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On our retreats, we find it helpful to use a variety of spiritual techniques for worship and prayer. The links below provide an explanation of these techniques and are resources for you to use in your own quiet time.
Brief Guide to Spiritual Disciplines
- Centering Prayer: a form of contemplative prayer where the pray-er seeks to quiet scattered thoughts and desires in the still center of Christ’s presence. Resources: Centering Prayer by Basil Pennington, Seeking Stillness Handout.
- Breath Prayer: a form of contemplative prayer linked to the rhythms of breathing: 1)breath in calling “Ya,” 2) breath out calling “Weh” (Yaweh)
- Fixed-Hour/Liturgical Prayer: written or memorized prayer that serves as a framework for individual or corporate worship and devotion. Praying the Hours is a traditional form of liturgical prayer practiced in many monasteries. Resource: The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle
- Intercessory Prayer: praying on behalf of family, friends, and the entire world.
- Walking Prayer: physically walking with Jesus through places (hospitals, homes, businesses, churches, neighborhoods, etc.) that you are concerned about and offering prayers that God causes to rise in you.
- Labyrinth Prayer: praying by walking a simple marked path. Can be treated as a pilgrimage 1) entering the labyrinth and leaving behind the world; 2) walking to the center of the labyrinth to meet and spend time with Jesus; 3) returning to the world renewed and ready to serve. Resource: Walking the Labyrinth: A Place to Pray and Seek God by Tavis Scholl.
Self Examination and Confession: process by which the Holy Spirit opens your heart to what is true about you. Confession results from God shining light on sins and areas of disobedience.
- Daily Examen: daily discernment of God’s perspective on your life and activities based on writings by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Resource: Reimagining the Ignatian Examen by Mark E. Thibodeaux, Seeking Stillness Handout.
- Gratitude: periodically and intentionally reflecting on how God has provided for you – the things (large and small) for which you are grateful. Capturing these things in a journal is often a helpful reminder in times of stress. Resource: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.
Bible Study: engaging the mind and focusing attention on Scripture in an attempt to understand and apply truth to every part of life. Resource: Discovering the bible for Yourself by Judson Poling.
- Lectio Divina (Divine Reading): contemplative reading of the Bible with an open, reflective posture. This type of reading fosters a relationship with God more than gathering knowledge and information. Resources: Shaped by the Word by Robert Mulholland, Seeking Stillness Handout
- Scripture Memorization: continually remembering the words, truths, and images God uses to shape us. Memorization provides us with a store of learning, which can be accessed anywhere and anytime. Resource: The Word of God: Unleashing the Power of Scripture Memorization by Michele Miner.
Sabbath: repetitive and regular rest. Sabbath provides for our communion with God and renewal of energy and focus. Resources: Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba, Sabbath Time by Tilden Edwards.
Worship: taking time to intentionally cherish and honor God above all else. This can be either an individual or communal act. Worshiping in community is a vital element of maintaining the Holy Spirit’s presence in a church. Resource: Worship is a Verb by Robert E. Webber.
Simplicity: intentionally loosening attachment to material objects, activities, and other things that distract you from God. Simplicity brings freedom and with it generosity. Resource: Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster.
Waiting: the ability to sustain a deep desire with patient hope, trusting that God is at work. Resource: Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.
Hospitality: creating a safe, open space where a friend or stranger can enter and experience the welcoming spirit of Christ. Inviting others to share in the bounty God has provided, no matter how small. Resource: Making Room by Christine Pohl.
Service: offering resources, time, treasure, influence and expertise for the care, protection, justice, and nurture of others. Acts of service give hands to the second greatest commandment “Love thy neighbor as yourself,” but must be entered into with the highest level of motivation and integrity. Resource: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett.
Fasting: self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Physical and psychological awareness of emptiness is a reminder to turn to Jesus who alone can satisfy. Resource: Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites by Lynne Baab.
Journaling: writing as a tool for reflecting on God’s presence, guidance and nurture in daily comings and goings. Journals can be kept regularly or during times of transition. They may include a wide array of visual representations (words, drawings, photos, etc.). Resource: Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth by Luann Budd.
Artistic Expression: expression of God’s movements in artistic and creative works (painting, art journaling, music, dance, body movement, etc.). Resources: The Spirit Moves: Handbook of Dance and Prayer by Carla De Sola, Creative Bible Journaling by Megan Wells.
Spiritual Direction: meeting regularly with another who helps you pay attention to God’s movement in your life. A trained spiritual director listens to the Holy Spirit with you and helps you build an intimate relationship with God. Resource: The Art of Spiritual Listening by Alice Fryling, Seeking Stillness Handout.
