The Four C's of Praying with Sacred Scripture
Concentrate - Consider - Converse - Commit
We live in a really hectic world with iPhones, emails, TV, and pointless small talk all seeking our attention. When you're getting ready to pray, set all those distractions aside and even turn off the phone.
In this part of the prayer you are preparing to enter the prayer. You can begin with the Sign of the Cross and any other prayer to direct yourself to God. St. Ignatius suggests, "O God, I beg of you the grace that all my intentions, actions, and use of my memory, understanding, will, and imagination be directed purely to the service and praise of Your Divine Majesty." Any such prayer will do here. You can use a prayer that you make up or one that is memorized.
Fr. Bartunek reminds readers that we should, "recall that God is truly present; recall that God has something he wants to say to you; recall that you need to hear that word; renew your desire to hear that word." He says, "Concentrate, the first step of your meditation, involves shutting the door on the storms and tumult of daily life for a time, so that you can hear the Lord's still, small voice that whispers in your heart like a gentle breeze (p. 29)."
Read your passage from the Bible and think about it. God gave you your mind, memory, imagination, and emotion as gifts so you can use this tool to enter the passage. Spend some time here, just mulling over the passage. Fr. Bartunek states, "During this stage, you slowly and thoughtfully read the text you will be meditating on. You reflect on it, you examine it, you dig into it. You read it again, searching to discover what God is saying to you through it in the here and now of your life. You exercise your whole mind: intellect, imagination, and memory. You involve your emotions, relating the passage to your own life experience (p. 30)." Spiritual writers have often called this part of the prayer "grazing" or "chewing the cud" to emphasize the reflection brought about here.
As you read and pray through the passage you can use your thought, intellect, emotion, imagination, and desire to lead this time of consideration. As you are doing this pay close attention to what God is speaking to you. Maybe there is a word that strikes you or maybe the Lord is pointing you to one part of the passage. You can use your imagination and enter the passage. What is sticking out to you and why? Fr. Bartunek states, "In a garden full of beautiful flowers and plants, you stay longer in front of one because you find that its beauty resonates more deeply with you. In a gallery of magnificent works of art, you are drawn to one or two of them more powerfully, because they have something to say to you, in the here and now of your life, that the others don't (p. 31)."
Fr. Bartunek offers some questions to help you as you consider the Scripture passage:
- Who is here?
- What are they feeling, doing and saying?
- When is this event taking place?
- Where is it happening and what does everything look like?
- Why is it happening in this way? How is each person reacting?
- What strikes me about this passage?
- What does this mean?
- What does it tell me about Christ, the Church, the meaning of life?
- What does it mean for me?
- What is Christ saying to me in the here and now of my life?
- How is this truth relevant to my own struggles, my own mission, and vocation, my own program of spiritual work, my own friendship with Christ and my own journey of faith?
Spend time in this part of the prayer. There is nowhere to hurry off to. If you get stuck, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the mystery to you.
Now it's time for a heart-to-heart conversation. Talk to God about what you considered. Speak to him as a friend. You can converse with him from your heart to God's heart. This can be difficult at first but it should become one of the most rewarding parts of this type of prayer. Don't worry about praying the right words, just speak to God from your innermost self. St. Ignatius would have said here, "I speak to God as my heart is moved."
You have probably spent a considerable amount of time "considering" God's Word at this point in the prayer. Now you have the opportunity to respond to that consideration. Fr. Bartunek explains, "As your consideration gives rise to these responses, the response will naturally come to a close and give way to a new consideration, and you will find yourself turning back to the meditation material. You may look again at the same highlight you just considered, or you may move on to something else, until a new consideration sparks a new response and a new topic of conversation. This exchange - this ongoing conversation in which you reflect on God's revelation and respond in your heart, with your own words - is the essence of Christian meditation. This is usually where the soul comes into its most intimate contact with Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit. Consideration is never enough; it must stir the heart to Converse with God (p. 33)."
As your prayer time comes to a close, it is time to bridge prayer into action. Make a commitment to live your prayer. Live it at work, at school, with the family, even in the car or store. Jesus has called us to be his intimate friends and followers so we have to live that concretely. During this time of prayer make a commitment to the Lord of how you will live today.
Fr. Bartunek explains, "This fourth step is the bridge between prayer and action. If you are working on being more courageous about sharing your faith with your coworkers, you may finish your meditation by a commitment to put forth in a natural way the Christian point of view in today's conversations around the water cooler. If God has been leading you towards being a better spouse, you may renew your commitment to Christ by promising to avoid today that particular thing that you know really bothers your wife or husband. If you have been neglecting your prayer life, you may commit to giving your best attention to your daily Rosary in the evening. The specific form your recommitment takes will depend on the overall direction of your spiritual life. It doesn't have to be anything new (although it may be); it just has to be true (p. 33)."
End your time of prayer by praying an Our Father. (Such is the manner of St. Ignatius)
From: Bartunek, John. The Better Part. Catholic Spiritual Direction, 2007.
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