Prayer doesn’t have to be all that wordy. Early Christians used to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” to express their deep longing for Jesus to return and be among them in physical reality. This practice, the Prayer of the Heart, is designed to help us create those prayers that are as close to us as our very breath. The beauty of this prayer is the way it stays with you all day, all week, throughout Advent, or even a lifetime if you allow it.
- Begin seated in a comfortable position. Make sure your body weight is distributed in such a way that you feel stable. Take about five deep, slow breaths and allow the tension of the day to flow out with each exhalation. After five deliberate breaths, turn your attention away from counting and just allow your breath to find its natural pace.
- What is your deepest and truest desire in life right this moment? If you find your desires feel “tacky” or too worldly, try suspending judgment and instead looking at what’s at the base of that desire. When you check in with your deepest and truest self, when you feel what’s in your heart, what it is that you want from God?
- When you identify your deepest desire, give it a short phrase. For example, if your deep desire is inner freedom, then your phrase would be “freedom” or “inner freedom.” Make sure your desire phrase is not too long.
- What is your favorite name for God? How do you image the Creator? Choose whatever name seems to fit best for you. Some examples include: Jesus, Wisdom, Father, Mother, or Mystery. Be as creative as you want to be. But again, keep the name rather short.
- Combine your name for God with your desire. For example, if my phrase is “freedom” and the name I choose for God is Christ, my Prayer of the Heart might be “Freedom, in Christ.” Spend a few moments coming up with your two-part prayer.
- Begin to say — either aloud or silently — your phrase. You may inhale on the name for God and exhale on the desire or vice versa. Spend several minutes breathing this prayer. Make it your own. Allow God to inhabit this prayer.
- After several minutes of repeating this prayer, sink into contemplative silence. Allow the love of God to fill you and surround you.
- If you want to be sure to remember this phrase to pray it throughout the day, write it down. You might want to place it on the back of a business card and put it in your wallet or pocket. Place it on a sticky note next to your computer, or on the door of your refrigerator.
For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.