Fr. James Chelich
How To Use This Booklet
This nine-step format for a personal prayer time is set out for you to get you started. Each step is deeply rooted in the Catholic Spiritual Tradition. Begin with the format as it is, and use it until you become thoroughly comfortable with it — especially the way it flows. As time passes, you may find that the Holy Spirit invites you to make adaptations. The Holy Spirit is the true teacher of prayer. Follow his inspiration. Prayers indented in the text and printed in bold print are suggested patterns for the kind of prayer that should be offered at that point in your prayer time. Use these pattern-prayers as they are. After you have used them a good while and understand what they express, you may want to form prayers in your own words. You may find substitute prayers or litanies that you like better (but still express the same thing), or you may elect to continue to use the pattern-prayers as they are and make them your own. No matter what you do, in the long-run, the most important thing is that at each point during your prayer time, you are truly praying from your heart. Beginning: Begin with a half-hour for your prayer time each day. It should be at the same time every day if possible. It should be at a time when you have the least number of distractions around you. You may want to inform your family that you need to be left alone for this period of time. Carefully explain to them the reason why you need the time alone. Find a comfortable place to pray. It should be a pleasant place somewhere within your home or garden. You may choose to pray in a church, if one is conveniently located and available for a daily visit. Remember that prayer becomes a particularly powerful force in your life when you take time for it daily. This point cannot be stressed enough. A regular time for prayer each day is all-important. This will make your prayer time an “Oasis of Peace” in the constantly changing, sometimes turbulent, atmosphere of your day. Prayer time in the morning or early in the day can be of tremendous advantage. It exerts an influence on the rest of the day and the way you make your way through it. Prayer time in the middle of your day may allow you just the time-out you need to regain your balance and re-collect your spiritual energy. Prayer time in the evening allows for reflection on the day if the evening does not regularly find you weary or drowsy. The bottom line is that it is improtant to pray at a time when you can best focus your mind and heart on God with loving attention. 1. Invoking the Holy Spirit “The spirit too helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech.” (Rom 8:26) Ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus your attention on God. Ask the Holy Spirit to protect you in this prayer time when your mind and heart are open and vulnerable. Ask the Holy Spirit to pray with you and within you — giving strength to your faith and power to your prayer.
Come, Holy Spirit, I need you! Come, Holy Spirit, I pray. Come with your strength and your power; Come in your own gentle way.
2. The Sign of the Cross “May I boast of nothing but the cross our Lord Jesus Christ! Through it, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” (Gal 6:14) Trace the Sign of the Cross over yourself carefully. Be midnful that by Jesus’ cross your life was redeemed and the power of sin over your life was broken (see Rom 6:6 and Col 2:12-14). As you do so, invoke the name of the Living God:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Now claim as your own the mystery of the cross:
“I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:19b-20)
3. Clearing your Mind “Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions of gratitude.”I> (Phil 4:6) Now center your attention within yourself. Many thoughts, concerns, anxieties and pressing needs crowd your mind. One by one, identify them and set them aside. Create a stillness in your mind and a clear place in your heart. If a persistent or annoying thought enters in, simply pick it up and move it aside. As soon as your mind is reasonably quiet, lower your mind into your heart as you might lower a bucket into a well. Now move on to the next step. 4. Calling on the Name of Jesus “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:13) From deep within yourself, call out the name of “Jesus”:
“Come, Lord Jesus! The Holy Spirit within me and the bride of your Church say, ‘Come'”! (Rev 22:20,17)
5. Welcoming the Presence of the Lord “Venerate the Lord, that is Christ in your hearts.” (1 Pet 3:15) Jesus hears your call and is present with you. He loves you. Picture Jesus standing before you — love fills his eyes and his hands are extended toward you. This is not just an exercise of your imagination, Jesus really is present with you. He is true to his promise: “Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!” (Mat 28;20) Spend some time praising Jesus in your heart:
Jesus, Word of Creation Shepherd of my Soul Light of the World Bread of Life! Jesus, Vine of Israel Gate to Glory Lamb of God Resurrection and Life! Jesus, You are my Redeemer Jesus, You are my Savior Jesus, you are my Lord! Jesus, You are my Teacher Jesus, you are my Physician Jesus, you are my Friend! Jesus, You are my Way Jesus, You are my Light jesus, You are my Love! You are all-Poweerful, yet you are most compassionate. You are all-Just yet you are most merciful. You are all-Knowing, yet you are most forgiving. You are all-Holy, yet you are most patient! Jesus, lift me up. Jesus, cleanse me of sin. Jesus, restore my health. Jesus, respond to my cry for help. Jesus, deliver me from my terrible bondage to self. Jesus, free me from the unhappy prison where sin holds me captive. Jesus, release me from the misery of my self-made aloneness. Jesus, give me the courage to love. Jesus, I praise you! Jesus, I thank you! Jesus, I honor you! Jesus, I worshp you! Jesus, I give you glory! Jesus, I love you! Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All!
