Praying with the Senses a la St. Ignatius

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on May 15, 2019

in Blogs

When I give talks on the Bible or on prayer, I usually encourage people to try praying with all five senses. St. Ignatius recommended this way of bringing the Gospel stories to life and using them as a springboard for prayer. As an example, I unpack the story of the healing of Bartimaeus from Mark 10:46–52:

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him. “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.”

In your mind’s eye, picture the crowd: Jesus at the front surrounded by the twelve apostles and women with townspeople of all ages following them. It’s probably a hot, sunny day. People in the crowd might be perspiring and smelling! The road is stony and dusty. Visualize Bartimaeus sitting at the side of the road in the dust. No tree lawn with soft grass. Because he is a beggar, his clothes are worn and patched. Perhaps there is a cup in his hand for alms. Picture his eyes: maybe they are covered with a white film, or maybe they are closed. He asks, “What’s the commotion?” and someone replies, “Jesus of Nazareth is coming.” At that Bartimaeus begins yelling, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Imagine his voice. Is it pleading? Commanding? People around him are embarrassed because he is making a scene. What are they doing to silence him?  Saying “Hush” or “Shut up” in Aramaic? Are they shaking him? putting their hand over his mouth? Hear the beggar repeating his request with more volume. See Jesus stop abruptly. Maybe some in the crowd bump into each other. Look at Jesus. Maybe beads of sweat are glistening on his forehead. He is looking at Bartimaeus. What is the expression on Jesus’s face? What does his voice sound like as he says, “Call him here.” Is he speaking to Peter? Do the apostles call out to the blind man to come?

See Bartimaeus fling off his cloak. Is it patched and worn? He jumps up—something blind people don’t usually do. Watch him go toward the sound of Jesus’s voice. How do blind people walk? Is he staggering, his arms outstretched? Are others helping him along? When he stands before Jesus, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Imagine Jesus saying this. How does it sound with different intonations, stressing different words? Then hear the blind man’s request. It is loaded with yearning and hope. What does Jesus’s face look like as he declares the beggar healed?  Picture Bartimaeus seeing perhaps for the first time. He blinks his eyes. Awe comes over his face. What is the first thing he sees? The face of Jesus. It is love at first sight, for Bartimaeus disobeys Jesus. He doesn’t “go.” Instead he follows Jesus on the way. The Way is the name of the religious of the early Christians. Did the beggar go back for his cloak? Did someone bring it to him?

Next consider what this story might mean for you:

• Bartimaeus throws off his cloak because he doesn’t want anything to hinder him from coming to Jesus. What may be stopping you from coming to Jesus?

• Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” That seem to be a silly question. The man is blind. Of course, he wants to see. Jesus knows what we need. He reads the secret desires of our heart. But obviously he wants us to ask him for things. How would you answer his question?

• The prayer of Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” is a source of the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”). Do you pray this mantra?

• “Son of David” is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the Messiah. Bartimaeus is the only one in Mark’s Gospel who acclaims him as such. The beggar’s faith results in a miracle. When has your faith brought about an answer to prayer?

If you haven’t already, you might try this way of praying calling on all your senses to bring the scene to life. If you do so, what happened? Do you like this way of praying?




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