Tag Archives: Spiritual Disciplines

St. Ignatius and God’s Guidance

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 4, 2017

St. Ignatius of Loyola, statue

St. Ignatius and God’s Guidance

When I saw the next name (and excerpt) in this anthology, I got excited. About eleven years ago, when I was heavily immersed in different forms of prayer and spiritual disciplines, I happened to pick up a copy of The Spiritual Exercises written by St. Ignatius of Loyola. I had several conversations about the process with my spiritual director at the time, and I went through the exercises that summer. The prayers, readings and contemplation were vivid experiences for me.

Ignatius of Loyola had quite a life. First as a courtier and soldier, then wounded, transformed by spiritual reading and prayer, renewed by a vision of God, he was revitalized as a soldier for Christ. He earned degrees and scholastic honors, and swore vows to Pope Paul III. His vision for spiritual formation, education and spreading the Word of God remains one of the most influential in history.

The excerpt here is from “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits.” The information is presented with great clarity and directness. (I did note several instances where women were slighted. I put that down to the prevailing societal norms of Ignatius’s day.)

I wanted to focus especially on two sections. First, where St. Ignatius defines spiritual distress: “this is the name I give to whatever in opposite to the foregoing—darkness of soul, disquiet of mind, an attraction to what is coarse and earthly, all restlessness proceeding from different temptation and disturbances;” [1] As he says, such distress does, indeed, destroy faith, hope and charity. I know—from experience—how damaging such spiritual distress can be to the interior life. And, not just the interior. Ignatius mentions the soul being “listless, apathetic, melancholy;” I know the outer self, the physical body can also find itself listless and apathetic. (This is one of the symptoms of clinical depression, too.) Ignatius amazes me with his perceptive observations concerning many different spiritual, psychological and physical manifestations. Amazing.

Second, in his several descriptions of the enemy of our human nature. One in particular struck me. As Ignatius describes the enemy as military commander “in his attempts to overcome and seize the object he has set his heart on…Similarly, the enemy of our human nature makes a tour of inspection of our virtues—theological, cardinal and moral. Where he finds us weakest and most defective in which pertains to our eternal salvation, he attacks at that point, seeking to overthrow us.” [2]

Ah! How true. How well said. Certainly, the enemy and his minions lay siege to my weakest sensibilities, prowling around the walls of the city of Mansoul, ready to set the siege ladders and infiltrate at my personal, private weak points. Brrr! Just reading his description sends chills down my spine.

Dear Lord, thank You for my re-acquaintance with Ignatius of Loyola. Help me continue to learn more, and follow Your ways and paths. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray, amen.

@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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 292.

[2] Ibid, 294.

Contemplation and Thomas Merton

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 2, 2017

candle-prayer-bible

Contemplation and Thomas Merton

This book Spiritual Classics has a sampling of many different types of Christians, and is all about a number of spiritual disciplines. Already, in the first section about meditation, I see how fascinating it is to look at each of these persons, so passionate about prayer.

As Thomas Merton talks of contemplation, I pondered what he said about God’s gifts. He did not think that people who were not particularly willing to immerse themselves in God’s grace and sanctity would receive a large amount of God’s gifts. Interesting concept. Merton posited that “a deep and intimate knowledge of God by a union of love [is] a union in which we learn things about Him that those who have not received such a gift will never discover until they enter heaven.” [1]

I suspect Merton has something there. I do not believe that all people in church on a Sunday morning will be able to become involved in contemplation. Sadly, some “willfully remain at a distance from God, who confine their interior life to a few routine exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty.” [2]

Wow. Double wow. Merton has hit the nail on the head, as far as certain pew dwellers are concerned.

Dear Lord, I hope that he was not describing me. Sure, I pray, and meditate, and contemplate—on occasion. I fall short. God, forgive me, I do fall short. I don’t regularly pray with the fervor and earnestness of some. Lord, I am sorry.

But, at least I try. Lord knows, I try. Contemplation is truly a gift from God. According to Merton, those with a similar gift (prayer, meditation, and contemplation) find communication with their heavenly Parent easier than others.

Dear Lord, thank You for listening to Fr. Merton. Gracious God, 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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 18.

[2] Ibid, 19.

Meditation, by Thomas More

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, March 1, 2017

man-praying-silhouette

Meditation, by Thomas More

Today is Ash Wednesday. Yes, I have ashes on my forehead. Today is also the beginning of Lent, and I was trying to decide what I am going to do for a Lenten discipline for the past number of days. Nothing seemed right. Nothing—until—I rediscovered this book over the weekend.

