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Praying in a Questioning Way

  • Repentance and Mercy by Ain Vared. Used by permission of the artist.

A reflection included on pages 50-51 in Seeking the One Whom We Love: How RSCJs Pray

by Carol Haggarty, RSCJ

For me there are many ways to pray: centering prayer, Ignation prayer, lectio divina to name a few. I am also drawn to prayer in times of sorrow, loss, need. I pray when I need to express gratitude or joy, or gain insight into a problem or situation. So recognizing the need for prayer, I come to reflect on the question: how do I pray?

The Constitutions of the Society of the Sacred Heart contain these illuminating words:

We cannot glorify the adorable
Heart of Jesus worthily
except inasmuch as we apply ourselves
to study His interior dispositions
in order to unite and conform ourselves to them.

Jesus calls us
to a personal encounter with Him.
He wants to make known to us
the feelings and the preferences of His Heart.

In the Gospel
through His words, His attitudes,
His relationships with people,
His way of relating to all created things,
we discover His Heart
wholly given to the Father and to all people.

(§ 17-19)

With these words in mind, I often pray with the Scriptures, but in a questioning way. Let me explain with an example. Consider the story of the sinful woman forgiven in Luke 7: 36-50.

I ask the woman, “Why did you go to Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee?” She answers, “I had heard about him and even heard him speak. As I listened to him, I knew that something was awakening in my heart that had been closed and unknown to me. How was I acting and dealing with others and myself? Was I being as loving as he was when he showed us how people could act toward and love one another? The more he talked, the more my defenses cracked, and I could articulate to myself what was hindering me from being loving toward others and myself. He helped me peel away the layers of hardness and control, to look at motives for my actions and much more.”

I hear her continuing, “So why did I really go to the home of Simon? It was because I was forgiven, and also because I became more aware of my sins and then could decide what to do about them. I saw a new way of being, so I came to give thanks, to show love openly with the aid of the oil and the anointing of Jesus’ feet. I did not need to talk to Jesus; I needed to do something that showed him my gratitude, love and care in a gentle, perhaps intimate, way. It is more common to anoint another’s head, but I anointed his feet – I had to do it in a way that had meaning for me and one that I hoped Jesus would understand. I am sure you noticed that it was my tears that first were on his feet, and it was those tears that I wiped away with my hair. As he had cleansed me, so I cleansed him before applying the oil. In that anointing, I believe that I was anointed too.”

“Did you hear what Jesus said to Simon about me? He spoke of my many sins, but said that they were forgiven and that because of that I could show great love. Ponder that for a while. Jesus’ last words to me were, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

I then ask her, “Now that he is gone – how are you doing?” She answered, “Well, in my daily life, I try to remember what it felt like to be near him, to touch him, to listen to him. It is not the same, but my faith has increased. I feel his presence during the day because I try to see with his eyes, understand with his knowledge, and try to act out of his wisdom. Again I tell you that when I anointed his feet it was as if he was anointing me, and that is what I live out of every day.”

The next part of my prayer with this woman is to ask Jesus, in her presence, “Jesus, what were you thinking while this woman anointed your feet?” But I leave that answer and dialogue up to you. Once you have had the dialogue with Jesus, think back on it and ask yourself, “Was Jesus talking about the woman who anointed his feet or was he talking about me?”

This is just one way I pray, but it leads me to a personal encounter with Jesus to discover his Heart in order to glorify him. Prayer is essentially what God does, how God addresses us, looks at us. It is not primarily something we are doing for God but what God is doing for us. Remember, prayer is not a technique but a relationship. The essence of prayer is God. Enjoy your time with God.


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