Here are previous postings on various forms of prayer.
Are you distracted these days in prayer?
Distraction is a normal companion to prayer, attested to by all the mystics and saints.
How might you deal with distraction? First, don't presume you can just pray as if you were turning a switch on or off. It is important to set a time [and a place] aside for prayer. Settle down, put aside the day's routine, work and thoughts. When distracted, do not fight the distraction. You will be giving it more power over you. Rather, gently draw yourself back to prayer. You might use the repitition of a word or phrase such as, "Come, Lord Jesus", "Help, me, Lord" or "Spirit".
Saint Theresa of Lisieux, who had many distractions in prayer, prayed for those people, the thought of whom was diverting her attention. Thus the distraction was turned into intercessory prayer.
Finally, don't ever become discouraged. Your desire to pray is from the Holy Spirit who prays through us to the Father. Our job? Show up!
Ignatian spirituality arose from an environment not so different from the one in which we find ourselves today. Saint Ignatius endured long months of social isolation while he recovered from his war wounds. He struggled with the fact that his injuries had changed the world as he knew it. His former routines and social life evaporated. His job security went out the window. His illusion of control was completely shattered. Yet, those difficult days of confinement also gave Ignatius time to go deeper with God and gave rise to a practice of Christian spirituality so fertile that it is still being practiced today. CLICK HERE to discover ways of living through the pandemic spiritually.
New Pilgrim Path is a website aimed at introducing fellow Christians of all denominations to the great wealth of online spiritual resources. Links to, and a brief description of, a variety of valuable websites on spirituality are provided. In addition to the permanent pages of Daily Prayer, Sacred Music, Inspiration, and Online Retreats, each week we feature a different Website of the Week, Poem of the Week and Music of the Week. CLICK HERE
Praying with the Bible (2 ways)
The Bible is the Word of God; a letter, if you will, from God to us. It is really a library of 72 documents: the writings of the ancient Hebrews with their primordial stories, the prophets, poetry and history, the four Gospels and the early letters of the Christian community. Become comfortable with your bible. Flip through it and discover its structure. The point in praying with the sacred scripture is not to necessarily finish a passage but to enter into dialogue with Jesus. This is called spiritual reading or lectio divina. It is different than reading for information or study.
1. Lectio divina or spiritual reading
- To pray with scripture, find a quiet time, a comfortable place and enter into silence for a few moments. Pray to the Holy Spirit to come and speak to you through the Word. Here is a sample prayer. Holy Father, anoint me with your Holy Spirit, so that as I read your eternal word, your word may penetrate my whole being and transform me. Grant me the blessing to be a faithful disciple in believing the Word of God and that I may be a light shining upon all who are in darkness. Amen.
- As you gently read a passage; listen with your heart. If a word, phase or image stands out at you – STOP! Relish the moment, digest the Word of God and let it burn in your heart.
- What is God saying to you? Pause in silence for a moment.
- Respond in your heart as if in conversation. Talk with Jesus in ordinary language as you would any friend.
- If a period of praying with the Bible seems dry, like nothing is happening. Do not worry. Use the same passage the next day. Sometimes it takes a while for our ego to give way to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Be patient. The Lord Jesus will always come to those who seek him out. This is called in the Gospel of John worshiping in spirit and truth.
- Complete your biblical prayer with words of thanksgiving.
- Suggested Psalms Hope and trust 62, 91, 121, 131; Thanks 40, 92, 118; Evening 141; Longing 63; Anguish, Distress, Despair 69, 86, 88, 102, 142, 143.
- Suggested books of the Bible Gentle stories: Ruth, Tobit; Strong women: Esther, Judith; Common sense: Sirach, Wisdom, Proverbs; Primordial stories:Genesis; Love poetry: Song of Songs; Gospels: Matthew, Luke, Mark.
