Tag Archives: intimate

Contemplate, Imagine and Pray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Psalter - Westminster_Psalter_David playing the harp. c. 1200

Contemplate, Imagine and Pray

When I think about Ignatian prayer, the first thing that comes to mind is using my imagination. My “imagining cap” is never very far away, and I find imagining is often a fairly easy thing for me to do—to think and to pray in a way that invites imagination.

As Father Gallagher describes Ignatian contemplation, he says it is very much tied to the spiritual imagination. However, he also stresses personal reflection.

Is it that I am becoming more reflective as I find myself in my middle years, or is it my middle years that make me more reflective? I can sit and contemplate and pray at the drop of a hat, it seems. I mean, contemplate and pray for a half hour at a time now. In my thirties, that used to be much more of a challenge. Has my life and activities slowed down? I tend not to think so. Have I slowed down more, internally? Spiritually? Slowed myself down to the speed of contemplative prayer and meditation? Or, is it that I am finding more ease in the act of contemplation and prayer? Perhaps so. I am not sure which, but—perhaps.

Father Timothy describes the three steps of Ignatian contemplation in bullet points:

  • I see the persons
  • I hear the words
  • I observe the actions

“The process by which I imaginatively see the person, hear he words, and observe the actions of a Gospel [or, to speak more broadly, of a Biblical] scene, participating personally in the event, is Ignatian contemplation.” [1] He then addresses the questions that may come up as a matter of course: “Can I be personally active in the scene? Can I trust that God’s grace will operate in this imaginative approach? How can I know it is not ‘just my imagination?’” [2]

I can still vividly remember instances when I did use my imagination, and Ignatian prayer and contemplation. It was some years ago when the most vivid time happened. Yes, it is real. Yes, I can remember it with crystal clarity—and that does not happen very often at all.

Dear Lord, help me to practice Ignatian prayer and contemplation more often. I want to encounter You in a more intimate way, a way I have not been experiencing lately in my prayer times. Thank You for those times of prayer in the past. May I—may we experience more of You, Your heart, Your love for us and for others. In Your Son’s precious name we pray, amen.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 36.

[2] Ibid, 37.

Happy, Faith-filled Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, March 8, 2019

prayer hands

Happy, Faith-filled Prayer

What a wonderful experience, to have happy, faith-filled prayer! That is what St. Ignatius intends for us to have, as we enter into the part of his prayer practice called meditation.

As Father Gallagher mentions M. and his prayer experience with the passage of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18), “he tells us that the words were ‘alive,’ ‘almost directly touching my heart,’ and…describes an unhurried, happy, faith-filled reflection on the words of the Scripture, with profound awareness of the Lord’s presence.” [1] What an intimate experience of God.

This deep, intimate communication with God was intensely personal for M. As he went deeper and deeper into prayer, this personal kind of communication delighted him, deep down to his inmost being. He felt “spiritually happy” for days.

As I reflect on Scripture, I find it difficult to make this kind of deep connection all the time, in prayer. Certainly, difficult all the time, and even most of the time. The best I can do is make a connection like M.’s on occasion. Sometimes. Yet, when I do, I have vivid flashes when I think back on those times. For example, some years ago I had an intense experience of Jesus and the man (or, person—leaving it open to the possibility of a woman) with a withered hand whom Jesus met in the synagogue. (From Luke 6:6-11.)

I have had hundreds of prayer experiences since, yet, I revisit that one in my mind and memory. Yes, I was practicing Ignatian prayer, and it was a particularly intense experience. Similar to M., I did have a deep sense of the presence of Jesus with me, alongside of me.

St. Ignatius considers this type of meditative prayer as reflective, that “process by which we enter the richness of God’s Word and hear the Word as spoken personally to us today.” [2] As we are now in Lent, perhaps that will be my Lenten practice. Or, maybe one of my practices.

I am already reading through a Lenten devotional book, and it has some interesting ideas. However, the devotional only has one perhaps two verses of Scripture each day. I wonder whether I might find some additional prayer prompts? God willing, I suspect I will be able to find some Bible readings for each day in Lent. Help me, dear God, as I do these practices, a draw closer to You and Your heart. God. In Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 27.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer: God Moves Us

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 26, 2019

candles, darkP

Prayer: God Moves Us

Prayer can be so intimate, so up-close-and-personal.