6. Speaking: Opening Your Heart to the Lord “God is our refuge! Trust in Him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before Him…” (Ps 62:9) Now is the moment for releasing your heart and pouring out before the Lord all that you need him to see and hear: the sin that needs to be conquered, the pain that needs relief, and heartache that needs consolation, the emptiness that needs filling, the love that needs giving, the attitude that needs to be changed, the person you need to forgive, the loved ones and friends in need of attention, the poor and destitute in need of assistance, the oppressed and suffering in need of hope, the laboring in need of strength. Do you find that words seem to fail you at this moment? Then simply pour out your raw feelings: weep for the wounds that you carry within you, weep for the pain that you have inflicted upon others, cry for the plight of the destitute and the oppressed, shed tears of grief if you have suffered loss, rejoice before the Lord if you are full of gratitude, sing if your heart is full of joy. Always give thanks to the Lord for each blessing that is part of your life. Jesus is present with you in this moment of prayer to accept all that you pour out to him. 7. LIstening: Entering the Throne Rom of the Spirit “Lord, You love truth in the heart, then in my inmost being teach me wisdom.” (Ps 51:8) Jesus meets you in your heart, the “place” within you where everything you are as a person comes to a center, to a touching or meeting point with one another: your mind with its thoughts and memories; your body with its senses, its drives and needs; and your emotions and feelings. It is here in your heart that you open the contents of your heart to the Lord and speak with him. After speaking with the Lord, it is time to turn with Him and enter the Throne Room of the Spirit. The Throne Room of the Spirit is the vast emptiness that you sometimes sense within you. It is “located” right off your heart. You might say that your heart is the lobby or vestibule of your interior spirit. We seldom go there because we think that this part of ourselves is empty and filled only with a great “aloneness”. In fact, this part of yourself is the Throne Room of the Presence of God (Rev. 4:1 ff). While it appears empty to your mind and bodily senses, it is not empty at all. God’s Presence cannot be grasped with the human mind or the body’s senses – in the Presence of God our mind and bodily senses “draw a blank”. Do not let this deter you. Enter the Throne Room focusing on one thing and one thing only: an intense love for God. Let your mind do no thinking at all. Be filled instead with a desire to love God, “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” It is your desire for God and your desire to love Him that will let you sense the Presence of God in your interior spirit. Picture yourself opening the doors and entering the Throne Room with Jesus. Worship God by simply being in His Presence – loving Him and desiring Him with your whole being. Be quiet and very still. If your attention wants to wander, choose just one word and say it slowly, over and over again: “Holy” or “Father” or “Lord” Let yourself feel the warmth of God’s Love fill your entire being. Let it begin at the top of your head and pass slowly through you to the bottom of your feet. Let this Love touch every wound within you and let it surround any knots of sin and frustration and begin to dissolve them away. Rest in the loving Presence of God. Often, God will make an impression on your mind in some way: Perhaps a thought, a word or and image will come to you in the silence. If it does, don’t think about it, just receive it. If it doesn’t, don’t fret or worry about it. Trust God completely to provide you everything and anything you truly need. When you are ready to leave the Throne Room, begin to say over and over again: “I have come to know and to believe in the love God has for me.” (1 John 4:16) 8. Opening the Scriptures (optional) “Indeed, God’s word is living and effective, sharper than a two-edged sword. It penetrates and divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) It is vital for your spiritual life that you open the Scriptures (the Bible) every day. Many people like to do this during their prayer-time. If you wish so, it should be done at this point. Opening the scriptures can best be done in either of two ways: A. Choose a book of the Bible, for instance one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Read for five or ten minutes. Go back over what you read and ask yourself: What particularly strikes me about this passage? What drew my attention? Why was I drawn to it? What is it saying to me? B. Randomly open your Bible and read the first verse your eyes settle upon. Do this a second and third time. Go back over all three randomly selected verses and ask yourself: What might the Holy Spirit be saying to me personally in these verses. 9. To Conclude Your Prayer Time “This is how you are to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses as we forgivet hose who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen. (Mat 6:9-13)
A. Keeping a Prayer Journal
You are strongly encouraged to keep a Prayer Journal. In it you should record the fruit of your daily prayer times. When you entered the Throne Room of God’s Presence and were resting in His Presence, did God make any impression upon your heart? Write it down. If you were given a word or image, write it down as well. When you opened the Scriptures, whether it was as part of your prayer time or at another during the day, what verses did you open to or what drew your attention in the passage you read? Note it in your journal. What do you think the Holy Spirit was personally trying to say to you in the verse or in the part of the passage that drew your attention? Write this down as well. Every week or so read back over your Prayer Journal. Is there anything being consistently said to you or drawn to your attention by the Holy Spirit? Make a special note of this in your Prayer Journal. B. Your Favorite Daily Devotions People often ask if they have to give up their favorite prayer devotions like the Rosary, Novena Prayers, or Devotions to Mary or to the Saints. Absolutely not! Like the time for the Opening Scriptures, they can either be done as part of your daily prayer time or at another time during the day. If you want to offer these prayers and devotions as part of your daily prayer time, they should be done either before beginning Step 1 or at the end of your prayer time (after Step 7 or 8). C. The Holy Spirit in Your Day It is no accident that you begin your prayer time by invoking the Holy Spirit (Step 1). It is vitally important to begin both your day and everything you do during the day with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to enter into fellowship with you in all you say and do. The Holy Spirit brings both clarity and a transforming power. When we act in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we see more clearly, we hear more deeply, we experience a greater compassion and we act with a greater simplicity and purer love. What we say and do in the Holy Spirit takes on a power that effects change both in others and in ourselves. If your prayer time is not at the beginning of the day, use the following prayer-pattern to ask for fellowship with the Holy Spirit during the day ahead:
O Lord and Giver of Life, I seek and ask fellowship with You. I need Your help in the day ahead. Soften the hardness of my heart. Keep my heart open to Jesus and to the people and events around me today. Keep my eyes focused on Jesus so that I may learn from Him. Let some small part of His powerful, healing love come alive in my attitude, words and actions during the day. Act on my behalf! By the powerful grace Jesus won for me in His death and resurrection, defeat the terrible hold that my sin, my addictions, my fears and my compulsions have on my life. Holy Spirit of God, be the Counselor of my every thought, word and deed. Amen.
Before everything you do during the course of the day, pause and in your heart pray:
Come Holy Spirit, I need You; Come Holy Spirit, I pray; Come with your strength and Your power; Come in Your own gentle way. Holy Spirit, let me see with the eyes of Jesus, let me hear with the ears of Jesus, let me feel with the heart of Jesus, and with Your Wisdom, let me respond.