Experiencing the Longing to Touch God
the Benedictine Tradition
1. When the time for prayer has arrived, find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Take time to focus your attention. Your posture should be alert but not tense, helping you remain attentive.
2. Take up the text of Scripture and begin to read slowly. In the past, monks read the passage aloud in a soft voice, ensuring that not only the mind participated in the reading but the voice and the ears as well. Even today it is a good idea to read a passage over slowly and softly several times, pausing between each reading. As you pause, don’t try to reflect on the meaning of the text. Continue simply to keep your mind at rest. Let the word fall on its own under the weight of grace, and wait for the surprise of its revelation.
3. Pay attention to what you feel. While reading, you may find that a certain word or phrase jumps out at you, ablaze with meaning. If you are especially distracted by other concerns, you may find that you need to read the passage more times than usual, each time reading fewer and fewer verses, slowly homing in on the particular gift the passage reveals to you. If you feel dry or unaffected by what you read, you may find that you barely get beyond this point, jumping into prayer and then a wordless pleading.
4. Move to meditation, prayerfully pondering and reflecting upon the word or phrase that has sparked your interest. There is something there waiting to reveal itself. That something is in direct relation to your life: something you desire, a need you have, a problem you are experiencing, or some aspect of your personality that needs redemption.
5. Gently turn your heart toward God in prayer. Later you may find it helpful to record your thoughts in your prayer journal while the experience is still fresh in your mind.
Perhaps an example would help to guide you initially. In Luke 10:38~41, “Mary . . . sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.” The words sat at the Lord’s feet might take on a living meaning for you as you read and reread this passage, gently, slowly, quietly. In a way, the words might shine out from among the other verses of the reading. You do not need to know their significance or why they seem to be so important. Now is simply a time of silently allowing the words to settle into the ground of your heart. Rereading the words waters the seed. Silence acknowledges our dependence on the God who is guiding us.
:After a while you may begin to reflect: sitting at the Lord’s feet requires us to find the Lord, to know the Lord, to trust the Lord as a friend. The word friend seems important here, the nucleus of what has attracted you to this passage. Perhaps it is associated with relationship issues you have been living lately. This leads you to consider any number of questions:
- What is so attractive about these words?
What would it be like if I were truly intimate friends with the Lord? What would change?
- Have I distanced myself from God? If so, why? How would I get nearer to him? What would that be like?
- If I imagine myself at Jesus’ feet, what do I feel? What do I desire? What is it like to be looked at by Jesus?
- What is Jesus saying to me about these relationship issues that are bubbling beneath the surface of my prayer? Can I speak to him about them?
- It is important to allow yourself to be fully present in this experience. What is the current reality? What would you like it to be?
You might recall other verses from the Gospel in which Jesus beckons people to come to him. For example, looking out at the tired people, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Alternatively, you could picture Jesus washing the feet of his friends at the Last Supper, another beautiful passage of friendship. Stay quietly with the meditation, until prayer spontaneously arises: a prayer of adoration and awe, of sorrow or desire.
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