No, I'm not talking about the book of that title
by Amy Welborn (which is quite good and highly recommended :) - I'm talking about one of my personal favorite methods of prayer. Now, let me tell you, I have got to be one of the world's worst pray-ers. I'm more fidgety than a 2 year old at the 15 minute mark of Fr's homily. After the "convert/revert's honeymoon" of consolations, the Lord (or perhaps it was my own doing) has in the past few years been a very distant figure for me. It's very hard, sometimes impossible, to focus or concentrate on my prayer. (And giving in even once and leaving just makes it that much harder the next time...!) Oftentimes my prayer these days is simply, "here I am, I don't know what to say and it's all I can do to force myself to sit here in Adoration before you Lord, but I'm here this instant at least!" One day, as I was digging my fingernails into the Communion rail at the Cathedral in an effort to stay kneeling there, suddenly this method of prayer came into my head. It's been a saving grace for me ever since. It doesn't always "work" for me, but often enough.
I have no idea if there is a specific name to it (probably) but this is what I do when I, well, can't pray: I take a short invocation prayer, or the Our Father, or some other prayer that has struck me, and I meditate (ok, "picture" - sometimes with difficulty) on an image that fits the prayer. Then, I say the prayer or invocation very slowly, emphasizing each one of the words and coming up with my own running dialogue on what it means or what it speaks to me. Maybe this is just flat out general meditative prayer that everyone else knows, but to ME it was an epiphany, ok? :)
Let's try it.
I went to Confession on the eve of the feast of the Sacred Heart, and for my penance Fr. assigned me multiple invocations of "O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner" (GOOD one Fr!). That sounds like a good one to use here!
First, set the scene. At the Cathedral, there is a beautiful chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart, with a wonderful statue. So, what I usually do is picture Jesus as He appears in that statue, as I kneel at His feet. Whatever image strikes you, go for it. I liken this to St. Ignatius' method in the Spiritual Exercises, except your placing a scene for a prayer, not the Scripture passage.
Next, pray the phrase slowly, emphasizing the first word. Think as you pray the phrase what that first word means in the context of the prayer. Mull it over a bit if you wish. If you sense your mind wandering, repeat the phrase again, this time emphazing the second word and consider it the same way. Continue through the whole phrase. Short invocations work best, so you can repeat them and remember your "place" in them. For longer prayers, like the Our Father, I break them down into brief invocations, work through each word, and then move on to the next phrase.O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
To say "O" means that I am hailing someone, that I am announcing that I am speaking to someone. It is not just "hey", but a term of respect and honor - Jesus, have I been respectful of You, or have I forgotten You and Your great mercy lately? Have I hurt You by my indifference? Have I wiped Your Blood off of my face carelessly and thoughtlessly, without giving you thanks for the blessings You have given me? Do I give a good witness to others of You by my respectful attention to You above all other priorities and desires I might have?O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
O Lord, You are the Highest, the One High King, the "Most" of all that is Good! There is nothing, and can be nothing, Higher, more important, than You! Yet I do not always stay mindful of this, I push You away and minimize Your importance in my life. I set You aside for later, choosing to seek comfort now. As though hitting the snooze button, chatting with friends, or even going to get a bowl of ice cream is more important than You! Have I been following the plan of life that I have determined for the day - have I been fitting You to my day instead of fitting my day to You? Help me, God in Trinity and Unity, to follow Your commandment to serve nothing but You!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Holy of Holies, it is the Lord! What does it mean to be holy? How are You the Most Holy? It is because You are the Most Loving, the Most concerned with the wellbeing of the Other. Godhead, Trinity, Three Persons whose only distinction is that You are in relation to each other, Father to Son, Son to Father, Father and Son to Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit to Father and Son. All giving all to all. The more I give, the more I love, and the more that I love, the more that I will become an image of the Most Holy Trinity! O Most Sacred One, I am a sinner and cannot see you properly, help me to see You so that I may imitate You!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The heart of something is it's center, it's essential core of being. Help me to see Your Heart as Your center, your fire of love that burns eternally with love. Draw me close to Your Heart, let me rest upon your Heart as John did. Help me to accept the fire and crown of suffering as the necessary step that I may be purified. O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which Blood and water poured, have mercy on us and on the whole world!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
