Every year it is not easy for us to experience Advent as we would like… the hectic pace, the
darkness, the worries of everyday life are all too present. But the longing to experience Advent as a time of expectation, of preparation, of anticipation is great. But how can it be done?
Ignatius’ advices to win the battle
St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) knew that the time of prayer is always contested. But he gave some valuable and everyday tips to win the battle. According to Ignatius, a time of prayer needs three elements:
- a decision
- a fixed place
- a fixed time
The decision is at the beginning. To decide to pray is not to burden ourselves with yet another duty. It is rather to give in to a longing: the longing to have time for ourselves, to come to rest, to recharge our batteries with the Lord. Deciding on a time of prayer is like opening a door. But the decision should be realistic, adapted to our everyday life. I may wish to pray for an hour every day, but it is more realistic to start with half an hour every Sunday. Ignatius of Loyola loved the small steps, the small beginnings. What could be a first, small step for me?
Again, we should adapt to the circumstances. The perfect place for prayer, maybe it doesn’t exist for me at the moment. But I can light a candle, maybe choose a cross or an icon, close the door of my bedroom or take a walk through the park if it is too noisy in the flat.
Prayer should have a set beginning and end. Twenty to thirty minutes is ideal for a start. But maybe fifteen or forty minutes is as well. What is important is to decide on a time beforehand and to stick to it until the end. I may get a little bored towards the end. But it is not unusual for God to surprise us at just such a moment:)
There is also a simple suggestion from Ignatius of Loyola for the sequence of the prayer: a small “welcoming ritual” at the beginning, for example a sign of the cross. Then I begin the prayer: First I give thanks, then I ask for forgiveness, finally I intercede. Perhaps I follow this with a short exchange with Jesus, a “heart to heart” with the Lord, like a conversation between lovers, between friends.
Sometimes it also helps to use a Bible text, for example the Gospel text from your daily liturgical readings.