I absolutely love Richard Foster, and I greatly appreciate Renovare. So, what is not to like about this edited book of selected readings on the Spiritual Disciplines? That’s what I thought. Nothing, indeed.

I read the first reading, by Thomas More. Richard Foster set up the reading wonderfully, which was entitled “A Godly Meditation.” [1] The words just kept flowing out of his pen (and of Thomas More’s pen, too), and line after line went straight to my heart.

I was also touched to find out that the sentence I most appreciated was the same one that Richard Foster remarked upon.  For one line in particular: “To think my most enemies my best friends.”

God, if only I could behave toward all people I meet in such a way. I know, I realize I might run into people who believe very differently from me. And—the best part is, according to Thomas More, to consider these people (who believe very differently, again) with the utmost respect, even kindness. Read this, please. Warms my heart.

I love other countries, I appreciate people’s organization. Dear Lord, help me to find bits of this poem in other places and give me a new appreciation of Thomas More.  Lord, in all of our understanding, please send me new insights about Thomas More. Please, God.

@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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 6

No Time for Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, October 25, 2016

 

confession-forgiveness-contrition

No Time for Prayer

Shh. I have a confession to make.

I am not consistent with spiritual disciplines.

Yes, I know I am writing this blog about prayer. And, I love prayer. I receive such comfort through praying, and delight in the sometime-closeness to the Holy I feel. That is, sometimes. And, then, sometimes there is nothing. A dryness, or drought. I feel dull, or perhaps dim.

I am afraid to say that I often go in cycles. Cycling in and out of intimacy with God. (God, You know I do. You and I have had this continuing conversation for years. For decades.)

Today, I did pray a bit. In between running around. Oh, I went to a breakfast and lecture, ran to the gym, prepared some paperwork, worked on the computer (a lot), and got ready to take a trip. But, why is it that I feel as if I ought to be a person like Martin Luther, who was so busy he had to take an extra hour to pray?

However, I try to pray when I can. I have asked God to nudge me and remind me when I am to pray. Usually, it works out fairly well. But, still. Not consistently.

God, I am sorry. I feel my lack of prayerfulness. Forgive my hesitation, my forgetfulness, my busy-ness. Help me to attend to Your will and Your ways more diligently. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my hesitant, bashful 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

Prayer and the Discipline of Community

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 4, 2015

people diverse fellowship in the church

Prayer and the Discipline of Community

Everyone needs someone. I don’t care who it is, each person needs some other person (or, persons) to relate to. To be with. To give and express love, caring and sharing. Henri Nouwen calls this the Discipline of Community.

I was previously unfamiliar with this particular Discipline. The more familiar, general Spiritual Disciplines I am familiar with, true. (To a greater or lesser extent, depending on the Discipline.) Except, this one was new for me.

The concepts of talking and walking with others, spending time in each other’s company, and especially of physical contact—free hugs, anyone?—all of these have been studied in recent years by research studies on both the social science and public health sides as well as the medical side. Physically, socially, emotionally, psychologically? Even spiritually. In every way, as Fr. Nouwen says, “I need people to love me and care for me.” [1] [emphasis mine]

Yes, while He was here on earth, Jesus gathered a band of people around Him. The named disciples, but more than that. Mary, Martha, their brother Lazarus, Mary Magdalen, the other Mary, Salome. Even some of the healed people, the formerly demonized, those with their sight and hearing and full range of motion restored to them, miraculously—some of these came into Jesus’s circle. All kinds of people, from all different walks of life, gathered around Jesus.

This reading today makes me wonder: are my friends diverse? Or, are they all monochromatic? All white-bread? Do I “reach out and touch” my friends and acquaintances? Am I open to their touch? Do I welcome their smiles, their words? Difficult thoughts, and hard words, indeed.

Dear Lord, thank You for convicting me and bringing this important challenge to my attention. For, it is indeed a challenge. Encourage me to be a good small group member, and good member of my congregation. So, help me, God.

@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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 12.

When Fasting—In Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 15, 2015

fasting - empty plate

When Fasting—In Prayer

Fasting. Renunciation. Doing without. Skipping a meal—or two, or three.

Fasting may not be considered “popular” or trendy in certain circles today. Maybe, just maybe, believers in God could consider fasting, again. And perhaps, you or your friends already fast. And pray. If so, wonderful!