So many accounts of times when people felt utterly awestruck, as with M. while he read John 10, where Jesus talks about Himself as the Good Shepherd. “It was a beautiful time of prayer, an intimate time. There was so much in the words; it’s so beautifully written. I wasn’t reading words; it was alive, almost directly touching my heart.” [1]

I read about these times of prayer, and I feel uplifted, just reading these words. And then—at the same time, I feel so sad. Sad, and almost resentful. Why can’t I have these types of experiences on a regular basis? I do have similar experiences, but rarely. Why has my prayer life been dry and parched, like wandering in the wilderness, for decades? (Yes, for literal decades.)

The idea of letting the words of Scripture swim in one’s heart is certainly an imaginative one. Being immersed in the words of the Bible—so much so that I feel all filled to the brim with these life-giving words—what an image for my sometimes overactive imagination.

I would think this feature of our brains really causes Ignatian prayer and meditation to bear a great deal of fruit. How wonderful to be an imaginative pray-er. I do not think that access to prayer (speaking to God) and meditation (listening to God) are both required for our communication with our Heavenly Parent, but I suspect it helps.

But…what if the usual ways of praying don’t really work for some people? What would it be like to never have a close relationship with God from prayer? I am assuming some people have real difficulty in this. I truly do not know what I would suggest, other than the different more kinetic ways of prayer. I know it is possible to do Ignatian prayer and walk the labyrinth at the same time. (I’ve done both—at the same time.) But, other than kinesthetic praying, I do not know what to suggest to these friends. I guess I need to learn more about prayer styles, and refresh my memory with suggestions of diverse ways of communication with God.

We ought to breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for this opportunity to find hope. Hope in our dear Lord Jesus. Dear Lord, thanks for giving us a number of ways to communicate with You. Help each one praying find a way of prayer-communication that each one feels touched now. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 24.

Compassion, Born of Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 21, 2018

compassion, cursive

Compassion, Born of Prayer

“If your compassion is born of prayer, it is born of your meeting with God who is also the God of all people.” [1] Wow. Father Nouwen certainly has a way of hitting his points home. And I mean, hitting me right between the eyes.

As the election and campaign rhetoric here in the United States heats up more and more, I notice the opposing parties becoming more and more nasty. I have even seen some candidates use inflammatory language toward others who have different skin color, or countries of origin, or the opposite side of the train tracks. Would Fr. Nouwen’s definitive statement (quoted above) inflame matters even further?

As I read this page, Henri Nouwen clearly states that when his readers “fully realize that the God who loves you unconditionally loves all your fellow human beings with the same love,” [2] then and only then does a new way of living open to any of us who have this realization.

Alas, as sinful, fallen humans, we can be terribly nasty to one another, and even get violent. The precise reasons why do not matter. It is the inner garden of love—that of intimate prayer—that Fr. Nouwen talks about. Hiding and skulking does not do any good. Unless you and I take the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with meeting God intimately in prayer, we could quite possibly miss this marvelous chance. We could completely miss this intimate relationship that God offers freely, to anyone who opens themselves to God.

This intimate conversation with a loving God, therefore, “means a simultaneous conversion to the other persons who live with you on this earth.” [3] Fr. Nouwen reels off a varied list, among whom are the worker, the prisoner, the farmer, the sick, the oppressor, the oppressed, the patient and the healer—in short, just about any person you might think of. In other words, ALL people. Every person. God is a God for ALL people.

I pray for all people who are divided, in terms of politics, at this election time of the year. I pray that people may rise above the division and the inflamed rhetoric, and seek the face of God. I pray that we might fully realize that God is, indeed, a God for ALL people. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 94.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 95.

God’s Law and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, June 3, 2017

Exod 20 ten commandments word cloud

God’s Law and Meditation

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had some fascinating words to say about the Ten Commandments. Just two paragraphs are quoted in this chapter of Meditating on the Word, but they give us a glimpse of what Bonhoeffer was thinking. “It is grace to know God’s commands,” he said.  Knowing God’s commands—God’s laws—helps us to understand conflict. What is more, God’s laws help to set us free from “self-made plans.”  Intriguing!

