“How do you prepare for a meaningful conversation with a friend?” –Dan Johnson, Spiritual Director
When my Loyola colleague Dan Johnson framed his “Simple Prayer” retreat with this essential question, a deep part of me was moved.
How do I prepare for a meaningful conversation with a friend? I consider the space of engagement – the lighting of the room, the quiet around and within, my own eager anticipation. I recall times of hosting coffee or meals in my home, the myriad of ways I ready the table, food, myself. I notice the joy in me arise reflecting on experiences of conversation and friendship in my life.
For the better part of the last 20 years, I have been convening with a group of good friends on the second Friday of each month. Preparing for these times of encounter, I recognize our ritual behavior. Mary Beth makes a soup. Sarah finds the dark chocolate. Cynthia scouts for the right wine. Ellen locates a gluten free cracker or chip for the cheese and dips. I assemble some sort of a dressing for a salad – chopping garlic, whisking oil with lemon, mustard, a bit of thyme.
And inside me, a quiet unfolds in anticipation of seeing, hearing, speaking with these friends that know me so well.
So, too, it is with God.
What if God was always making way to engage us and have a meaningful conversation? To share the joy and delights in the world, the gladness in having made us? What if, since our birth, God has been attentive to our every move, excited to share and listen to our deepest longings, hurts and hopes?
I love these questions so much. I love what they conjure up in me regarding the dynamic space of friendship and encounter with God. What if…?
For the last three weeks, a small group of participants has joined me at Loyola to engage in the spiritual practice of Ignatian Contemplation – opening the Sunday scripture and making way for a sacred conversation with God. For the last three weeks, one could say, we have been having meaningful conversations with a friend.
In his book, The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, author Louis Savary outlines the steps for having meaningful conversation in and through this Ignatian practice called “Dialogue Prayer.”
Savary explains that dialogue prayer “enables us to interact verbally with a figure in scripture — for example, Jesus or Mary –in order access the wisdom of the figure and build a relationship.” Dialogue prayer may be used to get more deeply or accurately into the meaning and purpose of the Spiritual exercises for our lives.
Preparing for this meaningful conversation, we ready questions to ask. Savary offers the following generic ones:
- What did you think, feel or do during this event?
- What is the meaning of this event for me?
- What do you want me to learn from you?
These questions have transformed my prayer life. In anticipation of receiving the gifts and wisdom from figures in scripture, I can prepare for a meaningful conversation by writing these questions down. I can humbly enter my prayer space, listening for the Spirit-lead responses of Jesus or Mary, John or Joseph, the angel Gabriel, pouring forth through my pen.
As you have prepared your home and heart for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, I invite you to take some quiet time these next few weeks to engage with God as a friend. What would a meaningful conversation with a figure in the Nativity story sound like? What gifts might God have in store for you in this form of dialogue prayer?
For more information on a dialogue prayer exercise you can do click here: Dialogue Prayer: Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son