Rule of Life: establishing regular rhythms that free and open each person to the will and presence of Christ. The spiritual practices of a rule provide a way to partner with the Holy Spirit for personal transformation. Resource: Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia.
Centering Prayer* is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer fosters both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal or mental prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.
Centering Prayer Guidelines
- Choose a prayer word, phrase or symbol that sums up your desire to be with God, to rest in Him, to be at home. The choice is a matter of prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to lead you to one that is especially suited to you. Simple words such as Jesus, Abba, Father, Love, Listen, Peace, Mercy … are best. Symbols such as the cross, a dove, the open tomb… also work well.
- Sit comfortably. Be attentive in faith and love to God who dwells, through Christ, in the depths of your being. Gently and tenderly offer your entire self and your prayer to God. It may be helpful to close your eyes as you open your heart.
- When you become aware of anything else (our minds tend to drift to the things of this world) simply return to the Lord by using your prayer word, phrase, or symbol. Doing so keeps you open to God and allows Him to be present in any way He chooses. Don’t berate yourself for having thoughts or being distracted. God knows that you will. Have mercy and deal gently with the clutter that distracts you from your desire to be with God.
- At the end of the prayer period, sit quietly with your eyes closed to help bring a sense of quiet into your daily life. You may wish to close with the Lord’s Prayer, a few phrases from Psalms, or another prayer that is meaningful to you.
- You may want to journal about your experience.
* Adapted from www.contemplativeoutreach.com
Reflection and Prayer with Scripture
“Seek in reading and you will find it in meditation. Knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation.St. John of the Cross
Lectio Divina can be defined as slow, meditative reading in search of a prayerful, personal contact with God. It traditionally involves four movements or readings of the selected passage:
- Choose a scripture passage
- Get into a comfortable position, sitting in a chair or on the floor.
- Take a few minutes to relax; as much as possible, still your body, mind, and heart.
- Call upon the Holy Spirit; ask to be attentive and open as God speaks through His Word.
- Read the scripture passage aloud, slowly, and quietly. Pay attention to the words and phrases that stand out to you.
- Sit in silence and listen to God.
- Reread the passage slowly. Don’t rush, take your time.
- Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Don’t analyze the passage. How does the passage speak to you, to your life? What is God saying to you through this scripture?
- Sit in silence and listen to God.
- Reread the passage again slowly.
- Turn your mind and heart to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- Using the fruit of your mediation, speak to God – in petition, in gratitude, in sorrow, in praise….
- Talk to God and listen for His response. Commit yourself to act and respond to His Word.
- Reread the passage again slowly.
- Listen, rest in God’s love. Feel the power of the living Word spoken into you.
- Know God’s presence in the silence. Expect nothing, simply be.
God created us with a sense of curiosity and creative imagination. In His word He had the writers capture stories about events in the lives of His people and in the life of Jesus. As in any written account, many of the details were left out when the stories were written down. Imaginative prayer (called by St. Ignatius Gospel Contemplation) is a form of quiet, scripture based prayer that allows God to use our imagination to fill in the details and also to speak to us in a creative way.
This form of prayer calls us to enter the story, to look around, to experience the event with all of our senses, and to see how the story might have meaning for us today.
- Start by selecting a story from scripture. This could be one of the stories of Jesus’ life, a story from the Old Testament, or a story told by one of the Apostles. Parables – stories told by Jesus as part of his teachings – are not necessarily the best choice for this type of prayer – they have the purpose of conveying wisdom directly. Good examples include the story of Blind Bartimaeus, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Paul’s conversion story or any of the stories of Jesus life including the crucifixion.
- Take some time to settle in with God. Maybe listen to some meditative music, listen to the sound of nature around you, or just sit in holy silence.
- Pray, asking God for the grace to fully enter this time of imaginary prayer. Pray for protection from anything the evil one might one to interject. Pray for the courage to hear God’s message to you.
- When you are ready, read the story slowly from the Bible – you might want to read it out loud or even listen to it from an audio Bible app. Read the words or listen to the story a couple of times.
- Sit quietly in God’s presence for a while without thinking and allow the scene of the story to materialize in your mind.
- Watch as God allows the story to play out in front of you as if you were there.
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- What do you smell?
- What emotions are you experiencing?
- Allow God to involve you in the scene if he chooses to do so. You might just be an observer, but don’t be surprised if God has you assume the role of one of the characters or places you in the scene as yourself – challenging you with how you might react in the situation.
- Sit and experience the story as long as God desires. The scene may continue to play out beyond what is captured in Scripture. Keep attending to what you are seeing, hearing, and experiencing. Don’t be surprised if someone in the scene speaks to you directly. Notice your response. You may even find yourself in a conversation.
- As the scene concludes, spend some additional time with God in silence allowing yourself to experience the moment.