Of great important is the beginning of the commandments, for we are messing up that relationship in Exodus 20. “I am the LORD your God.” According to Bonhoeffer, the “I” of the commandments is the Almighty God, and we are called into intimate relationship with God.

When we break one (or more) of God’s commands, the rules are not just of human origin. Bonhoeffer reminds us that we transgress against God. We break God’s commands in our disobedience, not mere human ones, and it is serious, indeed.

If we add to the law God is certainly in charge of, we see Bonhoeffer’s amazement; God dispenses grace through the Ten Commandments, as well. The Ten Commandments ”are not detachable, as if we could  somehow separate God’s will from God Himself.” [1]

God’s grace comes to us from God’s word. This—Exodus 20—as   is as surely God’s revelation as punitive sections of the Mosaic Law as well as many of the Prophets and their writings. God is revealed with mighty power throughout this interaction.

Dear Lord, help me to understand Your abundant grace. Even in the midst of diversity. Dear God, thank You for being on our side, with grace, with love, and with Your open arms of compassion and forgiveness. In Your mercy, hear us as we pray.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 13.

A Day in Which I Pray Several Times

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Day in Which I Pray Several Times

definition-of-prayer

Prayer is what this blog is about. Mostly, that is.

I prayed several times today. And, this evening. Today was the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. I prayed with my online prayer group, www.dailyoffice.org – and then, a little while later, I prayed by myself. Benedictine Rumination, on John 1. I prayed in the afternoon, and then the evening.

Who struggles with prayer? I know I do. Finding time to pray. Finding the words to pray. Your mind wanders or your emotions are all over the place. Or, you’re so competent, and in control, so you don’t need to pray.

What is the matter with all of these difficulties? Interacting with God puts our lives into proper focus. God wants a relationship with us.

What do people do when they finally figure out that there is much in life that is NOT in our control? (Not much is, actually.) There are NO right or wrong answers to these questions. They are to get people thinking about prayer. I try to think about prayer on a regular basis. I really do.

Let’s pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for giving us a way of connecting with you on a personal level. In an intimate way. Help me to draw close to You on a regular basis. Lead me—lead us in Your ways. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Distracted in Prayer?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, May 24, 2015

praise the Lord Psa 148

Distracted in Prayer?

How to be distracted in prayer. That’s easy. That is frequently my state of mind when praying. How not to be distracted? Ah. That’s much more to the point. And, much more what I need, most times when I pray.

It doesn’t matter what sort of prayer I am praying. I almost always have some kind of distraction going on. I’ll admit it. Doesn’t matter whether I am using Ignatian prayer, lectio divina, centering prayer, or saying the Lord’s Prayer. I still have difficulty focusing my whole heart and mind on God.

That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Isn’t it?

Yes. And, no. Yes—because communication with God/Higher Power/Source is what I am striving for, hoping for, longing for. And, no—because sometimes God is trying to get my attention, and by having persistent thoughts come into my mind, God can certainly get me thinking about a specific thing, or person, or situation. I’ll usually pray about it then, too.

I know this month we are examining Ignatian prayer practice. However, I wanted to stress the part about distraction in prayer. I ought to be as persistent as the widow before the dishonest judge, and how she continued to pray, persisted in prayer.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to focus on You when I pray, and not get distracted. (I know very well this is a tall order!) Except—when You are trying to communicate with me. Thank You for the intimate means of communication with You through the means of prayer. You’re the best. Truly.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

To Feel, or Not To Feel? In Prayer.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 26, 2015

secret is simple--prayer

To Feel, or Not To Feel? In Prayer.

It’s just Jesus and me, on the mountaintop! Together, praying and meditating, walking, and sitting in silence together. I feel so close to the Lord, it’s just amazing!

Well . . . not always. Even, not often. But, yes, sometimes.

