Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Three Methods of Prayer of Saint Ignatius & Prayer Helps

First Method of Prayer:
In this first method of prayer, we consider and think over the First Commandment, asking our­selves how we have observed it and in what manner we have failed. We will use as a measure of this consideration the space of time it takes to recite three times the OUR FATHER and the HAIL MARY. If during this time we should find faults we have committed, we will ask for­giveness and say an OUR FATHER. The same method will be followed with each of the Ten Commandments.

Second Methwd of Prayer:
We may kneel or sit, or use any position suited to our disposition and conducive to devotion. We then say, "Father," and continue meditating on this word as long as we find various meanings, comparisons, relish, and consolation in the con­sideration of it. The same method should be followed with each word of the OUR FATHER, or of any other prayer which we wish to use for this method.

Third Method of Prayer:
With each breath or respiration, we should pray mentally while saying a single word of the OUR FATHER, or other prayer that is being recited, in such a way that from one breath to another a single word is said. For this same space of time, the attention is chiefly directed to the meaning of the word, to the person who is addressed, to our own lowliness, or the difference between the greatness of the person and our own littleness. In this way, observing the same measure of time, we should go through the other words of the OUR FATHER. We can use this same method with any prayer.

This exercise is to help you pray in a special way, to make mental prayer - which is quite a different thing from reading.

If you read the meditations, you may hurt your prayer.

First Steps:
Remember that prayer is talking to God. Mental prayer is talking to Him in your own words about things that are important to Him and to you.

Sometimes this is very easy. Sometimes it is quite hard. But it is always very important.

If you want to spend 15 minutes with God every day, you will often need help. Each meditation referred to from the book, "Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle," contains several built-in prayer helps. These built-in helps are designed to make it easier for you to make mental prayer, easier to stay close to God and come to know and love Him better in the 15 minutes you have set aside daily just for Him.

1. Take no more than one day's meditation at a time.
2. Make up your mind to stick to it, once you have begun, for the full time you promised God, however long that was. Follow the advice of your spiritual director.
3. Use the built-in prayer-helps, as you need them.

The Built-In Prayer Helps:
1. Presence of God:
Every meditation opens by reminding you of the presence of God. It is very important, and you must never skip it. Follow the directions and prayer below thinking over what each word means:
My God, all great, all good-I adore You. Be merciful to me, a sinner. You know me...You made me...You want me here. Help me to pray. Let everything Ido, now and forever, be done for You!
2. Grace I Ask:
This suggests something worthwhile for you to aim at and try for in your mental prayer each day. Ask God in your own words to give you this grace and favor. Ask Him sincerely, no matter how you feel at the moment. All the later parts of each meditation are planned to help you get from God that definite grace you ask here at the beginning.

3. The Idea:
Here are suggested thoughts for you to think about and especially for you to talk about with God. It is always easier to talk when you have something definite to discuss. This Idea part of each meditation tries to remind you of some­thing you might want or might find profitable to talk over with God.

Many meditations have a MENTAL PICTURE instead of the Idea. In these you simply follow the description slowly and try to build up in your mind the picture described. Both Idea and Picture meditations will help you to discover many things about God and yourself, important things, and will help you see more clearly and more deeply into things you know already.

4. My Personal Application:
The facts considered in each day's mental prayer can change your life. They should change it. That is one of the reasons mental prayer is so important. But in order that these facts and ideas can help your life, you have to take them and see for yourself what they should mean to you, here and now.

This built-in help, Personal Application, tries to help you get started seeing these real con­nections between the truths and you. But the real work in this part of your mental prayer is always going to be up to you and you alone. Nobody in the world can really apply personally any truth to your life except you yourself. No­body knows you from the inside out the way you know yourself. But the man who is brave enough to try to look honestly at himself and strong enough to try to do something about really chang­ing himself - that man can change the world.

5. I Speak to God:
This is not the fifth thing you do in mental prayer. This is something you do in mental prayer. This is something you do all the way through all your prayer - first, fifth, and last too. But this help number 5 tries to suggest some special things you might want to say to God in connection with the definite ideas in this one day's meditation. Of course, these are only sugges­tions. And your own words, your own thoughts, your own feelings will always be better. It's just good to have these to use when you're stuck.

6. Thought for Today:
Twenty-four hours can be a long time. To help stretch the good effects of a 15-minute mental prayer out over 24 hours, it's good to have one idea packed into one short sentence to carry with you through the day: something you can remember easily, something that will bring back to your mind and heart the things you said to God and God said to you in your last mental prayer. The Thought for Today tries to give you one short idea like this. It's just a suggestion; if you have a more striking one, use it.
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

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