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Once we sit for prayer… then what?

By: Matt Wooters, S.J.

For me, getting started in prayer is just as important as whatever may follow. Last week, Damian gave great advice on how to set up a prayer space.  I would like to share what helps me settle into prayer.

Leaving the noise both inside my head and around me can be hard, so to begin my prayer I take about 5 minutes to just breathe. Deep slow breaths with one hand on my heart and one hand on my belly provides time for the snow globe between my ears and the energy in my body to settle. After about 5 minutes of breathing, with my mind a bit clearer I ask myself a few questions to see how am I as I enter this space.

The first question I ask myself is “How is my heart?” I have found this question requires more thought than “How am I?” and prevents the standard American knee jerk response “Fine”. It allows me to spin around the wine glass of my heart savoring what it holds instead of jumping to a predetermined answer.

The next question I ask is in response the first “What contributed to making my heart feeling_____________? (Be it peace, frustration, anger, restlessness, uncertainty, gratitude, etc.) Sitting with that question allows me to notice who and what I am carrying with me, be it a positive emotion or a challenging interaction.

The last question I ask as I settle into prayer is “What do I need from God today?” after some time assessing how I am the natural response is to go outward. As an extrovert I don’t always know how I feel and what I need unless I begin to articulate it. As St. Ignatius tells us, naming what we need in prayer helps us focus on this particular prayer and where we may need help. These simple questions tend to provide a springboard for my prayer and a nice way to start my day. Some days my prayer meanders through these questions and these can take my whole prayer period. If so, let it be. If this is merely a entry into something else in prayer, amen.
Go with it.
There are no rules.
Do what works.
Allow yourself to just be with God as you are in all of your messy holiness.
Rest in your belovedness.

Today’s Inspiration comes from my friend Fr. Doug Leonhardt, SJ
“You are a sacrament to those around you, a tangible sign of God’s love for them”