Date: August 16, 2022
By: Maria N.
Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a free trial of the Hallow App! I am not much of an app person. I’m quite the minimalist when it comes to my phone, but for some reason, I decided to give this App a try. At first glance, it was overwhelming to me how much content it had and the possibilities of how to apply so many common prayers into my prayer routine.
Because I know my tendency of dabbling into everything and not committing to one thing, I restrained myself from listening to too many of the guided prayers and chose a couple of guided practices to incorporate into my daily routine.
Providentially, one of them was the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius with Fr. Timothy Gallagher. (And no, I’m not sponsored in any way by this app haha)!
These exercises quickly captured my attention. As I listened I realized that I have been missing a truly essential part in my prayer life and this is what St. Ignatius calls the Principle and Foundation of personal prayer. Fr. Gallagher explains:
“The first, central, foundational need [in prayer], the principle from which everything else flows as a consequence is to know how deeply we are loved in God’s heart…
We don’t look at our response, personal failures, sinfulness until first we have let our hearts be warmed by this deep truth of God’s love for us…
No hurry no agenda no need to finish the entire [Scripture] passage, let your heart rest wherever you feel the Lord speaking.”
Fr. Gallagher is like a prayer coach in the spiritual life. He illustrates how to pray, how to slow down and drink-in Jesus’ beautiful gaze towards us and just rest in him. Like a father, he patiently and endearingly teaches us how to slow down, essentially how to allow love in. He encourages us to open up our hearts and allow ourselves to first be loved by the Lord.
As we find Jesus speaking to the rich, young man in Mark 10:21:
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
HIs first lesson is to invite us to take time before beginning any prayer, to imagine Jesus’ loving, affirming eyes towards us. St. Ignatius suggests to do this for at least the length it takes for us to say an Our Father, so about at least 30 seconds.
By taking the time to slow down and let this true and real love in, it prepares and cultivates our heart. Fr. Gallagher puts it like this:
“It prepares a heart that is well disposed, that is healed, that is free, that is ready to hear God’s word. It is ready to hear, to see where the Lord is calling us more deeply in our vocation today. It is a time where we can ask ‘what should I to do for the Lord in this time?’”
That is step one. Step two, goes into imaginative, contemplative prayer. Through many anecdotes, examples, and tender suggestions, Fr. Gallagher guides his listeners to embrace a scriptural passage in a new, personal way that bears much fruit to the interior life. He even helps get rid of our scrupulous tendencies in prayer by reassuring us that it is not necessary to finish your intended prayer if you feel the Lord is asking you to bask in a certain word or phrase. The saints practiced this approach. For example, St. Francis de Sales says:
“If your mind finds enough appeal, light and fruit in any of them, [in particular scripture verses], remain in that point and do not go further…imitate the bees who do not leave a flower as long as they can extract any honey out of it.”
St. Francis de Sales
My experience of slowing down and practicing this approach has been pretty epic. Like a flower opened to the warm rays of the sun, I more readily and willingly open my heart to the Lord. As a person who has struggled to be vulnerable, even to Jesus in the past, this has been very impactful. A new sense of trust began to draw from my heart and I begun to feel my baseline of stress and anxiety lower to zero because I felt secure and safe in his presence and in life. I have found the source of peace. I feel seen, I feel heard, I feel accepted and most importantly, I feel truly loved.
It blows me away that God wants to spend this time with me so often, as often as I initiate this time. He doesn’t mind “wasting his time” with little old me and it’s crazy how reckless His love is for me! He is my pearl of great price. The love that satisfies. The fountain of everlasting life, where I know where to satisfy my thirst at any opportunity, daily, constantly.
There were some obstacles that I needed to overcome to find this richness and this rest. I found that I needed to give myself permission to first take the time for meditative and contemplative prayer, even if it took longer than planned or even if I had things to get done on my to do list that were not urgent in the moment. Secondly, I needed to allow myself to be deeply vulnerable with Jesus, to tell him everything and letting him see everything.
The result of being vulnerable to Christ gives me the certainty that I matter, I have a new confidence that he loves me, which breeds new life in me. I can feel this in the core of my being. He has made me his own, I am not alone, and my heart in turn responds to his love by loving him back, by deepening the trust I have in him and by resting and basking in his love. And after this time of prayer where my heart is still full, I am able to carry this love to others, I am able to be more patient with those in my care and I am able to be a witness to His love because I draw from the source of love rather than drawing from my own strength and my own quasi-love. This is where I have found my prayer has grown in sincerity. I understand now in a new way the quote from St. John Paul II:
“Freedom exists for the sake of love.”
Through this way of prayer, I find rest, I find my identity, I find freedom to be myself, and this new freedom makes sense because I understand the purpose of this freedom; I am made free so as to love more freely and more sincerely. My heart knows its purpose, in finding freedom, I am freely choosing Love in a deeper way. I want to love God more, I choose and desire to love my family more. I want to love my friends more. It is a beautiful circle, a continual exchange of love where my heart finds rest and purpose. Where my heart grows and expands and wants to invite more people in. It doesn’t tire because it draws from Him and I know I am just a reed and not the source.
Imagine what would happen if we let ourselves be loved by God like this everyday?
Imagine what would happen in our interior lives?
Imagine how it would impact others as we bring Jesus to them?
Imagine all the people that would be impacted by this habit and practice of prayer?
Imagine all these people living life in peace.