The Manresa method: Praying with your desire

July 5, 2022 in News

As I approach the end of our 6 week Ignatian Immersion Course in Manresa, Spain, I am asking myself what have I learned about prayer and meditation that might be helpful for others? The most important insight is that God (or the divine, or mystery etc.) is intimately close to us and dying for some communication or interaction.

This is an important starting point that helps to focus prayer or meditation, and to help us find direction or meaning, as God wants the best, most life-giving option for us. It’s an experience that satisfies the restless hunger and desire. Amazingly, you can use your imagination in prayer to picture yourself in a conversation with God or Jesus, and speak as if you were talking to a friend.

There are normally three parts: 1. Entering: trying to get some inner stillness and get ‘out of our heads’ or thoughts; 2. Praying with my desire: as God is in our deepest desires, this longing can help us connect; 3. Exiting: reviewing what has happened and making decisions.

Here are some suggested steps for a 15-20 minute session:

  1. Entering (find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted if possible): Believe that you are ‘looked at’ or in the gaze of God; this helps to take the focus off ourselves and to accept the reality that we are infinitely loved and forgiven, which is transformative. Ask for what you want. In Ignatian language it’s known as ‘asking for a grace’. It’s a simple step but has a big impact, it gets you in touch with your desire. Something like, “help me be still within and listen”, “show me a solution to this problem I’m wrestling with” or even “help me face this awful situation”.
  2. Praying (being real with God): Take a moment to review how you are at this moment, physically, emotionally & spiritually. Imagine how God looks at you; this is the way the Father receives the prodigal son, the way Jesus greets those who are suffering or in trouble, how a mother looks after her child. Remember that for the first 10 minutes or so, it can seem like a waste of time, you can be tortured by stress or thoughts going through your head and you have to trust that things will improve. Again, it helps to make a prayer of this: “help me to get calm, I need a break”. Imagine if you could talk to God or Jesus face to face, what would you say, what is it that you really have to get off your chest, what do you want for your life (your heart’s desire)? Then listen, conversation is always two-way, so listen to what words are being spoken to you; what is the message of love or compassion you need to hear? Stay with the conversation as long as it works for you, then take your leave knowing that you can always come back to this moment.
  3. Exiting: Finish by being grateful for the prayer (sometimes you have to work at this but there is always something that is helpful). Review how this prayer went and what helped and what didn’t, figure out what you would change for next time (e.g., a different place, spending more time, earlier in the day etc.). Work out if there is any practical decision you have to make. Commit yourself to another session soon. Build it in as a regular part of your life, a recovery space.