Prayer Guide









Praying with Teresa of Avila—prayer as friendship
How did your week go? I pray that it is getting easier for you. When I was guided in Lectio Divina my prayer life began to blossom. I was able to listen better through action by trading my own thoughts with scripture, God’s words. If you continue to struggle, don’t give up. We are only half way through this study and I pray that by the end you will find peace in God.

Perseverance is an important part of prayer. There will be times that we will all experience dry spells, also know as dark nights of the soul and others call it time in the desert. This period can be dark and disturbing or it can just be simply time in which nothing seems to come. You thirst but nothing quenches that thirst no matter how much you pray or read the Bible or attend worship services. Don’t give up, hang in there. This time may be caused by lack of focus, you maybe subconsciously avoiding God because He has given you a task to do or the Spirit shows you a sin to give up in your life and you don’t want to. It may be a time of testing allowed by God in which He is giving you strength, perseverance and patience. If this occurs, reflect on your past experiences. Are you avoiding God, have you become to busy, too much stress that you can’t let go of. Give it to God. You can’t hide from Him and He is not hiding from you. Try changing the position you pray in or set the mood in a different way, light a candle or don’t light one, use a blanket or don’t, etc. You should also try different styles of prayer. Teresa of Avila was not immune from trouble with her prayer life. She struggled most of her life. This leads to the next God direction:

Starting point: Where you’ve been

Destination: Where you’re going

Directions: Turn around and go back taking the scenic route. Exploring and studying what you’ve missed. Only then can you continue to “Where you’re going.”

No one has accused me of being totally sane. These directions seem to get crazier as we go. Maybe that is why I’m always lost… but anyway back to business. Prayer is a time to get to know yourself better. How can we do this if we are supposed to be focused on God? Well that is the blessing of Prayer. It is not what we do or think but what God does. He will reveal our inner most thoughts, after all He knows all. He knows who we are better than we do.
Teresian Prayer is not a method nor does it necessarily have rules but it is a way of prayer. Teresa of Avila was born and lived during the time of the reformation (1515-1582) in Spain. She became a nun as a teenager and was soon appalled by the corruption. At first she was caught up in the socializing, parties and fancy dress but soon through prayer she realized God was calling her to more. Through most of her prayer life she was persecuted by her fellow nuns and even the Catholic Church itself being brought before the inquisition. Through it all she never lost faith and continued to push for reform.

“On her journeys through Spain where she established many Carmelite convents, she constantly called upon God.  Even those who know little about St. Teresa of Avila may have heard her famous quip to God.  In 1582 while on her way to make her last Carmelite foundation, where in fact she died, she and her companions encountered life-threatening flood conditions.  Standing in a river torrent, she complained: ‘Lord, amid so many ills this comes on top of all the rest.’  A Voice answered her, ‘Teresa, that is how I treat my friends.’  She retorted, ‘Ah, my God!  That is why you have so few of them!’ 

This banter between friends suggests much more than Teresa's familiarity with God; it reveals the depth of their relationship.  Only someone in very close friendship with God could speak with such familiarity!  Teresa demonstrated the quick wit of a woman noted for her vivacity and charm, which were in no way lessened by the hardships that marked her efforts to reform the Carmelite order.”1

“Prayer is the heart of Teresa of Avila’s life and teaching, her ‘way of perfection.’ For her, prayer is the supreme meaning and value of human existence, since it is the inner life that animates the exterior, the journey within that is the journey into reality.

Prayer is life before it is an exercise, a dimension of being before it is an experience. Prayer means to be in touch with the Center of one’s life, who is ‘the Divine Majesty’ dwelling in His own rooms in the depths of the interior castle, the figure for ourselves. This contact deep within where we merge with God and are transformed into God-centered persons theology… Thus our true center is both in us and beyond us, and the transcendence we yearn for is filled by God’s self-communication”2
Though Teresa is known for her prayer life we must understand it didn’t come easy. The first half or more of her life was a constant struggle in prayer. Only when she learned to embrace the distractions and give up herself to God did she have success in prayer. She used many styles of prayers mostly through Lectio Divina. What marks Teresian prayer is the understanding that prayer is just an intimate sharing between friends. It is a time that we set aside to cultivate that friendship. Of course God has already initiated that friendship so prayer is our response to God’s friendship. She knew God intimately; she understood that God is the creator of everything so all distractions originate from God. Thus we can incorporate them into our prayer by focusing those distractions on God. She used Scripture to replace the wondering mind with God’s Word.

Teresa also had a style of prayer of her own. Knowing that God resides in us by His Holy Spirit she views our souls as an interior castle. In this exercise we locate God within ourselves and center our reflections and affection on God there. By doing so we see God’s place in our lives and we can then begin to open or surrender the other areas of our lives to Him.
Prayer Time:
  1. The same guidelines to Lectio Divina apply to Teresian Prayer.
  2. You can continue to use the examples that were supplied from last week or you could choose other verses in Scripture.
  3. Teresian Style Prayer is a mind set more than a way to pray
  4. Do not force it. We will read slowly and listen to our best friend, God, direction for us, resting in His presence when we feel the need.
  5. Remember we are not reading for speed or to reach a goal but at the pace of God. We will read slowly and deliberately, listening at each word and phrase.
  1. Before you begin prayerfully select the text which you will use for meditation (Lectio Divina) remind yourself that God is present with you as you begin prayer. (Lectio Divina options)
  2. As before select a comfortable place to pray and begin your centering exercises and use of your Jesus Prayer, reminding yourself that God is in you praying with and for you.
  3. As you read through the text the first time pause periodically to think of God with you as you are reading His Word;
  4. Repeat this as you pray through the passage the second time;
  5. Allow those words which grab your attention to be words spoken to you by God Himself, rest in them as spoken to you personally;
  6. Envision God praying your Psalm verse (or special words) in you;
  7. End your prayer time as usual, but remind yourself that God is present with you even as you leave your time of prayer—do this throughout the day.
One day this week try this exercise as a replacement for your normal prayer time:
  1. Envision God in your heart and soul enthroned as the King of your being;
  2. Imagine your body/soul to be a castle, a territory, an island, etc. (you decide);
  3. Allow yourself to roam freely through the land you imagine (take time for this);
  4. After meditating in this way draw out your land on paper: note any untamed places, places most familiar to you, the borders, any other divisions which seem significant to you, and the place where God dwells.3
  1. Just like before, you can’t force this. (Read previous pointers)
  2. When words grab your attention, allow them to be spoken directly to you by God. Do this by replacing words such as you to me and I or even your name. Make it personal.
  3. If you have trouble visioning your soul, back off and try another time.
  4. Pray for God to reveal Himself in you.
  5. When you are able to map out your land, look back on this and meditate on it. Praying for God to explain what you are seeing. Is God in the center? Why or why not. Is there some untamed territory? What does it mean? Are there barriers? If so what are they and why are they there? With these questions God can show us who we are and reveal things we may not have known about ourselves.
  6. Do not return to your inner land too many times. The purpose is to help us understand ourselves and our relationship with God. Use that knowledge in your prayer life, but don’t make it your only focus.
Practice this style of prayer for a full week. At the end of the week, move on to the next section.
1Women of Prayer and Justice Session 3: Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) Prepared by Eleanor Lincoln, CSJ and Catherine Litecky, CSJ Women at the Well Ministry, St. Paul, MN
2The published Articles of Ernest E. Larkin, O.Carm.
3As adapted from “Contemplative Prayer Study” Lesson 4 by Rev. Derek Cheek

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