- Gospel stories unique to the Gospel of John Nicodemus visits Jesus at night 3:1-21; the Samaritan woman 4:4-42; the woman caught in adultery 8:1-11;; the man born blind 9:1-41; the raising of Lazarus 11:144
2. Saint Ignatius of Loyola offers another form of biblical praying.
- Select a passage from one of the Gospels in which Jesus is interacting with others.
- Read the Gospel passage gently two or three times so that the story and the details of the story become familiar to you.
- Then close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination. Place yourself in the scene as an observer or as a participant. See what is going on and watch the men and women in the scene. Interact with Jesus and other people in the passage. What does Jesus look like? How do the others react to him? What are the people saying to one another? What emotions fill their words?
- Some people’s imaginations are very active so they construct a movie-like scenario with a Gospel passage. Others will enter the scene with verbal imagination, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of prayer. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.
- As one finishes this time of prayer, one should take a moment to speak person to person with Christ saying what comes from the heart.
Praying with the Psalms
A positive upside to our quarantining, for the sake of the larger community, can be to discover, recover and/or deepen our home and family prayer. Christians since the beginning have gathered and prayed at the dawn and the conclusion of the day marked by the rising and setting of the sun. Morning Prayer (Lauds) praises God for the Resurrection while Evening Prayer (Vespers) thanks God for the goodness of the day and asks for the forgiveness of any sins. This developed into what became known as the Divine Office; today, The Liturgy of the Hours.
The full Liturgy of the Hours can be accessed on the web each day at www.universalis.com/lauds.htm and www.universalis.com/vespers.htm . You need not pray the entire Office just use the psalms and canticles to begin. Pause at the end of each line of the psalm and savour the Word of God.
Praying with the Rosary
Want to learn how to pray the Rosary? Click HERE.
The time honoured prayer of the Rosary as an individual or family when prayed with thought and synced to our breathing can bring calm to a person and allow the Holy Spirit to enter our being. Just let the beads gently move through your hands, as they did for my grandmother, as you pray the Aves and meditate on the mysteries of Jesus' life. A full rosary is 150 Aves which coincided with the 150 Psalms.
For those who regularly (or not) pray the Rosary, here are some suggested intentions to go along with the Sorrowful Mysteries for this time.
- Agony in the Garden: For all those fearful of contracting COVID-19
- Scourging at the Pillar: For all those suffering with COVID-19
- Crowning with Thorns: For those who have loved ones infected with COVID-19
- Caring of the Cross: For COVID-19 patient care-givers
- The Crucifixion: For COVID-19 patients who are on the brink of death
Praying the "Jesus Prayer"
"Find a quiet place to sit in silence; bow your head and shut your eyes. Breathe softly, look with your mind into your heart; recollect your mind, that is, bring all thoughts down from your mind into your heart. As you breathe, repeat: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" - either spoken quietly or only in your mind. Strive to banish all thoughts; be calm and patient, and repeat this exercise frequently."
St. Simon the New Theologian, a Byzantine Christian monk & poet, AD 949 - 1022.
Prayer for Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you in my soul. Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into my heart and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
An Act of Contrition
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against You, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with Your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
But I Didn't Sign Up to be a Monk!
Because of Covid-19, many of us are living, in a way, like monastics; enclosed and in solitude. The difference being, we did not ask for or want this situation nor are we spiritually prepared for it. What insights might we learn from monastic life to help us through quarantine and the feelings of isolation?
- Hang your heart on God. Actively commit yourself to God and Jesus in the Life-giving Spirit.
- Recognize that any sense of power, wealth or control you think you have is illusive and close the door to God’s grace. Learn humility.
- Root your purpose and meaning in God. What is God calling you to through this time of isolation and silence?
- With fewer distractions allow yourself to face and acknowledge your fears and the important ultimate questions of life that may arise within you such as your mortality and that life is fragile.
- Consider reading daily from Scripture, or from a classic of spirituality or Catholic fiction. What arises in your heart?
- Reflect and learn from your experience of family and those you are quarantined with you.
- Hang your heart on God.