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Introduction to Discovery Prayer

Two weeks ago, I shared St. Teresa of Avila’s formula for contemplative prayer. Her 5-step process is a perfect guide for learning how to talk to Jesus. But sometimes I find it helpful to look at the language of our own contemporaries, so this week we are going to dig into Dan Burke’s book, Into the Deep.

He refers to mental prayer as discovery prayer. Regardless of what you call it, contemplative, meditative, personal, mental, discovery, etc. It all refers to the same thing- having a conversation with God.

Dan begins by emphasizing the importance of sacred space. He suggests lighting a candle or two, and I would suggest sitting in your designated prayer chair or spot. This puts you in the proper disposition for prayer.

He would also suggest praying out loud. The words take on a much deeper

meaning when spoken aloud.

You begin with a quick prayer, something simple like “Good morning, Jesus! Thank you for this new day!” Then proceed with an Our Father or Glory Be.

Then you get to step 1- Reading.

Dan suggests that you read from the gospels; after all, this is the best place to get to know Jesus!

Read a short passage 3 times over slowly. You CANNOT read it slow enough… and that is important to note. When you read at your normal cadence, you are simply reading for information, but when praying over the gospels you are letting the word of God soak into your soul.

Step 2- Reflect.

In this step you put yourself in the gospel story. He uses the story of the prodigal son as an example. Consider the temperature, the movement of the wind, the clothing of the people, the dust, the smells, the heat, and the look of the surrounding elements.

After placing yourself as fully into the story as possible, consider what the text is saying to you. How can you apply it to your current life? Where is God leading me or what is He revealing to me? And what is God asking of me?

Step 3- Respond.

Begin speaking to God directly with your heart. You can talk to Him about what you read in the passage. Here are a few questions to prompt your prayer. What can I say in response to God? Should I offer thanksgiving or praise, or should I ask for His help in any particular way?

Step 4- Resting.

This step is as easy as it sounds! You simply rest and remain absorbed in the words of God. The Holy Spirit may draw you more deeply into His presence through what you have read. This step may not come naturally for everyone, especially at first, but it becomes a great source of peace and joy through daily practice of speaking to God!

Step 5- Resolving.

In this step, you resolve to follow through with the promptings of the Holy Spirit during your prayer time. This is where our lives are transformed from our encounter with Christ. This is where we grow in virtue or in healing.

You may have noticed that these steps are very similar to St. Teresa’s, yet there are a few distinct differences. There are probably as many formulas out there as there are individuals praying! But that’s the beauty of it. This is your own personal experience coming close and speaking with Our Lord.

I mentioned this in my last blog too, but it simply can’t be overstated. This is NOT supposed to be a mechanical “to-do” list. These are simply guides to teach us simple ways to put ourselves into the presence of Our Lord.

I pray that you are growing in holiness this lent and are using mental prayer to help do so. God bless!

Until next time, your sister in Christ,


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