Today’s Gospel at Mass is the famous passage in Matthew where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. It’s where we get the Our Father prayer. And he first says to pray in private where only your Heavenly Father will see. I always like checking The Message translation of scripture because it brings out pearls of meaning that can really speak to the heart. I found The Message version of the beginning of this Gospel passage quite Ignatian:
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.”
(Matthew 6:6-9, The Message)
I bolded a few parts that jumped out to me as Ignatian. This translation emphasises the vulnerability, feelings, and relationship of prayer.
“Just be there”
In the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius suggests that before praying the retreatant make some “act of reverence or humility” so that he or she can acknowledge the specialness of this prayer time with God. “Just being there” is a humble way of centring yourself and honestly opening yourself to God. This means vulnerability before God.
“You will begin to sense his grace”
In the Exercises there is a meditation on the Incarnation during which the retreatant imagines the Trinity looking down on the world and all that is going on. This works its way into Ignatian prayer in that one begins prayer simply by “considering how God our Lord is looking at me”. After centring yourself, imagine how God gazes upon you and beholds you. This is a great way to sense God’s presence in your prayer time.
“Reveal who you are”
And then there’s the rest of your prayer! However you pray, whether it’s just acknowledging and feeling God’s presence or meditating on scripture, the purpose of prayer is allowing God to reveal God’s self to you. This takes time, as does any relationship take time to form as you reveal more and more to each other. As verse 9 says, “With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.”