St A’s Year of Prayer 2019 - September 2019
St A’s Year of Prayer 2019
In July, we enjoyed a second evening learning about different ways to pray, led by Revd Paul Hills. The following (adapted slightly, with permission from Paul) explains 3 different techniques you may like to try—as Paul says, they won’t all work for all of us, as we’re all different.
PRAYER IN EVERYDAY LIFE II
Prayer, in essence, is about our relationship with God (Jn.17:3). In basic terms any relationship is sustained by two things.
Human beings have tried to establish these in many ways in the history of the race. But there has been a huge problem: we are not God and God is not hu-man. A vast chasm exists between the two. The whole panoply of rituals, practices, sacrifices and prayers have tried to reach across this gap often with great fear and unhappy results.
BUT, God solved the problem! This was when He became incarnate and we know Him in Jesus. Thus, the material world we inhabit has been inhabited by God and so the physical means we have of prayer in word and/or actions can communicate across the great divide. So, prayer in everyday life is possible and grows as we grow in our relationship with God in Christ through the Ho-ly Spirit.
In the first session with Ian Randall you communicated with God through words in the Celtic tradition (which very much focusses on the ordinary eve-ryday happening of life) and the Jesus Prayer. In this second session, we will work a bit more on Presence by seeking to walk with Christ, in the Scriptures as these are a primary resource in approaching him. Then we will seek to be open to what God might say to us through the Scriptures in our present day. Not everything we do in these sessions will help everyone as we are all differ-ent people. However, there should be something for everyone!
Walking with Christ in the Scriptures. (Imaginative contemplation & Lectio Divina) In imaginative contemplation we immerse ourselves with every aspect of our imagination in the scriptures. We “see” what is happening ra-ther as in a film.
1. Choose a single story for this prayer rather than rifling through the Bible hoping you will hit on one that will do!
2. Settle down and still yourself – you may like to use a centring prayer.
3. Ask God to touch you through the Scripture passage. Tell God that you want to be open to the word, the hearing, the probing, the consolation – whatever God knows you need at this time.
4. Read the passage slowly, carefully, several times. Pause between each reading for half a minute to notice details. Let questions and insights occur to you as you notice more with each reading.
5. Place the Bible aside. Give your imagination free rein to bring the scene to life with you present there a. See: the place, the buildings, the coun-tryside … b. Feel: the breeze or the sun on your skin … c. Smell :the scents of the seashore, marketplace etc d. Hear: the voices, noise e. Sense the move-ments
6. Who is present? What are they doing? What are they saying?
7. Let yourself become whoever you want to be in the scene – disciple, bystander…
8. Let the drama unfold slowly.
9. Don’t try to control the story. Let yourself feel what happens.
10. As your feelings are affected, respond. You may want to tell Jesus how you have been touched. Ask him what the feelings mean, what kind of gift they are. What might you thank him for?
11. Alternatively you may like to just stay with the impression of the story, just soaking in it, aware of the Lord’s presence.
12. When the awareness dies down conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, a song, another prayer. Try to have a positive end rather than let the time pe-ter out into distraction and restlessness.
Next we will try Lectio Divina (“divine reading”). In this we turn to the Scripture not to study it, but to see what God may have to say to us personally at the present time.
How to pray using the formal Lectio Divina structure (use Matt.8:23-27)
1. Choose the text you will use then settle down. It is best to use a familiar passage, or to familiarise yourself with it beforehand (to avoid getting into 'study' mode during the prayer). Use a comfortable posture and stilling/centring prayer.
2. Ask God to touch you through the passage. Ask to be open to the gift God knows you need today. Only the Holy Spirit can bring the Word to life. Let
your breathing settle and deepen as you invite the Spirit to pray in you afresh.
3. Read ('lectio') the text very slowly, with an open mind. Don’t study it; just read, perhaps aloud.
4. When a sentence or phrase 'lights up', 'rings a bell', or seems striking or inviting, put the Bible down. Resist the temptation to go on, or to start think-ing why the word/phrase attracted you. Here the reading stops and the 'meditatio' begins - the absorption through repetition.
5. Repeat the word/phrase again and again within your heart. Let this be gen-tle, not mechanical. There is no need to imagine anything or try to feel any-thing. The repetition is to allow yourself to feed on the words at an intuitive level.
6. After a time you may find the phrase has shortened itself to a word. In time, you may become aware of a general impression the word(s) have made upon you..
7. Move into 'oratio', praying a response. Express to God as simply as you can the impression the words have made on you. You might thank, or ask questions, or silently appreciate the grace or attitude that the Scripture has instilled. Then allow time for contemplation, simply being in Christ, aware only that you are being attracted to God like a compass needle seeking north.
8. After a time, distractions set in. If this is before you are ready to finish, begin where you left off and expect to be touched by another word/phrase.
9. When you are ready, close with the Lord’s Prayer, or another, rather than just tailing off.
(This draws on M Smith, ‘The Word is Very Near You: a Guide to Praying with Scrip-ture’, DLT, 1990)
Walking with Christ in the Everyday 3
Frederick Bueckner (1926-), an American Presbyterian Minister and writer has drawn our attention to the fact of God present in all times and places in our lives.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the bore-dom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analy-sis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” — Now and Then
To become aware of this reality we need to attend to God’s presence in our day. One way to do this is the regular use of a “Review of the Day” (often called an Examen). Developed by Ignatius Loyola the classical use of this is for 15 minutes at lunch-time and 15 minutes at the end of the day
The key to this is in the first line “..the Lord who looks upon me with love”. Secure in this knowledge we then review the half day or day and allow God to show us his activity and presence with us. It often helps to write down what joy, love, faith etc. has been discerned and so keep a journal of our walk with God and our developing relationship with the Lord. (
(These various exercises come from the Cambridge Courses in Spiritual Direction)
REVIEW OF THE DAY
I come before the Lord, who looks upon me with love.
I ask to see the most important moments of the day.
I let the day unfold before me in my imagination, letting the times that meant most arise for me naturally.
When have I felt most joy?
Or when have I felt loving or most loved?
When have I felt faith, or hope, or peace?
Or just felt most alive?
For what moment today am I most grateful?
Were there moments of sadness, of bitterness, of feeling lost?
Or unfree, dishonest or fearful moments? F
or what moment today am I least grateful?
For the happy times I give God thanks.
For the sad or loveless times I ask for healing and forgiveness.
In all that happened God was with me and grace was available to me.
I ask for an awareness of God's loving presence in my life tomorrow.