It’s true, I don’t feel the awesome, mighty, yet intimate presence of God quite all the time. I would be lying if I said that I did. It’s only been recently—and I mean less than two hundred years—that feelings in prayer have been trusted. In selected writings of the Pietists and in the First and Second Great Awakenings of the Church (in certain parts of the world), scattered people reported deep feelings in prayer and in the relationship with God. But not many.

As Rev. Howell tells his readers, Martin Luther warned that deep feeling in prayer might well be a trap, that the devil might be seducing us into something not of God. [1] This was a common statement or concern, for many centuries. On my part, I am heartily glad that feelings are not suspected to be temptations or traps any longer!

Looking at the whole subject of feelings from the other side, however, I can understand how being too dependent on feelings and intuition can get me into trouble. Too much emphasis on feelings can cloud logic and common sense. And, when feelings go too far into states of mind that are negative or harmful in any way (like chronic depression, severe anxiety, and the like), that’s when other believers in God can be helpful.

Isolation, deprivation or fasting, except for brief and measured periods of time, is not positive. What comes to mind is an acronym used in the addiction, substance abuse, and recovery fields: H-A-L-T. Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. Any one of these states can be a concern. And two at once? An even bigger concern. These states can also trigger or heighten negative emotion, exacerbating a bad feeling (or situation) into something much worse. Suggestion: if and when you feel this way? Seek out mature believers, ministers, or others you can trust, and open up to them. And, if this negative feeling continues? Please, seek out professional help, even call 911.

So, yes, having deep feeling in prayer and in our relationship with God can be great! But, as Rev. Howell so perceptively said, “Jesus did not come so we could feel different, Jesus came so we could be different.” [2] Amen! Help me—help us—to stick close to You, God, no matter how we feel. No matter what our situation is. Amen, and amen!

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, (Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press: 2003), 82.

[2] Ibid, 83.

Showing Up—Faithful in Prayer

matterofprayer blog post for Tuesday, June 24, 2014

FAITH bridge between me and where God takes me

Showing Up—Faithful in Prayer

For years, I have been struggling with being faithful in prayer. It’s not that I find prayer a drudgery. Or, a task I would rather not do, but feel I ought to do. I do enjoy prayer. Really, I do!

However, for years (for decades, even), I have had difficulty with the showing-up-part. God and I have had lots of conversations about this. I have come before the Lord, metaphorical hat in hand, and said “sorry” more times than I can count. Sorry that I was not more regular in prayer. Apologized that I let the whole day (and evening) slip away again, and only came to God really late at night, when I was half asleep on my feet.

Thank goodness something changed. I still don’t know quite what, but it was something I can’t really put my finger on. It was last fall. A really turbulent time in my personal life. Not that I haven’t had other turbulent times in my life before that, because I have. Many. I am no stranger to stuff happening. All manner of trauma, from all kinds of directions.

God has seen me through several decades of this drama. Or, trauma. Or, what have you. However we describe it. Yes, I have been an intermittent pray-er. I love prayer! I have felt so close to God—in such a warm, intimate relationship that I could hardly wait to get back to prayer! But . . . I could never be anything near consistent.

Until last fall. I was using a prayer guide, and doing well. Most days in the week. And then, it got to be almost every weekday. November slipped into December, and I continued with another prayer guide—an Advent reading book of devotions.

Then, 2014 started. I felt led to begin my other blog, A Year of Being Kind (365 Days of Service). On those days that I didn’t pray, I began to feel as if something were missing. Seriously. Yeah, this is me saying this, God. Remember our previous conversations, years ago? When I would come before You, asking forgiveness about my sporadic prayer life? (Yeah, I thought You might remember.)

What do I think about my prayer life right now? I need to suit up. Show up. And whenever, wherever I come into the Lord’s presence, God will be there. God is faithful. I am heartily glad that God is not as sporadic as I have been. Or still am.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for being faithful. Your faithfulness is not only to me, but it is to all generations. Thank You for being there for me—for us. Even though I am so often sporadic in attendance, You aren’t. Help me to continue in regular prayer. Regular conversation and communion with You. Thanks for letting us know how important it is to suit up and show up. In Your grace, mercy and love we pray, Amen.

@chaplaineliza

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net