MAYO Prayer Principles


The MAYO prayer principles are called cultivation spirituality. Cultivation spirituality is not a 'new' spirituality, but more of a spiritual growth method based upon the wisdom of the saints.
Cultivation spirituality is a practical spirituality that is based upon several principles having their source within the Catholic spiritual tradition.



“Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.” (CCC 1810)

“sow an thought, reap an act
sow an act, reap a habit,
sow a habit, reap a character,
sow a character, reap a destiny” anonymous, quoted in Life and Labor (1887) by Samuel Smiles

It is clear from these two quotes that to progress in virtue (good habits) we must establish them by repeated, persevering acts. Hence the basis for growth in the spiritual life is to focus our attention on developing particular habits, while maintaining our other good habits and resisting the bad ones.

Principle One: to focus on working on a particular good habit.


“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” (CCC 2725)

Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. (cf. Gal 5:16-25.) How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?

Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . . For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin. (St. John Chrysostom, De Anna 4, 5: PG 54, 666.)

Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned. (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Del gran Mezzo della preghiera.)”(CCC 2744)

From these Catechism quotes we can see that prayer is the source of strength in the spiritual life. It is the first habit that we must work on, if we are to gain the strength to be able to work on other habits. It is the habitual source of grace that powers the rest of our spiritual life. It is the source of water that allows all other virtues to grow.

Principle Two: Prayer is the first habit to work on.

3 – Jesus is always the focus of prayer

“With so good a Friend [Jesus] and Captain ever present, Himself the first to suffer, everything can be borne.  He helps, He strengthens, He never fails, He is the true Friend.  I see clearly, and since then have always seen, that if we are to please God, and if He is to give us His great graces, everything must pass through the hands of His most Sacred Humanity, in whom His Majesty said that He is well pleased. I know this by repeated experience: our Lord has told it me.  I have seen clearly that this is the door [8] by which we are to enter, if we would have His supreme Majesty reveal to us His great secrets. So, then, I would have your reverence seek no other way, even if you were arrived at the highest contemplation.  This way is safe.  Our Lord is He by whom all good things come to us; He will teach you.  Consider His life; that is the best example. What more can we want than so good a Friend at our side, who will not forsake us when we are in trouble and distress, as they do who belong to this world!  Blessed is he who truly loves Him, and who always has Him near him!” (St. Teresa of Avila, Autobiography, Chapter 22, 9, 10.)

This long beautiful quote from St. Teresa of Avila highlights that the spiritual life must always be focused on the humanity of Jesus. St. Teresa of Avila is one of 33 doctors of the Church. Her expertise is the spiritual life itself. St. Teresa clearly indicates that the path to the heights of prayer is through the humanity of Jesus. We learn about the life of Jesus through the gospels. Hence, we should always have the gospels as a source of prayer. Mark’s gospel is the simplest and so we should start with meditating through the life of Jesus using Mark’s gospel. As we get to know Jesus through the gospel and imitate him in our life, our friendship with Jesus grows.

Principle Three: The path to God is through the humanity of Jesus.


“inch by inch is a cinch, yard by yard is hard” – anon

This quote highlights the need to work at the spiritual life step by step. We should try and not make too many changes at a time. We should work on improving a habit that is achievable and sustainable. Generally the recommendation is up to a 15 minute daily change or an hourly weekly change.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day” – anon

Some training experts say it takes 6 weeks to establish a new habit. With various challenges in life, it is worth taking a bit longer for the habit to survive various challenges before deciding upon a new habit to establish. It is therefore recommended to work on a new habit for a quarter of a year. We should then review the success of developing the new habit. If the habit is sufficiently established, then a new habit can be focused on. If not, then continue to work on the habit until it is established.

Principle Four: achievable goals and take at least a quarter of a year to establish a new habit.

5- Examen of Consciousness, Discernment

"The unexamined life is not worth living." ( Apology 38a) Socrates

“It is impossible to exaggerate the value of the examen of conscience in the spiritual life. It is the foundation of a life of prayer.” – Fr Hardon

Reflecting upon what is happening in our life is a daily practice for everyone. St. Ignatius has developed a method of reflection as a daily practice to grow in the spiritual life. It is important to develop a regular structured reflection on how we are going spiritually throughout the year. Taking the previous point about a quarterly cycle of habit formation, the recommendation is a quarterly cycle of structured life reflection, that is, a quarterly retreat. The other recommendation, is to establish a daily examen. But this requires a certain level of prayer already established in the spiritual life. Once a 10-15 minute daily prayer is established, then the examen should be introduced as a daily practice.

The examen is part of the habit of discernment. Discernment requires knowledge of the good and the practice of always referring to the good, to God and being guided by the Church and the Holy Spirit which are always in agreement. This is a fundamental aspect of our personal relationship with Jesus. To commit ourselves to the fullness of the truth to guide all our decisions, we should be faithful to the magisterium of the Catholic Church. As a way to ask for God’s grace to walk this narrow path that leads to heaven, we should take the oath of fidelity to the magisterium.

Principle Five: Daily examen and quarterly retreats. Discernment as a way of life and take the oath of fidelity to the magisterium.


“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalm 37)

Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way.”  Divine Office. Office of readings

Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.” – Divine Office. Office of readings

Prayer is firstly our effort to seek God. “Seek and you shall find” (Luke 11:9). As we deepen in prayer, we may start to experience God acting in our prayer time and giving us guidance and the experience of his gentle loving presence. We should give over to him in prayer. Allow him to lead us as we experience this deeper prayer, which is called contemplation. Through this unifying prayer, God works in deeper and more profound ways. Therefore we should always be open to the spirit leading us.

Principle Six: Surrender to the Spirit as properly discerned.


Dryness will come in the spiritual life. During these boring, hard times, we must persevere in the spiritual life and maintain our habits. St. Ignatius recommends to increase our spiritual practices during these dry times since these times are actually times of growth.

Principle Seven: Perseverance


The following suggestions are made.

  1. Quarterly half to whole day retreats. This will be a time of spiritual deepening which reflects upon the last quarter, has some fresh spiritual input and then looks forward to making a resolution for the next quarter.
  2. The following steps for prayer recommendations for each quarter. Unless someone has consolidated a particular level of prayer, then the next level should not be attempted.
    1. First Stage
      1. 5 minutes of prayer based upon Mark's gospel. Using a single passage each day.
      2. 10-15 minutes of prayer each day. Continuing through Mark's gospel, but now starting to work on the psalms using the suggested method. Only one psalm a week should be attempted.
      3. Night prayer. The inclusion of the examen is important.
    2. Second Stage
      1. Extended evening prayer. This is evening prayer with an examination of conscience and a final hymn to Our Lady, particularly the Salve Regina.
      2. Continue the Extended evening prayer from now on. Start to have a time of quiet personal prayer, preferably in Adoration of 5-10 minutes or a short morning prayer.
      3. consolidate the personal prayer time to 15 minutes or add a short simple morning prayer.
      4. personal prayer time of 15 minutes and a short simple morning prayer.
      5. May start to have a weekday Mass.
    3. Third Stage
      1. The third year entails using an Ignatian retreat spread through out the year.



Submitted by rjzaar on December 8, 2014 - 12:58am
Modfied: April 1, 2017 - 1:49am

This page is part of a Book. You can navigate to the previous page, up a level or to the next page (Add childpage):