For some people, fasting is one among many spiritual disciplines. Even if you have never fasted yourself, you probably have some familiarity with the idea of it. The idea of doing without, abstaining from food, even from drink, is centuries old. For example, “giving up” or abstaining from something as part of a Lenten discipline.

Some years ago, I did, indeed, fast. On a fairly regular basis, I ate no food for some amount of time. Usually a twenty-four hour period of time. But a number of times, I went without food for two days, and even three days, several times. When I was in the middle of this practice, I often felt the benefit. At times, I felt a clarity, a freedom in prayer and communication with God.

But then, I felt this clarity and freedom at other times when I was not fasting, as well. Note: there is no sure-fire formula, no seven-easy-steps for having a deep, significant encounter with God every single time!

 Now is the time for a necessary caution. If anyone has any issues with eating, or with your health, be careful. Perhaps even ask your doctor or another health professional about fasting and whether it might possibly be hazardous for you. Be prudent and cautious, please. Be wise, not foolhardy. I care about you and whether what I suggest—fasting—may be damaging or hurtful. If so, don’t do it! There are many other ways to come close to God.

For many throughout the world, fasting is a proven aid to prayer. As our helpful prayer guide Rev. Howell says, “Fasting is giving up something good in itself, something I have and love, but which I do without for a time for the sake of God. When we satisfy every desire, and as often as possible, then our deeper desire for God comes to be masked over, desensitized.” [1]

Fasting usually is in reference to food (primarily) and drink (secondarily). But fasting can also be from other things, too. What about a silent retreat—fasting from speaking? Or fasting from media—no screens, for a period of time? You could be creative in choosing something to fast from. God loves it when we use the creativity God installed within each of us.

I don’t do food fasts very often now, because of health reasons. Yet, I know that this is a valid, beneficial, centuries-old practice. Praise God, I can find a way to focus in on spiritual things and develop my daily spiritual walk with my God, my Higher Power. So, help me, God.

For more information and a good, basic introduction, I suggest the chapter on fasting from Richard Foster’s classic book on spiritual disciplines, A Celebration of Discipline.

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, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN: 2003), 53.

Busy—Busy—Terribly Busy. Too Busy to Pray?

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, October 9, 2014

FORGIVE forgiveness stone

Busy—Busy—Terribly Busy. Too Busy to Pray?

Have you ever had one of those days—no, one of those weeks when you were so terribly busy that you didn’t even have time to turn around? That’s what my week looks like, this week.

What is high on my priority list, you ask? I am preparing for an exciting event! A presentation on the basics of prayer and meditation. During the past twenty years, I’ve led prayer events, transitioned into adult bible studies, and Sunday school classes for some years. I continued with more training, which led to preaching, group facilitation, presentations and lectures, and some articles. Now, I branch out with this particular presentation, integrating prayer and meditation with basic recovery principles. The time is counting down! Zero hour is fast approaching.

I currently serve as a pastor. Well and good. A busy work life there! I am also a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC). In this latest presentation, I am striving to integrate what I know and have learned about prayer and meditation over the past decades with the wisdom found in the Twelve Steps of recovery.

All this is wonderful! I am doing innovative, edifying work! Praise the Lord! So . . . where’s the problem?

“Busy—busy—terribly busy!” That line from a Veggie Tales song is stuck in my head. I admit it. I am and I have been too busy to pray. It’s not that I haven’t prayed at all for days and days. No. I did find a half hour yesterday morning. But, that’s it for the week. And last week, too. I have not been faithful to my morning routine of over a year—and a hard-won routine it is, too! Ever since last September until last week, I have been praying at least five days a week. For at least half an hour. This is coming from a person who, for decades, had such difficulty finding regular times not only for prayer, but for spiritual disciplines of any kind! (Don’t just take my word for it. Ask my spiritual director of ten years, and my long-time therapist. They’ll tell you.)

I am fessing up, coming clean about my shortcomings. Forgive me, Lord. I know, You’ve heard me again and again, for years, coming to You repeatedly. Saying “I’m sorry,” with my face to the ground. I really meant it, practically every time. And, I really mean it again.

Let’s pray. Gracious God, dear Lord Jesus, You are lover of my soul. I have no other refuge than to seek Your face. Even when I forget to come to You, or get “too busy” to come to You, I know You are my only refuge, my true hope. Thank You for the plenteous grace that will, indeed, cover all my sin. Thank You, dear Lord, that I am invited to hide in You while the storms of life and the busy-ness of the moment fill my mind and clutch at my heart. Thank You for Your gracious, healing presence, now and always. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net