How can I pray?
At this point in the journey towards friendship with God through prayer, each one of us could (and should, if he or she has had the opportunity to follow the monthly spiritual suggestions) respond to the famous 5 W’s seen below, with his or her own experience (i.e. put the previous months’ suggestions into practice). Let’s see if this is true:
- Who is involved in your prayer?
- What is prayer?
- When have you prayed in recent days?
- Where have you prayed since you started this journey?
- Why do you pray?
If we have difficulty finding these elements in our daily life, we can take a couple of weeks to review and put into practice the suggestions of the two previous Spring of Water reflections, and then come back here.
St. Thomas also had additional insights (3 Q’s!) that aren’t part of the 5 W’s, but that fit our theme today:
- Quomodo? How to pray? How do I use those ten minutes that I put aside in my day to be with the God who is looking for me?
- Quibus auxiliis? With what means do I foster the conversation?
- Quantum? How much and how often do I pray?
We do not want to fall into the risk of giving recipes. We are looking for a relationship with God, not a technique. We are nurturing the communication of love, which occurs in original, personalized, and unpredictable ways. All we do is offer methods (literally ways of searching along the journey) and open channels. For example, in order to deepen human relationships, we can suggest methods such as visits, chats, letters, phone calls, Zoom calls, messages, etc. Similarly, we can also suggest methods for connecting with God. The means or the method remains simply an instrument that can be used, and not an absolute (not an end, but a necessary instrument that needs to be safeguarded). Each one of us may naturally lean toward one or another of the proposed methods, and that is fine, as long as the method becomes a path to get into the heart of prayer: the relationship with God, intimacy, and love.
Last month’s invitation was to do 15 minutes of meditation every day. But what is this meditation? We start with the method of the 3 R’s, which is a simple, good way to start, and easy to memorize. Let’s dig in, confident that “We learn to pray, in fact, by praying.” (St. John Paul II)
Before we begin: set the time and the place.
We hardly ever settle for a “See you soon” or a “When you pass through, come and see me” if we really want to cultivate a relationship. If we are in love, we tend to go on dates. A date with God includes a place that is conducive to prayer, perhaps in nature or by candlelight, or in an office or a house, depending on the type of encounter desired. In order to be with the Lord, it is good to have a place that is a bit secluded, silent, far from technology, and with minimal distractions. Sometimes we go to a church, but more often, for daily prayer, we will find ourselves at home or outdoors. Even at home we can find a little corner that, with a few small tricks, helps us to enter into intimacy with the Lord. (We will talk about that later.) The “date” with God also includes a specific time: a day and a time to which remain faithful. If we say, “I don’t need it, because I always pray!” we end up never praying. It is better to set a time of day to regularly devote to meditation. For example, we can say, “Every day during my lunch break I will pray on the park bench for 15 minutes, and on the weekends I will pray in my room in front of the painting of Our Lady at 8:30 in the morning before going down to have breakfast.”
The Method of the 3 R’s
READ: I place myself in the presence of the Lord who wants to encounter me, and I invoke His Holy Spirit, the source of communion of love. I leave my cell phone behind and take with me the Gospel passage on which I have decided to meditate. I read it slowly, with the attention of someone who has received a letter from their loved one, savoring every sentence and trying to encounter the heart of God in Scripture. I listen to the Word of God, not mine: I prepare to meet in dialogue Someone different than me, not another me in a monologue. I reread the passage several times, entering the scene described, and paying attention to what Jesus does and says (what verbs refer to him?). What is the message of the passage?
REFLECT: I speak to God about the passage I read, addressing Him personally, as a friend, and reflecting with Him. I try to connect the content of the Gospel to my life. The Word is always current and it sounds different to our ears every day, because we are always different. What does it say to me today? Am I learning something new (about Jesus, about humanity, about myself)? What do I experience? How do I react? Do I like what I read? Does it bother me? Do I agree? Does it console me? Does it upset me? Does it offer a new understanding of a situation I am experiencing? What do I want? Very freely and sincerely, I tell God everything that I experience (I can do it by thinking, writing, speaking). I ask him questions, I express perplexity, I ask him for help, I thank him, I praise him, I love him. In the dialogue, I leave some moments of silence in which I listen to Him (who communicates through the Word, the circumstances of my life, and what moves in my heart).
RESPOND: I thank the Lord for the gift of being with Him. I end the moment of prayer with a response to His invitation. I commit to a small and concrete action, suggested by Him, which will translate my prayer into life in the next 24 hours. This will allow the Word to become flesh within me, and prayer will transform me into Christ little by little, which will change an action of my day and gradually my whole person. What has the Lord said to me and given me? How does He speak to me? What intuition entered my heart? What is He inviting me to do? Or to stop doing? How can I respond to the love and light I received in prayer?
Concrete resolution for the month:
- For those who have recently started praying: This month, are we ready to make a date with God every day? If we are, then here is a good, small, concrete, and verifiable resolution: Starting tomorrow (where? ____ at what time? _____) I will take the Gospel and cultivate friendship with God through the 3 R’s for 20 minutes. (Avoid vague and excessive intentions that are hard to follow through with, that can discourage us instead of transforming us, like: I will pray more every day of my life).
- For those who have been praying for a while: We give thanks for the gift of prayer that we have received and we make an original gift: We teach others to pray. I cultivate a relationship (how? ______ when? _______) with someone (who? _______) who, wishing to pray, asks, “But how do you do it?” and I propose a half hour together (when? _________ where? ____) in which we go over the 3 R’s step by step.
This month’s Spring of Water reflection is written by Sister Clara Remartini, AVI.