Types of Prayer
While there are many kinds of prayer, these ancient forms are ones we find ourselves returning to time and time again as we seek space, stillness, and rest in God's presence. They are part of a contemplative tradition we share with Christians all over the world and through many centuries. As you listen to our meditations, you will experience these prayers adapted to our present times and circumstances, yet still connected to the same wellsprings of life and peace.
This ancient prayer practice of “divine reading” involves a slow process of looking at Scripture, then looking at it again, inviting God to illuminate what he is saying to you personally through Scripture and how he is inviting you to respond.
Often, we come to scripture in order to study or master it. In Lectio Divina, we sit under scripture, allowing it to master and form us. Practically, this involves reading a passage of Scripture a number of times, followed by an interval of silence in which you pay attention to what the Scripture says, what emotions it brings up in you, and how God might be leading you in the moment. To pray Lectio Divina is to truly experience Scripture as the Living Word, both eternal and speaking to you in your particular time and circumstances.
Ignatian contemplation or prayer is a way of entering into Scripture using your imagination and senses. Using imagination in prayer is a way to pray using our heart. It is not a study of scripture; Instead it is a tradition for praying with scripture. Rather than simply reading a Scripture passage, you immerse yourself in it, imagining yourself within a particular story or scene.
Through your contemplation, the Holy Spirit brings to life the mystery of Jesus' life in a way that is personal and meaningful to you, that stirs both your thoughts and emotions. In your time of contemplation, you may go off text. Trust that God is leading you. If you have concerns, you can always ask yourself, “Is my imagination leading me closer to God or further from God?”
As the story unfolds, you notice what God seems to be making particularly real and meaningful to you and how he is speaking to you through your imaginative experience of Scripture.
The examen is a practice of looking back over your past day with God, asking God to show you how he was present to you in all of its gifts and challenges and how he is inviting you to live in the following day. Over time, the Examen builds awareness of God’s moment-by-moment presence as well as a solid foundation for discernment.
Practicing breath prayer is one way to follow St. Paul's encouragement to “pray without ceasing.” In breath prayer, you choose a short phrase or series of phrases like “Have mercy on me” or “Come, Holy Spirit.” Through repetition and slow breathing, you gradually synchronize your words with the rhythms of your breath. Praying in this way creates a mental and spiritual state of calm and openness to how God might choose to meet you.
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