By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH
Many people are looking for real and practical ways to pray that help them pay attention to God in the midst of their busy lives. A way that has proven helpful to me is to structure my prayer time around four movements: Reading, Reflecting, Responding and Remaining (in the Latin of the Middle Ages they would refer to Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio).
READING: The fundamental act of prayer is listening (paying careful, loving and alert attention): to Scripture, first of all, but also to the events of our lives. We are people to whom God speaks. That’s the heart of the art of prayer, the art of genuine attention.
REFLECTING: Digesting what we have slowly read, using imagination, paying attention to insights, noticing feelings and connections: all are essential aspects of understanding and integrating what we have heard in God’s speaking to us in Scripture and in the silence of our hearts.
RESPONDING: Saying words (our own or formal prayers) comes as a natural response to the first two elements of prayer. Often, giving thanks—gratitude—is a first response to noticing God’s presence in the Scriptures and in the experiences of our lives.
REMAINING: A simple resting (in faith, hope and love) in the reality of the Triune God who speaks to us in order to draw us into a sharing in the Divine Life. In this silence we offer ourselves as an empty vessel that God may fill with grace and love.
We will never acquire the art of prayer unless we give the time to practice prayer. A specific time of 20-30 minutes each day can be our gift to Christ, a time no longer at our own disposal, but a time that belongs to Christ and us together. Sometimes spent with others, sometimes in the company of Mary, this Christ-time in each day will become the place where we discover the depth, creativity andprofound human value in the living art of Christian prayer.
Prayer is communion and conversation with God. We all know from our experience that a genuine conversation requires speaking and listening. We are often ready to speak, but neglect to listen carefully and attentively. Communion, or friendship, develops when both dynamics are present.
How do you pray? What works for you?