But when you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret,
will reward you. – Matthew 6:6
The purpose of prayer is to find God at the place where God wants to meet us – in our heart, as their term is used in the Bible, that is, in that secret place of ourselves that is the source of our particular personality, the place where the decisions in our lives are formed and where our destiny is hammered out. Like the high priest, the only one who can enter into this “holy of holies” to converse alone with God is oneself.
The Way of Prayer
Two truths that are mutually dependent on each other
- Each one of us has his own way of praying that is strictly his own
- Any method of prayer (vocal or mental, ordinary or extraordinary) is not in itself better than any other type
The best method of prayer for me is determined by this particular time, these particular circumstances by which I find myself. A simple “cry” towards the Lord, in the way the sick and poor of the Gospel cried, can be better for me, here, at this particular moment, than the most perfect ectasy (Romans 8:26-27).
Every prayer, irrespective of its form, ought to have its origin in the Word of God and its effect in a greater love of God. This is the reason why it is so important to read or call to mind a biblical text at the beginning of prayer or a Spiritual Exercise to ask God for his light to really to understand it and to gather fruit from it. No prayer is a good prayer unless it is made in Spiritu Sancto: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
Every Scriptural text should be approached, in all freedom, with the sole concern formulated this way by an age old exegete: “Te totum applica ad textum, rem totam applica ad te” (Devote your whole self to the text, and its whole matter to yourself).
The sole criterion for the worth of a person’s prayer is that after finishing it, he ought to live more fully the life of Christ, according to the words of St Paul, “For me to live is Christ.” (Phil 1:21)
Are my faith, hope and my charity, stronger after my prayer?
Then all was very well with my prayer, even if it was dry, distracted or dreary.
This article is #1 of a series of 5:
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Andre Ravier SJ’s A Do it At Home Retreat, The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.