I grew up believing that I can only pray through the use of words. That’s why it’s easy for me to pray when I have problems, when I want to pray for something, or when I’m happy because I have a lot of things to say. But when my life is uneventful, I find myself drifting slowly from my prayer life. Being a woman of few words who is always on the listener seat, if I just based my prayers on words, I would really run out of prayers. It would be really life-changing if I can pray and commune with God without me needing to say something.
But for those Christians and Catholics who are struggling in their prayer life like me, there’s a good news: we can pray to God non-verbally or non-conversationally. While reading books on meditation and spirituality, I learned three ways to pray without really talking to God, yet still connecting and communing with Him.
St. Paul advised his followers at Thessalonica to pray without ceasing. But how is this possible? We have responsibilities to do in our families, in our work, and in our church. We would lose our jobs and even our loved ones if what we will do is pray all day! We don’t live in monasteries and convents, yet even the monks and nuns have important works to do.
Fortunately, there is a prayer called rhythmic prayer, a term I learned from Corinne Ware, author of Saint Benedict on the Freeway. Rhythmic prayer is also called mantra by other religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. But instead of repeating sounds such as “ohmm” or”mmm,” Christians, even from the ancient times, would use a prayer phrase that is attuned to their breathing, walking, or working.
One of the mantras I use is “filled with Jesus.” When I inhale, I would mentally say the word “filled,” and when I exhale, I’d say “with Jesus” in my mind. In my readings, I have always encountered the Jesus Prayer which says, “Jesus, make haste to rescue me.” Other spiritual people suggested to choose a phrase from the Bible and use it as their mantra.
Visual Image Prayer
In his book The Rhythm of Life, author and speaker Matthew Kelly shared that his favorite image which he visualizes and meditates on is a rose. For him, the rose symbolizes Christ’s purity and humility. In my own prayer life, what flashed in my mind without any prompting was the image of the Divine Mercy. My mind could easily picture this image without much effort on my part, but sometimes concentrating on it is a different story.
Visual image, for me, is the way to go when mantra doesn’t work, meaning, when my mind would wander away to some other thoughts. Perhaps because I’m a visual person, that’s why my mind would cling to the image.
Gospel Scene Prayer
I don’t really know what this prayer is called, but I learned this from FatherJames Martin SJ in his book, The Jesuit Guide to Everything. Father James suggested that we could imagine scenes from the Gospel in our mind. For example, we can visualize Jesus as he reached out his hand and healed the blind man, as he preached about one of his parables, or as he withdraw himself to a quiet place to pray.
Father James even suggested that we could even imagine ourselves to be in that scene, to be present in that space and time. We can cradle the infant Jesus as we’re filled with awe, we can touch Jesus’s cloak, or we can sit together with the crowd as we listen to him with wonder. Basically, it’s like playing a video about Jesus in our mind, with us being one of the cast!
This prayer helps me to remember what the Gospel of the day is all about. There are times when I forget what I have read in the morning when night time comes.
Having a stash of non-conversational prayers to choose from is a great help in my own prayer life. There are times when I’m overwhelmed with Yesha and I would use the mantra. Or sometimes, when my mind is overly stimulated, I would pray through the mental image if I don’t use words. And when I’m on a relaxed state during a downtime, I would play a scene of the Gospel in my mind.
My prayer life will never be perfect. It’s a lifetime work in progress. But learning that I could pray without needing to talk to God is greatly helping me as I continuously commune with Him.
The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly
Saint Benedict on the Freeway by Corrine Waye
The Jesuit Guide to Everything by Fr. James Martin SJ