- Before moving from this setting consider these questions, perhaps making some notes in your journal:
- What happened to you during this experience?
- What, if anything, did God reveal to you?
- When were you comfortable? What made you uncomfortable? What might God be saying to you through these moments?
- End by thanking God for everything that happened during this time. Even if you feel nothing happened except that you read Scripture, praise God that He is working in your through this experience.
A labyrinth is a large, geometrically (generally circular) pathway that can be used as a tool in spiritual contemplation. Labyrinths have been used for over 4000 years and appear in most religious traditions. Christian use of labyrinths to deepen reflection on scripture and one’s spiritual relationship with God began as early as the fourth century after Christ.
A labyrinth is not a maze. It is a pathway that meanders back and forth within a circular design and ultimately leads to the circle’s center. The path is traveled in silence and because there are no decisions for the journeyer to make, their mind is freed to concentrate on a scripture or spiritual issue of focus. Psychologists suggest that the nature of the labyrinth’s structure frees both the right and left hemispheres of the brain so that the wisdom God imparts through the journey can be received by an open and willing heart.
Use of labyrinths is controversial in Christian circles. Some believe that because labyrinths are also used in other spiritual traditions, that they are inherently non-Christian. Others suggest that any effort to free the brain from conscious thought is only opening the journeyer up to forces of Satan.
Christians who utilize labyrinths as tools of meditation and prayer begin by praying for God’s provision and protection from the evil one, thus God controls the contemplation process. They also ask God to help them hear His voice, through scripture or discernment as they walk the path. Often those who walk the labyrinth focus on a short prayer or present God with a question as they walk.
It is important that the labyrinth not be walked with specific expectations. The process of walking the labyrinth should not be seen as a spiritual fortune telling exercise, but simply as a process of deepening one’s connection to God.
How to Walk a Labyrinth
- Prepare to walk. Take some time to transition from your everyday life to the labyrinth experience. Remove your watch. Slow your breathing. Still your mind. Open yourself to God. Think about, or write in a journal, your intentions for the experience: questions, affirmations, feelings. Leave your personal belongings in a secure place. If inside, take off your shoes, a traditional sign of respect for a sacred space, and required for walking some painted labyrinths.
- Begin your journey. Pause at the entrance to the labyrinth to take a cleansing breath and focus your attention on the Lord. You may ask a question, say a prayer or recite a scripture. Some people choose to bow or make another ritual gesture to signal the beginning of their walk.
- Walk the inward path. Put one foot in front of the other and walk at a measured pace that is comfortable for you. On the way in, focus on letting go of things you want to leave behind and releasing things that stand in the way of your connection with the Lord. Pause when you need to. Don’t focus on the center as a goal; be present in each step of the inward path.
- Spend time in the center. Take as long as you wish. You may stand, sit, kneel or lie down. This part of the journey is about being in the Lord’s presence and present to His power. You may pray, journal or simply be open to the stillness. Respect the boundaries of others with whom you share this sacred space.
- Take the return path. When you are ready to leave the center, begin walking back the way you came. On this part of the journey, focus on what you will bring out from the center and back into your life. As before, pause when you need to. Resist the temptation to sprint to the finish line: the return journey is as important as every other part of the labyrinth.
- Reflect on the journey. When you leave the labyrinth, you may pause, make another gesture or say a prayer. Before leaving the area, take some time to reflect on insights you’ve gained, or make notes in your journal to explore further later.
The Prayer of Examen
For centuries those involved in Christian spiritual practices have reflected on their day using the Prayer of Examen. It was originated by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500’s. The purpose of this prayer is to reflect on the events of the day and to listen to God’s observations of the day as well. This can be done silently or by journaling.
- Take some time daily – as often as possible – to spend time with God. This is often a helpful activity to do at the end of the day. This should be a fairly quick activity – 10-15 minutes.
- Start with a short reading of scripture, a devotional, or just some quiet time. You don’t have to do this sitting down. For some people, walking or moving, doing artwork, or doing something else that has not real goal or purpose is helpful in connecting with God.
- Begin by getting in touch with how you’re feeling right now. What words or phrases would you use to describe your current mood.
- Review your day (if you are doing this in the morning, review yesterday) – the things that happened during the day. The way you felt. What you were thinking. What captured your attention.
- Take some time to let God show you where He was active in your day, even if you didn’t notice His presence.
- Write down anything that strikes you. Periodically you might want to return to your 2020 theme and reflect on how it is playing out.
- Pray for your day ahead (tomorrow or today depending on when you are doing the activity). Thank God for His presence and provision.
“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.”
Seeking Stillness Ministries
626 Revere Dr.
Bay Village, OH 44140