The Active Prayer Practice
The active prayer—an aspiration drawn from Scripture for us in daily life should be six to twelve syllables. The saying of the syllables is synchronized with one’s heartbeat. While some people like to use a variety of aspirations for this purpose, it is easier to work a single aspiration into the subconscious. The great advantage of this practice is that it eventually becomes a “tape” similar to the “tapes” that accompany one’s upsetting emotions. When this occurs, the aspiration has the remarkable effect of erasing the old tapes, thus providing a neutral zone in which common sense or the Spirit of God can suggest what should be done.
The active prayer has to be repeated again and again at free moments in order to work it into the subconscious. The old tapes were built up through repeated acts. A new tape can be established in the same way. It may take a year to establish one’s active prayer in the subconscious. It will then arise spontaneously. One may wake up saying it or it may accompany one’s dreams.
Go about this practice without anxiety, haste, or excessive effort. Do not blame yourself for forgetting to day it on some days; just start up again. It should not be repeated when your mind is occupied with other things such as conversation, study, or work requiring concentration.
Examples of the active prayer
O Lord, come to my assistance.
Lord, increase my faith.
O God, make haste to help me.
Not my will but thine be done.
Holy Mary, Mother of God.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.
Abide in my love.
Open my heart to Your love.
My God and My All.
Jesus, my light and my love.
My Jesus, mercy.
May my being praise you, Lord.
I belong to you, O Lord.
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Open my heart to your love
Holy Spirit, pray in me.
Lord, I give myself to you.
Lord, do with me what You will.
My Lord and my God.
Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.
Bless the Lord, my soul.
To you oh Lord, I lift my prayer.
Excerpted from Thomas Keating's, Open Mind, Open Heart
Taste and See: Ancient Practice Sampler
Q: The active prayer is my daily "go to" practice along with Centering Prayer. Can you please clarify the differences and similarities between receptive and active contemplative practices, and how they can complement each other? Can the active prayer actually become a receptive practice?
Q: I just read Fr. Keating's Open Mind, Open Heart book. What should I do during the night, while lying in bed, and I find myself with a bunch of general thoughts going on, as well as "engaged" thoughts? I tried using a sacred word when I found myself with an engaged thought, but then the action(s) made me more awake, and I was up for an hour or more trying to fall back to sleep.