In Brennan Manning’s “The Signature of Jesus: The Call to a Life Marked by Holy Passion and Relentless Faith” – he gives the following instruction on prayer. No matter how seasoned or novice we are, listening to a little instruction on prayer from a person who prays is a good thing:
Four Stages of Prayer:
- Let yourself be loved by God. Prayer begins with the appreciation and realization of the concrete meaning of God’s love for me just as I am and not as I should be. His love is not based on my performance. I haven’t earned it; therefore I can’t lose it. Prayer is not an activity of mind but a passive mode of receiving.
- Respond to God’s love through adoration. When Henri Nouwen asked his director “how do I live a life in which Jesus is truly the centre? the reply was: “Be faithful in your adoration.”
- Meditate on a gospel passage. Meditation is thinking and reflecting about God. Prayer is speaking and listening to God: what is Jesus saying to me in this text?
- Close with a prayer of intercession/petition. Praying for others is shedding our blood, spending ourselves without counting the cost in empathy and compassion. It is also sinking into the mind of Jesus, uniting ourselves in His prayer of intercession.
The Five “P”s of Prayer:
- Place: choose a place – insofar as it is possible – the same place for daily prayer.
- Period: choose same time.
- Posture: choose the same posture (standing, sitting, kneeling, or – as with Ignatius of Loyola – lying on your back).
- Passage: select a passage.
- Pray – as you can.
Four Cardinal Rules of Prayer:
- The most important is, one learns to pray by praying. What is crucial is that we actually be on the journey, not just thinking or reading or talking about it. “One faltering but actual step is more valuable than any number of journeys performed in the imagination.”
- Pray as you can, not as you can’t.
- Don’t just pray when you feel like it. Show up. Each day that rests on twin pillars of the morning and evening prayer is a test on the journey from belief to experience, from theory to reality: “Just do it.”
- When a man or woman has an intense desire to grab hold of God, they move and act. Without that hunger, we are dilettantes playing spiritual games. If the intense desire is lacking, fall on your knees to the God you half-believe in and beg for the gift.
Let yourself be loved by God. What an excellent starting place for prayer. Teresa of Avila said something similar back in the 16th Century:
“Prayer is not about knowing much, but about loving much; do therefore whatsoever would excite your heart to love Him better.”
Now… pray as you can…