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A Simple Routine for Daily Prayer

Earlier this week, I was in conversation with a parishioner who asked if I had any suggestions for a basic structure or routine for daily prayer.

When I gave her a photocopy of what I've been using the past several years, she said that there may be others who would find this resource helpful as well.

So, with thanks to  Sacred Space (from which comes everything that is quotation marks), here it is: a modified version of what St. Ignatius of Loyola called "a daily examen."

Step one: Recall that you are in the Presence of God.

"What is present to me is what has a hold on my becoming. I reflect on the presence of God always there in love, amidst the many things that have a hold on me.

"I pause and pray that I may let God affect my becoming in this precise moment."

Step Two: Praying for Freedom  
God is a God of freedom. Created in the image of God, we are meant to be free.

"In these days, God taught me as a schoolteacher teaches a pupil." (St Ignatius) I remind myself that there are things God has to teach me yet, and ask for the grace to hear them and let them change me.

"This prayer helps us to put ourselves at God's disposal. St Ignatius describes this 'Preparatory prayer' as asking for the grace that all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed purely to the praise and service of the Divine Majesty. (The Spiritual Exercises, no. 46) You might try these words:

"Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this time.
I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.
Please help me to clarify and purify my intentions.
I have so many contradictory desires.
I get preoccupied with things that don't really matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart,
whatever I do will follow my new heart.

"In all that I am today, all that I try to do,
all my encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings and especially in this time of prayer,
in all of this may I place my life in your hands.
Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. Amen."

Step Three: A Review of Consciousness 
In this next step, you will spend a little time reflecting on the past 24 hours. Recall that you "exist in a web of relationships - links to nature, people, God.  As you trace out these links, give thanks for the life that flows through them. You will notice that some links are twisted or broken: you may feel regret, anger, or disappointment. Pray for the gift of acceptance and forgiveness."

How to do a Review of Consciousness

"Let your mind drift over the last 24 hours, refraining from any self-judgment, whether of approval or disapproval, attending to and relishing only those moments of the day for which you are grateful. Even the most harrowing day includes some good moments, if only we take the trouble to look - it might be the sight of a raindrop falling, or the fact that I can see at all. When people attempt this exercise, they are usually surprised at the number and variety of good moments in the day which otherwise would have been quickly forgotten - obscured, perhaps, by any painful experience in the day. Having remembered the events for which you are grateful, thank and praise God for them.

"After thanksgiving, the next step is to recall your inner moods and feelings, noting, if you can, what led to them, but again refraining from any self-judgment. Be with Christ as you look at these moods and beg him to show you the attitudes which underlie them. The important thing is not to analyze our experience, but to contemplate it in Christ's presence and let him show us where we have let him be in us and where we have refused to let him be. Thank him for the times we have 'let his glory through' and ask forgiveness for the times we have refused him entry. He never refuses forgiveness. He knows our weakness far better than we do. All we have to do is show it to him and he can transform our weakness into strength. We can conclude with a short prayer, which also looks forward to the day to come, and asks for God's help:  

Lord, you know me better than I know myself.
Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.
Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.
Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.
Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation,
and closed myself off from you.

Help me in the day to come, to recognize your presence in my life,
to open myself to you, to let you work in me,
to your greater glory. Amen."

Step Four: read some Scripture.
If you don't already have a Bible that you're reading - really reading - then get one. When reading Scripture, remember the advice given hikers on long hikes: "If you get bored, speed up; if you get winded, slow down."

Step Five: Conversation. Simply sit in the presence of God, and talk to God as if talking to a close, trusted friend. Talk, but also just listen.

Step Six: Intercession. Recall before God any others who may be on your heart or mind. Then look at the coming day and ask for a particular grace that you feel you'll need over the next 24 hours.

Step Seven: Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord.

There it is. It's really quite simple. The whole thing takes only 20 minutes to half an hour.

But do it, and stick with it awhile, and I can almost guarantee you that it will lead to a transformation of your life.


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