in to the scene as one of the participants. Speak with the persons involved: the blind man being cured or the disciples as the walk with Jesus. Share their attitudes. Respond to what Jesus is saying.
Some words or phrases may carry special meaning for you. Savor those words, repeating them out loud, turning them over in your heart. Think about each of the words or phrases. Who said it? What does it mean? To whom was the word of phrase addressed? What was the speaker feeling?
When something strikes you, pause. Pause for example, when…
-you experience new meaning or a new way of being with Christ (for example, you sense what it means to be healed by Jesus)
-you experience God’s love
-you are moved to do something good
-you are peaceful
-you are happy and content just to be in the presence of God
-you are struggling with or disturbed by what the words are saying.
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 experience consolation. God is sometimes very close to us in such a seeming absence (Ps. 1390:7-8). God accepts us as we are, with all our limitations-even without r 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
Prayer Before Reading Scripture
We praise and thank you glorious Lord Jesus Christ, for being present among us and in us. In us you praise the Father with the voice of the Spirit, whom you have given us. Lord, may this voice of the Spirit be roused in us as we listen to the words of Scripture in a manner that is worthy and fitting, appropriated to the meaning of the text and in harmony with what is revealed to us. Make us ready to recognize how we can correspond to the teaching and example proposed to us. For you are God, living and reigning for ever and every. Amen
-Carlo Maria Martini SJ
Summary: 6 “P’s”
Prepare a Passage: from Scripture and have it marked and ready.
Place: Where you are alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence.
Posture: 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…
Passage: Read the passage from Scripture slowly and listen attentively.
Don’t be anxious. Don’t try to look for implication or lessons or profound thoughts of conclusions or resolutions. Be content to be like a child who climbs in to its father’s or mother’s lap and listens to their words and stories.
Carry on a conversation (sometimes called a colloquy) with God about what you have heard. Think o God in the second person singular (You). Tell God what you are thinking and feeling. What would you give to God? What do you want of God?
Praying Scripture had nothing to do with “getting through” passages and books; it has everything to do with letting the meaning and the values of each single word sink into you life.
After the period of prayer is over, it may be helpful to reflect back over the experience of prayer. This review will help you notice what the Lord is doing in your experience.
-Armand Nigro SJ (adapted)
Lord, show me your ways.
-St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