An Invitation to a 4 Day Experience of Prayer

Becoming What You Admire – Reflecting on Jesus

“Listen to the noise around us” a friend suddenly blurted out as we sat in a Starbucks. “I need to find a few minutes of silence” in my life. This booklet is an invitation to that very idea.

Find 10 minutes to create silence and try four simple steps to experiencing God in the silence – add one step each day and create a practice for moments when you long for silence.


“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4: 8 NRSV)

In the past, I’ve heard these words from the Apostle Paul as a burden rather than a simple encouragement for better vision that nurtures my true humanity at its best. I’m inviting you to take 10 minutes on four occasions to explore “imitative” prayer in this positive spirit. 

St. Francis’ influential prayer companion was a woman named Clare. Her passion to know Jesus deeply led her to what she called “Imitative Prayer”.

Clare focused her desire to imitate Jesus on the crucifixion stories. The mystery and accessibility of God in Jesus captured her, particularly his humility in his arrest, trial and execution.

GAZE what do we see, hear experience? Quietly and undistracted we look at one we love.

CONSIDER the character and love of God in Jesus Christ. How am I drawn to his ways? What do I notice about Jesus in this story?

CONTEMPLATE where does the Jesus of this story connect with my life now? How am I challenged and encouraged by his humble and sacrificial love?

IMITATE “We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become”. Let what I have seen shape who I become.

Day 1: Gaze

Gaze- what do we see, hear experience? Quiet and undistracted, we look at one we love.

Admiration Leads to Transformation

When we use words like “contemplative” or “centring” to describe prayer we can focus more on technique than on the organic, loving experience of God. Clare’s way of praying is about letting our creative energy engage with God in ways that will change us.

We all have a longing for life in its fullest and the demands of life can choke that off. Somewhere I read that a hungry person doesn’t read a cookbook they eat a meal.

Prayer is the meal and a lot of spiritual writing is the cookbook. Reading “spiritual’ material (including what I’m writing now) is helpful but our lives are only fed through experiencing the Bread of Life.

I know you are busy and distracted (I am too) but grab a coffee and a few minutes for experiencing God this way.

Today I invite you to relax, take a deep breath and use the first step - “Gaze”. The following prayer may help you enter your quiet space and then “gaze” at the brief story from Jesus’ life – look, see, experience the one we love in this story.

A Prayer to Begin
O Lord, who has mercy on all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me the fire of your Holy Spirit. 
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you, to follow and enjoy you,
for Christ's sake.  (Ambrose: c.339-97)

Jesus Embraces His Full Humanity

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.' " 

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' " 

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' " Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-12 NRSV)

A Prayer As We Conclude
Almighty God, in whom we live and move
and have our being, you have made us for yourself, so
that our hearts are restless until they rest in you; grant
me purity of heart and strength of purpose, that
no selfish passion may hinder me from knowing your will,
no weakness from doing it; but that in your light I
may see light clearly, and in your service find
perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Augustine: 354-430)

Day 2: Consider

Consider- the character and love of God in Jesus Christ. How am I drawn to his ways? What do I notice about Jesus in this story?

Admiration Leads to Transformation

There is a school of thought that we learn our way of living by imitating others from our earliest moments. As kids, we watch and imitate our parents, then peers and elders as we mature. The models we choose to imitate shape the trajectory of our life. 

True prayer draws us deep into the loving heart of God to bring hope health and healing- not another task to complete, set of rules to obey or, if my life is an indicator, to a stress-free life.  

Clare focused her imitative longing particularly on the crucifixion stories of Jesus. We will look at other stories as well that may also connect with our own experience.

In admiring the life of Jesus in a Gospel story we connect with his life and his life connects with ours. As we are drawn to his ways we reflect on our lives- where do we notice the presence of Jesus in the brokenness of the world we serve?

Greater awareness of the life of Jesus in us leads us to a greater sensitivity to notice his presence in others.

So today begin by “Gazing” and then move to “consider” Jesus in this story – notice what he’s up to and see how you are attracted to him.

A Prayer to Begin

I hear the promise of Jesus:
when the Spirit of truth comes, 
he will guide you into all the truth.
I pray for the fulfillment of that promise.
Father I come to you in praise,
for the Heir of your majesty is
the friend who shared our weakness,
and his rising from the dead
has made us heirs with him.
As I settle in to worship you,
I know that my prayer is heard,
that your Spirit has new truth
to quicken me with joy.

Let him declare to me the inward truths of Jesus:
the words of our Savior, to echo in my conscience,
the face of our Savior, to look into my heart,
the wounds of our Savior, to bring me forgiveness,
the life of our Savior, to strengthen my service.
In the Name of our Savior, 
I come to you in adoration.  Amen

Wounds and Forgiveness

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.  

