As long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with prayer. Not because I find any particular method difficult -I’ve loved doing various forms of prayer: praise and worship, lectio divina, the rosary, adoration, the liturgy of the hours – but because I struggle to make time to pray on a regular basis. I’m inconsistently faithful to prayer – and this is something I want to change. So Jen purchased a book for me called The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek – in hopes of helping me to become more faithful (and more consistent) in my prayer.
The results after almost 6 weeks? I’ve been more faithful to my prayer, but I’ve still got a long way to go. What I’ve found in this book is a simple and beautiful four-step structure of prayer that helps me to better pray with scripture – which I like to call “C4 Prayer.” These make up what Fr. Bartunek identifies as key elements of a heart to heart conversation with God – which is the purpose of praying in the first place.
Step 1 involves turning away from your exterior concerns and turning towards God. It means finding a time and place (a consistent one, if you can make that happen) that you are going to set aside for God. Externally, shut the door on the outside world (this might mean literally closing a door), but also includes putting your phone away and making the space you’re in silent. Then, prepare yourself by following these steps:
- Recognize God is present to you, whether it be in your heart, beside you, all around you, or imagine some other image that helps remind you of His presence with you.
- Listen up! Remember that God has something He wants to say to you TODAY. During this time He wants to do something in your soul – your job is to pay attention.
- Reflect on the ways you are dependent on who created you and who has redeemed you.
- In your heart, use your own words asking God to help you listen.
Take a passage from the Bible and read through it slowly, twice. As you go through it, note what God is saying to you here and now in your life. It’s not a question of looking for some new insight or new truth – what is it that you need to hear today? Fr. Bartunek emphasizes that we need to be seeking for whispers as we read. You can even make a note each time something jumps out at me (either by highlighting it or writing it down somewhere.) Be patient here, and don’t get discouraged – this will take some practice. (Someone’s commentaries or reflections can help you learn how to do this.)
Having noted some particular item to consider, respond to it. Use words of praise, or sorrow (contrition), or gratitude. Ask things of God – it may be to live up to what you are considering in step 2, and this response may also lead you back to your passage for some further consideration – this is ok! The key here is to work at letting down the guard of your heart so God’s word can penetrate, regenerate, and inspire you in the depths of who you are.
You now come to the point where you need to put your meditation into action. As a follower of Jesus, your meditation might lead you to make some sort of spiritual resolution or perhaps commit (or re-commit) yourself to some act of charity or penance. The key here is to bridge the content of your meditation into some concrete action.
Conclude with a prayer that will remind you of your commitment to follow Jesus. The following is a prayer written by Fr. John Bartunek that fits well here (though you can use any prayer – even a spontaneous prayer on the spot that expresses these sentiments):
You know how weak I am, Lord, but you also know how much I want to follow You. You have planted that desire in my heart. I am yours, Lord. Wherever I go, and whatever happens, I belong to You. I never want to be separated from You. As hard as it is, I want to do Your will, because You are my God, my creator, and my redeemer, my Father and my faithful friend. Thy will be done in my life today, Lord, Thy Kingdom come.