"Prayer is... nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends." St. Theresa of Avila
There is nothing more sacred or intimate than prayer. Whether we're joining the congregation in song at Sunday Mass, reciting the Rosary with a small Zoom group, or lighting a candle in a quiet chapel, we are opening ourselves to an encounter with God.
Our "go to" Catholic prayers -- the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, among others -- are like old friends, always ready to be called upon. And just like faithful friends, every now and then, we need to remind ourselves to slow down, be intentional in our recitation, so as to remember to drink in the beauty of the words.
Then there are those moments when our mind is racing and our emotions are so intense that we can't even organize our thoughts enough to put our prayers into silent words. We just end up holding tightly to a Rosary or clenching our interlocking our fingers... knowing God understands. Other times our prayers come out as a casual "drive safely" when we hand the car keys to our teenager, as a container of soup delivered to a neighbor going through a hard time, or as silent tears as we watch a loved one going into surgery.
Prayer can lighten our burden as we hand our troubles over to God, guide our discernment when the world is noisy and pulling at us from all directions, and remind us that we're never alone even in our darkest hours.
We encourage you to continually add new prayers to your repertoire, to find ones that speak to you at this point in your journey. We also hope you are inspired to try different types of prayer. Like any relationship, the variety and style of your conversations with God will change along the way, but each one deepens it.
U.S. Catholic article: Five Prayers Catholics Can Take to Heart by Bishop Robert F. Morneau
The Examen is an opportunity to recognize the Holy Spirit’s movement in our daily lives through peaceful reflective prayer. It is simply a set of introspective prompts that encourages us to detect God’s presence in the people, events, and emotions of our day and discern His direction for us. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible.
In the Examen, we review our day to notice God’s blessings as well as acknowledge the moments that didn’t go so well—when we were hurt by something or when we sinned. We give praise and thanksgiving for the blessed moments, and ask forgiveness and healing for the difficult and painful ones. We then turn to the day yet to come and ask God to prepare us for the potential challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. The ultimate purpose of the Examen is to become better discerners of the beautiful gift of life from God.
How to Pray the Daily Examen
Five steps to notice where God is present throughout your day:
- Prepare for prayer: Begin with a few deep breaths to calm your heart and mind. Place yourself in God’s presence.
- Thanksgiving: Thank God for the gifts of the day and anything you are grateful for.
- Review: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your day clearly. Now, walk through your day as though you are playing a movie in your mind. Do any emotions or moments stand out? When did you feel particularly close to or far from God?
- Respond: What might God be telling you through your experiences and feelings? Ask forgiveness for the times you weren’t at your best. Whatever comes to mind, talk with God about it.
- Look toward tomorrow: What are you excited for? What are you nervous about? How might you collaborate more effectively with God’s plan. Conclude with the “Our Father.”
Lectio Divina, which means “divine reading” in Latin, is a traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation, and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's word. Many historians and theologians credit the 6th century Saint Benedict of Nursia as the first teacher of Lectio Divina. This method of prayer, however, likely originated even earlier. Since bibles were not readily available and literacy was low, monks would gather in their chapel to hear a member of the community read from the scripture. In this exercise they were taught and encouraged to listen with their hearts because it was the Word of God that they were hearing.
While Lectio Divina has long been a technique prayed with, there was a resurgence in its popularity following the publishing of Vatican II’s Dei Verbum which encourages us to continue renewing the Church through the Word of God. Lectio Divina calls on us to see prayer as a renewal of our relationship with God through the Word. Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2005 speech, “I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.”
Four Steps for Lectio Divina:
- Read (or if you’re using an app, listen): Take a short passage or one verse from the Bible and read it carefully. Let it soak in.
- Meditate: Slowly and prayerfully read or listen to the passage a second time. Does a particular image, phrase, or single word stick out to you? Let that be your focus, meditating on what might God be trying to show you through what grabs at your heart.
- Pray: Respond to the text and to God. Ask God to show you what He wants you to take from it. This could lead you to offer thanks, ask forgiveness, or simply talk with God about what the passage brought to your heart.
- Contemplate: Rest with God. Be aware of God’s presence with you. Listen for His voice.
In this way, Lectio Divina becomes more about divine listening than divine reading. Through it, we might hear more clearly what God is asking of us — opening ourselves to peace, gratitude, and living rooted in Christ.
Check out this booklet produced by Belmont Abbey College: Lectio Divina: An Antidote for Anxiety and Doubt
Taizé (pronounced: tay-zay) is a distinctive style of meditative prayer developed by an ecumenical community of monks in rural France in 1940. This quiet, moving reflective prayer combines elements of the Church's traditional Liturgy of the Hours with elements of contemplative meditation. The Taizé style can be practiced as both communal and personal prayer. Its music can help us establish a rhythm of prayer, the lyrics give us the words to pray, and the silence gives us the opportunity to listen to God.
A typical Taizé prayer service incorporates periods of silence with meditative readings from Scripture, prayers of praise and intercession, and the frequent repetition of simple, contemporary chants based on the Psalms or other parts of Scripture. Short songs or chants, repeated over and over, create a meditative environment and express basic realities of faith which can be easily grasped by the mind and the heart. The result is to gradually move prayer from the head to the heart.
If, in your personal prayer, finding the words to speak from the heart or losing focus have sometimes been a struggle, Taizé’s intentionally simple chants and soothing melodies can be very helpful. Taizé can help us leave behind our many distractions and concentrate on the Lord.
Visio divina is Latin for divine seeing and is similar to lectio divina but is practiced with images. In a society that is ever more inundated with images, Visio Divina requires us to slow down, to truly look, and to encounter God’s presence in what we see. Works of art, stained glass windows, icons, even images in nature can be inspirations to help set your mind to prayer and approach your conversation with God. It is an invitation to wonder, to see Christ’s presence in all the beauty that surrounds you, and to find a personal meaning and connection to something you see on this spiritual journey God has placed you in. Gaze… reflect… respond… and rest in God’s grace and love.
In a homily, Fr. Tony Luongo recommended a website that links the day's Gospel reading to a work of art, and through this, gives us another way to appreciate the beauty of Scripture: christian.art