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." 

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."  

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."   (John 20:18-29 NRSV)

A Prayer As We Conclude

Come, Lord Jesus
Into my remembrance of your shed blood and broken body
Come, Lord Jesus
To forgive, cleanse and strengthen my life
Come, Lord Jesus
To help me love you with my whole heart, mind and strength
Come, Lord Jesus
To help me love my neighbour as myself
Come, Lord Jesus
Into the sorrows, grief, pain and confusion oflife this week
Come, Lord Jesus
Into the wounds oflife, family, community, country and the world
Come, Lord Jesus
Into my joys, achievements and successes
Come, Lord Jesus
As I live this day with hope, forgiveness, freedom and restoration
Come, Lord Jesus

Day 3: Contemplate

Contemplate- where does the Jesus of this story connect with my life now? How am I challenged and encouraged by his humble and sacrificial love?

Admiration Leads to Transformation

Jesus lived life to its fullest and shows us humanity at our best. We can connect with that - longing to be like him. “Imitative prayer” is a quiet and reflective way to a relationship with Jesus at his most humble and yet most transforming.

Imitative prayer is a subtle but powerful variation on contemplative prayer. Clare believed that our prayers ought first to focus on gospel stories, particularly the stories around the cross. We gaze on the humble and vulnerable Redeemer as he goes through his final humiliation. 

Our admiration for Jesus’ powerful love and sacrifice affects us deeply. We will want to imitate it. We become what we admire- and we want to become like Jesus in his life and death.

As we internalize our admiration of Jesus life and work we may look back on a day or week and notice subtle changes in our own life and work. Keep your eyes open to see this.

Today, after “Gazing” and “Considering move to“Contemplate” this story from Jesus’ life and let it connect with your own story, your own challenges, hopes and fears.

A Prayer to Begin

O God who brought me
from the rest of last night
to the new light of this day,
bring me in the light of this day
to the guiding light of the eternal.
Lead me O God
on the journey of justice
Guide me O God
on the pathways of peace
Renew me O God
by the wellsprings of grace
today, tonight and forever
(Celtic Prayers from Iona, J.P. Newell)

Conversations at the Cross

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 

And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." 

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." 

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last.  (Luke 23:32-46 NRSV)

A Prayer As We Conclude

All that is spectacular, and all that is plain have their origin in you; all that is lovely, all who are loving point to you as their fulfillment.

And grateful as I am for the world we know and the universe beyond my understanding, I particularly praise you, whom eternity cannot contain, for coming to earth and entering time in Jesus.

For his life which informs my living, for his compassion which changes my heart, for his clear speaking which contradicts my harmless generalities, for his enduring presence, his innocent suffering, his fearless dying, his rising to life breathing forgiveness, I praise you and worship him.

Here, too, my gratitude rises for the promise of the Holy Spirit, who even yet, even now, confronts me with your claims and attracts me to your goodness.


Day 4: Imitate

Imitate – “We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become”. Let what I have seen shape who I become.

Admiration Leads to Transformation

 “The glory of God is the human being fully alive and the life of the human consists in beholding God.” (Irenaeus, in Letters of Faith through the Seasons, J. Houston) We use imitative prayer to scrape beneath the crust of our lives that thickens and hardens over time.

We find hope, comfort, truth, pain, the grit of life, the scars along with the holy presence of God who chooses to incarnate his life and love in our skin and bone.

Jesus, by the Spirit, resides in even the darkest places of our lives assuring us of love, forgiveness and redemption. 

Our hope and discovery is the mystery of God’s presence in all of life. We see Jesus’ presence in our daily lives when we have gazed with wonder and love on his love and humility – his birth, life of love, redemptive death and powerful resurrection. Jesus not only shows us but empowers us to be fully human to his glory.

Today after Gazing, Considering and Contemplating rest gently with Imitating – where does your desire to grow and change connect with Jesus’ example?

A Prayer to Begin

Beauty of friendship grow because of me
without guile
without malice
without striving.

Goodness of friendship grow because of me
with light
with wings
with soul sharing.

Be in the eye of each friend
of my journey
to bless and teach each one.

The eye of the Father be upon us
The eye of the Son be upon us
The eye of the Spirit be upon us
The eye of the Friendly Three
Be upon us forever

Jesus and the Little Ones

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.  (Mark 10:13-16 NRSV)

A Prayer As We Conclude

As I head out to my responsibilities
May Jesus who walked on wounded feet
Walk with me to the end of my road.
May Jesus who served with wounded hands
Teach me to serve another.
May Jesus who loved with a wounded heart
Be my love forever.
May I see the face of Jesus in everyone I meet and
May everyone I meet see the face of Jesus in me.
And God will bless me
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen