Francis of Assisi (13th century) simply wanted to live as Jesus did—as a wandering preacher with as few material possessions as possible. Francis never set out to found an order, but amazingly, people began to emulate him. The “Order of Friars Minor,” which we now call the Franciscans, was created.
I believe part of the attraction to Francis was his style of prayer. He offered short prayers throughout the day—whenever his inner spirit was moved. For Francis, simple acts of loving service were infused with prayer. Franciscan spirituality is marked by “free-flowing, spontaneous, informal praising, and loving dialogue with God.”
This practice below is adapted from the chapter on “Franciscan Prayer” in Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types, by Chester P. Michael and Marie C. Norrisey (Open Door, 1991).
- Decide on one daily activity that you will use as your prayer. It could be a walk, time with your pet, a phone conversation, a task at work that you enjoy or time in worship.
- Enter that activity with a short prayer of gratitude. Ask God to move your heart in prayer throughout the activity.
- Be aware of your heart. As you feel touched, moved or inspired, offer a spontaneous silent prayer.
- Think of the other people (or creatures) in or around in your activity and notice something of God’s goodness and mercy in them. Offer a spontaneous silent prayer for the person (or creature)
- Ask yourself, what—in this activity—helps me better appreciate God’s activity in the world?
- Be especially aware of the joy that you find in this activity. As you notice the joy, radiate that joy back to God in a silent, wordless way.
- When the activity ends, reflect upon how this prayer felt for you. How was it to not stop and pray but to keep going and praying at the same time? Is this how you pray naturally? Where did you feel the presence of God most deeply? How did interaction with the other person change as a result of your spontaneous prayer?
- If you so desire, write about this prayer in a journal.
- Close with a final short prayer. Be silent for a few moments and see what short prayer forms in your heart.