To be of means to come from, to belong to, to have its origin in. O Most Sacred Heart of none but Jesus Himself, my Lord and my God. Your Heart is of You, and You have opened it to me, for I also come from You. You offer Your Heart to me so that I may return to You through It - for "ex corde scisso, ecclesia nascitir", from the pierced Heart, the Church is born. You are the Head, the Church is Your Body, and I am a member of Your Church, Your Body. Therefore, as I get my lifeblood from my own beating heart, so too let me receive the true Life that flows eternally from You to us through Your Most Sacred Heart!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Having means that you possess, that you have authority to dispense or withhold. Mercy can only come from You, O Jesus, and only You have the power to grant mercy. But by Your coming to us, You have given Your priests a special share in the dispensation of mercy - what a beautiful sacrament is Confession, where we encounter Your Most Sacred Heart, poured out by the hands of Your priests in floods of mercy! Have mercy on us Lord, in Your compassion, wipe out my offenses. Help me, too, to remember my own participation in Your mercy towards others, help me to always be merciful to others, to forgive others their trespasses as you have forgiven me. You alone have (and are) Mercy entirely, but I also "have" mercy to give, as You have given it to me!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
What does it mean, "mercy"? Is it mere kindness? Is it just being nice? Is it a feeling of compassion? You have said that You desire mercy, not sacrifice, how do I give You this gift of mercy that You so earnestly desire? In order for there to be mercy, there must be recognizable justice - there must be a reason to grant mercy and pardon. I must be able to judge when something is right or wrong in Your eyes, but I must not judge someone who has done wrong to be unworthy of equal or greater mercy. "Judge not, lest you be judged." I ask for the grace to be merciful to others, to reflect the light of Your mercy on all that I come into contact with today - O Jesus have mercy on us and on the whole world!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
On me. Your mercy comes not from within me, but from You upon me. Let me never forget that all that I am and have that is good comes solely from You, that all I have to give You in return is my own will. Your grace has come upon me, beginning from the moment of my creation in the womb, I pray Lord that You will continue to hold me upright in Your grace. Let me never think that I am the source of what is good, but that I always thank You for all things! Like St. Therese, give me the grace to say "I choose everything", everything that You can give me, understanding that it all comes to me for my purification and sanctification, that I may be united more fully to You forever! I bless You my God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally one Love!O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Me me me me me. It's always about me, even in my prayers, especially
in my prayers! What I want, what I think I need, who are the people that I care about. Yet You know infinitely more than I, and You know far better than I ever can what it is that I should be praying. Therefore, my prayer now is that You pray for me! In giving You my will, I give You also my will to pray. The Spirit is groaning, and I unite myself to Him now, look not upon my sins but upon the faith of Your Church and grant us the peace and unity of Your kingdom! Amen.O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I am a sinner. Not every sinner, not all sinners, but a sinner. And Your Heart was pierced for my sin, for each of our individual sins. You came not to save people, but to save persons. You came to save sinners, not nations. I am a sinner. I have committed many sins against You. Each sin I committ adds to Your chalice of suffering, and causes another Drop to be spilled from Your Heart. But through Your Sacred Heart I have the hope of mercy, that the Drop may cover me and wash me whiter than snow. Your mercy is so powerful, so healing, so transforming, that one Drop can change each one of us. I pray for all sinners, that each of us may turn to Your Heart and let the Drop of grace wash us clean. I end my time of prayer by allowing Your tears and Blood to fall on me, as I beg for the grace of contrition so that I might leave here with a firm resolution to follow Your will more closely. I offer You thanks for bringing me so close to Your Heart today, for helping me to meditate upon Your center of Love and Mercy, and for giving me so many resolutions to reflect this merciful love to those I will meet today. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! My Immaculate Mother, St. Joseph my father and lord, my guardian angel, intercede for us!