This is a simple and delightful form of prayer inspired in a phrase used frequently by Ignatius of Loyola: 'Prayers and holy desires.' He tells young Jesuits who are studying for the priesthood that they must give all their time to their studies, as a result of which they will not have much time for prayer. But they can make up for this loss in time of prayer by their holy desires to do great things for God and for the good of their neighbor. He tells the superiors of his communities that their first duty as superiors is to carry their communities on their shoulders through their prayers (intercessory prayer for the members of their communities) and holy desires (desiring great things for the community).
Ignatius himself was a man of great and intense desires, which is what made him the outstanding saint he is. At the time of his conversion, he indulged in an exercise that can best be termed holy daydreaming by means of which he fostered his desires to do great things for God. He would see himself in fantasy undertaking great and difficult enterprises for God. He would recall the great exploits of the saints and say to himself, 'Saint Francis did such and such for the Lord. I shall do more. Saint Dominic did these great deeds for the Lord, I shall do more . . . " He tells us that this holy exercise always left him with a feeling of peace and devotion and strength that he later termed spiritual consolation.
Saint Teresa of Avila, too, would insist a great deal on the explicit fostering of great desires. She urges this chiefly on beginners: Let them begin with a sense of joyousness and freedom, she says, with great courage, full of desires to excel in God's service, for His Majesty loves courageous and daring souls.
This makes good psychological sense. You can hardly achieve what you cannot even see in imagination. You must be a man of great desires and of a geat vision if you are going to be mighty in achievement.
There are two parts of this exercise. The first deals with holy desires for others, the second with holy desires for yourself:
Place before God the desires you have for each one of the people you wish to pray for . . . See each one of them, in imagination, as having the things you desire for them . . . You need not make an explicit prayer for them. It is enough to expose God to your holy desires . . . and to see those desires fulfilled.
What you have done for individuals, do now for families and groups and communities . . . for nations, for the Church . . . Have the courage to overcome all defeatism and pessimism, and desire and hope for great things . . . and see these great things as actually fulfilled by the mighty power of God . . .
Now place before God the desires you have for yourself: expose him to all the great things you desire to do in his service . . . The fact that you will never actually do them, or that you feel incapable of doing them, is irrelevant . . . What is important is that you gladden the heart of God by showing him how immense your desires are even though your strength is very small . . . it is thus that lovers speak when they express their immensity of their desires which far outdistances their limited capacity . . .
There is another way of doing this: Imagine the great deeds of some of the saints: Saint Paul, Saint Francis Xavier . . . or any other saint you love and admire . . . Make those great deeds your own through desiring them, willing them, even performing them in fantasy . . . Identify with the saints in their great love . . . fantasize that you yourself, by God's grace, are doing all that they did, suffering all that they suffered out of love for him . . . and give vent in fantasy to the ardent desires which your weakness will not allow you to fulfill in reality . . .
Then express to God the desires you have for the day that lies ahead of you . . . all that you desire to do in his service . . . See yourself in imagination, actually being what you desire to be and acting as you desire to act . . .
In a world in which we give up so much importance to achievement, we are apt to overlook the tremendous value of desires, especially when achievements do not immediately follow on them.— Anthony de Mello in Sadhana, A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form