The way we start anything is super important.
When I forget to pay attention to the way I begin to pray I feel like my prayer begins to “sag.” I lose attention. I lack desire. My mind and heart are fragmented and tired. Without an intentional beginning, prayer often ends up never arriving at the heart of God.
Try this exercise for Clearing the Space to intentionally enter into prayer.
Recall a “wow” moment
Remember a time when you felt something with your whole being. For instance when you pick up a puppy dog lost in the rain, your heart goes out to the poor animal. You can “feel” how much you care. The same when you interact with a baby. We can’t help loving such a little one. You pay attention with your mind and your heart. You want the best for the child. You let go of whatever else is taking your attention.
Now recall a time when you felt God close to you, a “wow” moment, an overwhelm moment. Go ahead. Stop and do it right now. It could be as simple as an evening when you watched the sun slowly set or as profound as an experience of prayer in which you felt seen, known, spoken to by God or by the Blessed Mother.
Soak in that presence, that sense of mystery, warmth, tenderness, security
As you re-enter that experience, pay attention to how it registers in your feelings. Similarly, when we encounter the divine, we know on every level of our being that we are in the presence of God. Soak in that presence, that sense of mystery, warmth, tenderness, security. To soak in something is to let it permeate every inch of your being. To stay. To abide. To remain. To allow. To sit with something that is beyond. More than.
State what you desire
In the Contemplative Prayer Experiences that we have begun in Touching the Sunrise Saint Ignatius will be leading us slowly through the stories of Jesus’ life found in the Gospel.
The very first thing Ignatius has us do when we begin to pray is to ask God for these things: a deeply felt awareness of how God draws us into the unfolding of the mystery of the Word made flesh and how in doing this we enter into a process of healing that we might love Jesus and follow him more intentionally.
This may be a long sentence but it is KEY to prayer. What do you want? What is your desire? Ignatius helps us understand what we should desire when we begin to pray with the life of our Savior. I explore every phrase in this desire in the article: God heals us that we might offer ourselves (Horizons of the Heart 15). If you missed any of the meditations in the Horizons of the Heart series you can find an index of them here.