James Martin, S.J.July 23, 2018
Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

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What’s your favorite image of God in prayer? By that I mean: when you close your eyes to pray, who or what do you think of? For many people, God is a kind of presence, beside them, or around them, or above them. One terrific way to start your prayer comes from St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. He says that before we begin to pray we should look at the place in which we’re going to be praying—a chair, a place on the floor, a bed, a church pew—and imagine God looking at us there. For a whole minute. After you do that, you’ll find that when you finally sit down, or lie down on kneel down, having imagined God looking at you, it really deepens your prayer. It reminds you who is with you. Some people like to think of Jesus with them while they pray, perhaps sitting next to them, or in a chair across the room. One young Jesuit, who was a pretty outdoorsy type, told me that he likes to think of Jesus and him sitting across a campfire from one another, just talking. A few years ago, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I found a picnic bench I liked to pray at, right by the Sea of Galilee. So that’s where I return to pray sometimes, in my mind. Whatever image of God you have in prayer is fine. Because there’s no one better than the other. Just trust that whatever image you use—God will meet you there.

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bill halpin
3 years ago

This, if I may:
It is not easy to be imageless or themeless. As a zen christian at prayer, one might gaze at cat in window, breeze through leaves, hear birdsong out of sight. These are the surround wherein I sit and walk. These are intimations of the God I cannot imagine — but for resonances and still-life revealing and manifesting Itself as present reality.

My prayer, if that is what it is, is to look, listen, and learn to respond to this reality with lovingkindness, compassion, engaged humility. If there is any trust or hope it is that a reflective, attentive presence would emerge through contemplative and active service to be what is called for at that moment and the next.

Bruce Snowden
3 years ago

How do you picture God in prayer? Uncomplicated and surprising! And the picture is more than a picture – it has a pulse, a reality too, to which you can relate. It could be a living creature, an insect, with a message from God. Here is an example, used in a previous posting, but worth repeating.

On a campus where I once lived, heading to morning Mass in a mood heavy with what I call, “prayer fatigue” a spiritual tiredness from apparent futile prayer, I saw a Praying Mantis on a banister in its usual KNEELING position as if always in prayer. I stopped to look at it, amazed to see it as that insect is not commonly seen in the area. Immediately the words of Jesus came to mind, “Pray always and do not lose heart!” I understood instantly that Jesus (God) in the form of that little creature was addressing my “prayer fatigue” telling me to let it go and not to lose heart in prayer. I was being told to do a difficult thing – trust God devoid of the blemish of doubt. Not always easy, but the choice of heaven’s route to follow.

There’s more to say, but as Management prefers brevity I’ll conclude by saying, picture God prayerfully in persons, places, things, not in voices, although this too may happen. I find God willing to listen, but He's no pushover. He'll give you only what He decides to give, when He decides to do so, His decisions always right. It's always a matter of Thy Will, not my will, be done! There is no other way.

priya arora
3 years ago

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