1. Commit to a time for prayer. Schedule it. Mornings are preferable: a giving one’s “first fruits” to the Lord by putting Him first in the day. (If that simply isn’t feasible, say a morning offering and meditate later, when you can best listen). A good time goal is fifteen minutes.
2. Put yourself in the presence of God. Of course, He is always with us, but we need to become aware of His presence.
A. The ideal place is in His physical presence: a church or chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. This is not practical for most of us much of the time, however; so find a quiet space without distractions.
B. Acknowledge His presence by confirming your faith, hope, and love for Him, by worshipping and thanking Him. Don’t breeze through this step; it can lead to real closeness to Him. It’s a potent reminder of His greatness and our littleness, of our need of Him and all we owe Him.
3. Invoke the Holy Spirit: You can use a traditional prayer such as “Come Holy Spirit” or your own words. Open your heart and mind to Him. You don’t want to have a conversation with yourself, or mistake the voice of the world, the flesh, or the devil for His.
4. Read a passage from Scripture or the writing of a saint or trustworthy spiritual writer. Try the readings for Mass that day or in the Liturgy of the Hours. (Sometimes, though, the best “text” will be something in your own life.) Read for just a few minutes; reading is the springboard for the conversation, not a substitute for it.
5. Reflect on the text. Talk to God about it. Ask Him what He’s trying to tell you through this. Ask Him to help you to be open to Him and truly listen.
Many find the Ignatian method of Scripture meditation to be helpful. Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends picturing yourself in the scene, as one of those there e.g., a disciple, a leper, a bystander. Enter into the story first by imagining the scenery, the weather, the smells, the sounds, how the people looked, what they said, and so forth.
One can also write during the reflection. Writing actually produces thought. Just start writing to the Lord about the text, and new thoughts will spring forth. Some personalities find this method very fruitful.
The main thing is to try to be still and listen. (This is hard, but don’t give up. Keep trying.) Listening is the heart of meditation. Saint Francis de Sales advises that we think of ourselves as courtiers waiting on the King.
6. Make a resolution. Our prayer life, to be effective, must change the rest of our life. Try to think of something specific that you can do that day to put into practice what the Lord is saying to you. (Examples: visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; compliment a coworker whom you find difficult; refrain from complaining and “offer it up” instead; praise your child rather than noticing only the things that need correcting.)
7. Optional: If possible, write down any insights you gained from the meditation and your resolution.
8. Thank the Lord for this time together (we so often think we’re doing Him a favor by praying). Thank Him for the loving gifts He gave whether you perceive them or not and the grace to serve Him and love Him better each day.
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