The Prayer Partnering Program is the first stage of the Lanteri Center’s curriculum of formation in the art and ministry of spiritual direction. Its goal is to form men and women to be companions to others in prayerful reflection on the Word of God.
The term ‘prayer partner’ refers to someone who already has some experience in daily prayer with Scripture, and has sensed a call to help others to receive similar graces and experiences from God. This desire to help others to grow in their relationship with the Lord leads the person along paths of ministry running within the territory proper to spiritual direction. However, the prayer partner’s work remains on the foothills of the holy mountain. The Prayer Partnering Program seeks to equip its graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to guide beginners in mental prayer, and not those more advanced. A prayer partner (in French, accompagnateurs, like piano accompanists for singers) are meant to provide a humble but valuable service to persons moving through the first stages of spiritual growth.
The Prayer Partnering Program will cover a three-year period: The first year will consist of twenty-four evening sessions (September to May, 2 hours each) involving both lecture and practicum. The second year will entail the same number of sessions, as well as the experience of guiding a directee, under the formation team’s supervision, through several months of prayer with Scripture. Students will study theology as is pertains to the ministry of spiritual direction. In the third year, various special topics in the field of spiritual direction will be examined, including mini-courses in traditions of prayer and how to interpret Sacred Scripture.
Mastering the arts of contemplative listening and facilitative questioning are essential to the ministry of spiritual direction. To this end, some of the themes treated in the course of the first year of the Prayer Partnering Program include:
- Listening skills: mirroring, affect, language of the heart, body language, image of God, etc.
- Questioning skills: kinds of questions, ways of asking, conducting interviews, etc.
- Offering feedback that is honest yet sensitive
- Distinctions between psychological therapy, pastoral counseling, and spiritual direction
- Confidentiality and boundaries
- Keeping a prayer journal
- Sharing the directee’s personal history, healing of memories
- Stages of life and stages of spiritual growth
- Teaching the “consciousness examen” (awareness prayer), and review of prayer
- Discernment of spirits
- Dealing with obstacles, dryness, temptation
- Code of Ethics for prayer partners and spiritual directors
- Theology and spiritual direction
- The Christian tradition of prayer
- Interpreting Sacred Scripture
- The relationship between psychology and spirituality
- Various other special topics
Each 2-hour class session will consist of a teaching period and a practicum. During the practicum, the candidates will be divided into small groups with a facilitator. The practicum will involve ‘role playing,’ discussion, and input from peers and the facilitator. Candidates will be expected to prepare written research papers on various subjects and to present these to the class.
The Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality will accept applications to the Prayer Partnering Program only from women and men who have completed the full Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola either in the 30-Day setting or in Daily Life (19th annotation Exercises).
Candidates will complete a formal application and submit various letters of recommendation. It is assumed that the candidate is receiving ongoing spiritual direction, and has discerned a call to the ministry of spiritual direction. After the application has been received, the formation team will meet individually with the candidates for a personal interview before they are accepted to the three-year program.