During the season of Advent, we will be committing to a regimen of prayer that will help us prepare for the Lord's threefold coming: preparing for the remembrance of his coming in Bethlem, preparing our hearts as dwelling places, and preparing for the final coming at the end of this world.
While all of the ascetic disciplines of Advent are a kind of prayer, this article will focus on the disciplines that will shape our silent contemplative prayer time during this season. These disciplines are:
For a full list of the disciplines see "What are the disciplines of Advent?"
How to Pray
The first step to prayer is that you desire to serve God in the manner most agreeable to him. This desire will be fostered in three ways. The first is when you consider that the Almighty God deserves your worship and service. It is truly right, just, and necessary to give praise to the all-powerful creator of the universe. The second is that God became man out of love for us—for you. Not only because he is almighty but also because he is all loving you should serve him in the way that he desires. The final way to foster this desire is by contemplating your obligation to observe his law.
Ask the Lord to help you know how to pray. Have confidence that he will help you. Do not doubt the Lord. The God who loves you more than you can comprehend will not ignore your request.
Your motive for prayer must be the will of God rather than your own will. Pray because God wants you to pray. It is good if you are drawn to prayer, but it is essential that you take time to pray because God wills that you pray. In humility, surrender your will to the Lord—trust him.
What is Silent Prayer?
First, let's say what silent prayer is not. It is not merely the absence of all noise.
The fathers of the church assign an eminent place to silence the in ascetical life.
Interior silence can only be achieved by the absence of memories, plans, interior speech, worries, and curiosities.
Silence is not merely a lack of interior and exterior noise, it is a place of encounter. We seek silence because we seek God—silence is the veil that protects the mystery
How to Make a Holy Hour
During this spiritual exercise, you are called to commit yourself to a holy hour once a week. If you can’t do an entire holy hour on a given day, do as much as you can. Preservation of the twenty minutes of silent contemplative prayer is the exercise minimum on days you cannot make a full holy hour. When you are making the full holy hour, at least twenty minutes of silent contemplative prayer in open conversational time with God should be a part of the hour.
For more on the structure of a daily holy hour, check out “How to Pray a Holy Hour" on the app
Where to Pray
Your prayer time is best done before the blessed sacrament, either exposed or reposed in a tabernacle. If neither option is available, then “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Find a quiet place to pray—a place free of distractions. Light a candle before you if possible. Consider bringing a crucifix into the space with you as well.
How to Make a Nightly Examen
A nightly examen is a way to recount our actions throughout the day and acknowledge where we chose to respond to God’s grace and where we chose otherwise. St. Ignatius of Loyola thought that the examen was “a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible.” One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement to practice the examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that many Christians practice to this day. During this season, we will practice at the end of each day. The following is a simplified form of how to do a nightly examen.
Call to mind God’s presence before you.
Review the many blessings of the day.
Acknowledge your sins and shortcomings.
Make a resolve and call upon the Lord.
Be filled with hope and joy.
For a full guide to making a nightly exam, check out "How to Make a Nightly Examen" on the app!