How to Begin Prayer: Looking at God Looking at You by Robert Marsh, SJ

PDF copy of article (click here)

Robert Marshes article is a commentary on the following excerpt from St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises: 
“A step or two in front of the place where I am to contemplate or meditate, I will stand for the length of an Our Father, raising my mind above and considering how God our Lord is looking at me, etc., and make an act of reverence or humility.” (Exx 75).

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Robert Marsh’s key points:
#1: We tend to be “mind-blind” about God.

“We think that God knows simply what we know, sees simply what we see; and consequently we rarely stop to ask God what God actually sees or knows or feels. We find it hard to let God enter our prayer as a real living person; instead, we misuse the name ‘God’ to denote a projection of what we think and feel.”

#2: Let God be really real.

This is what St. Ignatius constantly invites us to do – let God be really real!

“We do not allow God to be a living presence—a real subject—in our lives, because we have been trained by our culture to believe that God cannot, or at least does not, behave in that way.”

Rather than asking God and then going straight to mulling over several possible answers that you think God will say.

“But even when I am trying to listen, even when I am sincerely asking for an answer to some deep question, I tend in fact to ask, and then go straight on to mulling over several possible answers that God might have given already, rather than asking God and waiting for an answer.”

Prayer should get surprising & unpredictable. You ask a question and you get an answer that surprises you. You feel one thing, God feels another.

#3: Begin prayer by looking at God looking at you.

One of the best ways to “let God be really real” is by starting your prayer looking at God looking at you. Right here. Right now. This is a look that transforms. It is an encounter. 

“I am looking at God looking at me looking at God.”

We begin prayer acknowledging that we are desired before we ask for the grace we desire.

“Only when we begin with the encounter of a living God can then our desires asked for be more than selfishness or individualistic therapy & colloquy can become real conversation rather than a hestitant monologue.”

Some questions to ask: 
  • Is our God a living person with thoughts & feelings of God’s own, and not just an extension of my own thinking and feeling?
  • Can I discover myself in the eyes of God?
  • Can I discover a God who can act and who is a person?
  • What is it like to be looked at by God?
  • What is God thinking?
  • How is God feeling?
  • What is God desiring?
  • How is God looking at me now?
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