The “I Love You” Prayer

By: Lance King

Ever detect the significant inner difference between being aware of God’s presence and trusting God’s presence?  For me, the first is natural. The second requires continual practice.

I appreciated this reminder from Richard Rohr this week:  The contemplative is not just awareof God’s Loving Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it.

One way I’ve begun to practice trusting God’s Loving presence involves a simple prayer rhythm we might call the “I love you” prayer.  James Finley describes it thus:

When you sit in meditation, your breathing naturally slows. Quietly focusing your attention on your breathing is a way of slowing down and settling into a deep meditative awareness of oneness with God. Breathing out, be quietly aware of breathing out. Breathing in, be quietly aware of breathing in. Each time you realize you have drifted off into thoughts, memories, sensations, and other ego-based modes of being, simply return your attention to your breathing.

One aid to remaining focused is to pair each breath’s awareness with the phrase “I love you.” As you inhale, listen to God’s silent I love you in which God’s sustaining love is pouring itself into you as the gift and miracle of your very life. As you exhale, exhale yourself, that is, give yourself in a whispered I love you that incarnates the gift of yourself to God (who with your next inhalation is being poured into you as the gift of your very life.)

*Adapted from James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God (HarperSanFrancisco: 2004), 30, 242-244.

The “I love you” prayer can be practiced for several moments at the beginning of the day, at breaks in busy-ness throughout the day, and even if you awaken in the middle of the night.  With time, the practice of receiving and giving of God’s Love/presence becomes connected to your very breathing.  With such steady attending to God’s presence moving continuously through you and around you, it eventually becomes easier to trust God’s presence, more than merely acknowledging it.


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