Feb 3, 2011
Greetings to you all,
In your busy life, do you sometimes find yourself wishing for some extra time for quiet meditation about the mystery and wonders of God? Maybe you've bought a book of daily devotions and soon discovered that successful use of it demands that you develop a SPECIFIC time period to read it. After such disciplined study, you feel better about your spiritual walk. However, there are other times during your work-a-day world when you'd like to "re-charge" your spiritual batteries but don't have the devotional material with you or the "window of opportunity" may be rather brief. Other times may be times of tedious activity like the commute home from work or short periods of waiting for someone or something to occur. Instead of just letting your mind wander into day dreams, this is a great "little opportunity" for meditative prayer.
So, what is this type of prayer? One way to describe it would be the use of a short, memorized prayer which you EXPAND as you say it...phrase by phrase. An easy place to begin is with the Lord's Prayer (the Our Father). If you haven't memorized it, this is a good time to start. (You may plead that it is hard for you to memorize things but I'd just remind you of how many passwords, phone numbers, etc. you can produce in an instant's notice!) The Lord's Prayer has several versions, so it is best to choose one version to memorize. Write it on a piece of paper or card which can be placed in your pocket, wallet or on the dash board of your car. Carefullly read it for the purpose of memory several times each day and in a short time you'll have all of it (or at least parts of it) committed to memory. It's really not that difficult.
In the early years of the Franciscan brotherhood, many of the men who joined Francis were not educated and could not read from the Gospel Book or the daily office of prayers. Francis often had them pray the Lord's Prayer in place of the standard monastic prayers for morning prayer, vespers,etc. And it happens that Francis sometimes taught them some "expanded phrases" added to the prayer's lines. I've placed his "expansions" in parentheses.
"O Our Father" ( our Creator..Redeemer..Consoler)
"Who are in heaven" (with the angels and departed saints)
"Holy be Your Name" (may knowledge of You and your Name become clearer in us, teaching us about your characteristics ..your promises, blessings and your majesty). (1)
Do you see what he did? Francis took a short phrase or even a word from the prayer and let his mind meditate about it. As his mind expanded on the phrase (or word), additional spiritual insight or thoughts of the Divine worship and praise entered his consciousness and his speech. This is not a corruption of some "holy" prayer, but rather, it allows the memorized prayer to become the "backbone" support for your spontaneous, associated thoughts and praises toward God. During these brief interludes of time, you may meditate on only one word or a few of the lines of the prayer. That's OK! The words which were used from the memorized prayer have well served your spiritual growth by lifting into consciousness other words or praises which heighten your attention and relationship to God.
A personal example often used by me originates from the final doxology line of the Lord's Prayer which is..."For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen" I often meditate on this prayer line in the following manner. "For You, O God, reign (are, continue to be) in the glory which is the power (of your love, your steadfast and merciful love, your loving all-goodness). Amen (be it ever so, Amen)."
As I meditate even on these few words from that prayer line, I often get "hung-up" in thought about the ecstasy of that GLORY which is characteristic of God...or how God's love is so steadfast in comparison to my love...or God being "all-goodness" with no shadow of less-than-perfect, whole goodness. ((The phrase that God is "all-Goodness" is very much a part of Franciscan spirituality and is a phrase often spoken by Francis.))
By now I hope that you have a fair idea of this spiritual experience of "meditative prayer". I have suggested use of the Lord's Prayer as a good starting point for your introduction to this devotional practice for those "little moments" throughout the day. But I append here two more prayers which can be richly used in this same way.
Our love prayer of Adoration to Christ Jesus....
"Both here in my heart and in the hearts of believers throughout the world, O Christ Jesus, I bless and adore you. Because of your Incarnation, your Life and Ministry, and your Death and Resurrection, you have revealed God to me, you have redeemed me for God and you draw me unto God. Blessed be your Holy Name, Christ Jesus, my Redeemer and my Lord."
An adaptation of a prayer composed by Cardinal Newman
" Dear Jesus, help me to spread your sweet fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may be only a radiance of your life. Shine through me and be so in me, that every soul with whom I come into contact may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see not me but only you, Jesus, and give you glory. Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you shine; so to share as to be a light to others through me. Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force, the symphathetic influence of what I am, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for you."
It is my hope that you will fill your moments of tedium and waiting with this spiritual exercise rather than simply "putting your mind into neutral" and drifting into day dreams.
(1) "Prayer inspired by the Our Father" in Francis of Assisi-Early Documents, vol I, eds. Armstrong, Hellmann and Short, New City Press, NYC, 1999, p.158.
Peace to all! Donald Luke