Coming to Prayer

Coming to Prayer

Advent #7

 

Recently I was in the presence of a wonderfully gifted young man who scores on the autism scale.  Like many, he is endowed with a special gift.  In this case particular instance, this young man was a mechanical genius.  We were standing in the narthex of a church where, on a lovely antique sideboard stood a prayer box.  This box was for those persons who wished to write a prayer request and then place it in the box.  The request would be known only to the requestor and his or her God and so, the box had a lock on it.

 

This young man was immensely curious as well as energetic and so it was no surprise that the box drew his interest.  The box itself is rather old and the lock was not easy to open, even with the combination and key.  To my surprise, this young man twirled the moving parts like there were on a Rubik’s Cube and easily opened the lock, without either the combination or the key, in a matter of seconds.  Just as he was about to open the box, I put my hand on the top and whispered:  “This box holds secrets, secrets that people have written to God.  We don’t want to let the secrets out, do we?”  He immediately moved his hands and mine and agreed that secrets were a “Shhh”.  Then he whispered to me: “When you tell God a secret, we call that a prayer.”

 

Iñigo de Loyola was a squire to the King of Castile when his leg was shattered.  During his recovery, not only did his leg heal but his soul did as well.  The twenty-six year old underwent a spiritual experience, a religious conversion of sorts.  He changed his name to Ignatius and when he resumed his studies at the University of Paris he convinced his fellow classmates to use the method of meditation and prayer that he had developed during his convalescence.  We touched on his Examen yesterday and we are going to continue a bit of it today. 

 

Originally Ignatius had a thirty day plan but many were simply unable to devote that much time and so he developed his 19th annotation retreat – something to teach people to incorporate prayer into their daily lives.  The Spiritual Exercises of his month-long plan were condensed into the Examen that someone could do every day. 

 

One of the simplest ways to contemplate one’s spiritual journey, according to Ignatius, can be found in his Daily Examen.  It has five steps with which one can arrive at a manner that allows for contemplation, meditation, and prayer. 

1. Place yourself in God’s presence. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.

2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.

3. Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.

4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away?

5. Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God’s plan. Be specific, and conclude with the “Our Father.”

 

The Daily Examen is fine if one is a Christian or of a faith that recognizes a God but what about those who are not?  With a slight alteration, you can use this basic format.

1. Place yourself in a peaceful mental image. Give thanks for your life.

2. Pray for the grace to understand how the world is acting in your life.

3. Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.

4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to a place of peace and contentment, or further away?

5. Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with mankind and nature. Be specific, and conclude with a reaffirming message or favorite verse that brings you calm.

 

My personal favorite definition of prayer comes from Vinita Hampton Wright:  “Prayer is the sharing of presence.”  Be present today in your life and enjoy being alive.  Live gratitude and blessings will come to you.

 

 

 

 

 

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