Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category
Posted in Books/Reading, Daily Life, Faith, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Private Vows, Scripture, tagged Carmelite, Faith, Family, Ignatian, Prayer, Private Vows, Real life, Scripture, Silence on Thursday, May 12, 2016| Leave a Comment »
Awwww it’s the most beautiful day here in sunny Milton Keynes, UK. The kind of lovely day that I’d like to wrap up in pretty paper and send to you all so you can share it.
I make no apology for banging on about prayer in my last two posts, it’s something I feel I need to, ‘get down on paper’ if you follow me. Sometimes you just need to write things down to make them stick.
I went to the taster session on Tuesday evening, as a forerunner to our, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which starts in June. It was all I knew it would be and much more. I signed up then and there and paid the small donation. I came all home full of anticipation for what I’m thinking will be a wonderful week. It’s certainly a fabulous opportunity, a bit like being on an individually guided retreat but at home. Perfect!
I found myself craving that silent, peaceful place that a retreat provides. It isn’t necessarily a ‘real’ place, more a state of mind really. A silence that comes from within so that, even in a busy street, you can be silent and still on the inside. Since giving up work in December I’ve created a lot more silence in my daily life. I’d always been a Radio 2 kind of girl, a constant murmur of background chatter and music; but of late even that has been turned off.
I watched, ‘The Big Silence’ [further reading] yesterday to remind myself what it’s all about and how difficult it can be for some people to just settle into the silence. That was me a few years ago, struggling to be at peace without a TV or radio to fill in the blanks, now I crave that silent time because I know that God is there in the silence.
We’re using a book called, ‘Patterns of Prayer’ by Eugene McCaffrey, OCD at the Carmelite contemplative prayer group that’s just started in my parish. It’s the most wonderful little book, the kind of book that makes you want to read each page over and over to soak in all that it has to say. It speaks to me on so many levels. Anyway, I wanted to share a small part of it with you as it’s relevant to this post and Eugene puts it so much better than I can:~
Silence is an essential condition for listening. Prayer is born in silence, a still receptive silence that enables one to hear the deep vibrations of the spirit. Silence is our way of helping God so that he can help us. We try to be still, conscious of our own poverty and of our own need to hear and to receive. Silence is much more than an absence of words or noise, much more even than just being quiet. Rather, it is a response to our whole being reaching out to grasp the word of life. It is an alert and attentive receptiveness to “hear the word of God and obey it” [Luke 11:28]. Like the boy Samuel, we cry out with our whole heart, “Speak, for your servant is listening” [1Samuel 3:10]. pp28-29
Earlier in the book it says that it takes two to pray [p26] and I think we often forget that. We are not alone in that moment, God is with us, always. But we need to listen and in order to hear Him we need to be silent. As Fr Christopher Jamison says in, ‘The Big Silence’, “Silence is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God”.
Peace and blessings
Following on from my last post on my different types and methods of prayer, I thought a quick post on barriers to prayer might be prudent. I often hear people say that they just don’t have time for prayer, that life just gets in the way. I sympathise because I can be the master of prevarication regarding a lot of things and prayer is one of them. I’m terrible for finding household tasks to do before I start the one thing I SHOULD be doing. “I’ll just hang the washing out, and then I’ll pray.” “I’ll just prep the veg for tea, and then I’ll pray.” You can replace the word, ‘pray’ with any of those things that you continually put off, we all have them.
I know that sometimes I feel that my house should be spotlessly clean and tidy before I sit down and do the things I enjoy doing, so that can drive my desire to leave prayer/bible study until the end of my chore list; I love it so much that I almost feel guilty for taking time out to do it when the vacuuming still needs doing and the dog wants a walk. I’m getting better at prioritising prayer but I’m also mastering the art of praying whilst working. More on that in a minute.
For me another barrier was that I thought I had to speak in a formal way during prayer, scripted prayers, thees and thous etc. This is really not what God wants, he just wants us to open our hearts to Him and speak as we would to a friend. As the saying goes, it’s not how you pray that matters, it just matters that you do. Don’t let formality come between you and time with God.
I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who gets up at sparrow’s fart and puts in half an hour with God before the day even starts….hmmmm. Now, those of you who know me, know that I already get up at silly o’clock in the morning [5.30am usually] so let’s be honest here, any earlier and it’d barely be worth even going to bed at all lol. I hit the ground running and don’t draw breath until Ethan’s at school at 8.30am. So, I’ve compromised and I set my alarm for ten minutes earlier than I need to be up and I give that ten minutes solely to God. No books, no rosary, no trappings at all; just God and I chatting and getting ready for the day to come. I always ask for his strength and guidance through the day ahead and He always tells me He loves me.
Praying whilst working; The other trick to prayer is to remember that you don’t have to be on bended knee with a breviary in your hand or at church when speaking to God. He’s with us all the time, ALL THE TIME!! So, when you’re stood there washing the dishes…pray for your children; when you’re hanging out the washing….pray for your spouse; when you’re cooking the supper….pray for international causes. You get the picture. I pray in the car on my way home from dropping Ethan at school. I pray for the people on my prayer list during that journey…I turn the radio off, throw a glance at the passenger seat to make sure Jesus is there [He always is], and away I go. I’m sure other drivers think I’m on my hands free kit lol. I don’t need it, I have a direct line to God.
If you enjoy praying scripture, you can pick out one of your favourite verses, write it on the back of your hand [size limits allowing 😉 ] and every time you catch sight of it during the day you will automatically send it up to God.
Post-its around the house are great too. Short, arrow prayers can be stuck in strategic places ~ on the back of the toilet door, on the fridge, on your dash board.
There is absolutely a place for scheduling time to spend with God in prayer. However, we are all victims of our own success and life has become ridiculously busy and complex. So yes, on the days when you can find half an hour to sit down with God, go for it. For me, that time is usually after the school run. I come in, put the kettle on and put away the dishes while it’s boiling. Make a pot of tea and while it’s brewing I fold the washing. Then I grab my favourite mug and my prayer basket and it’s my time with God….and I stick with it until I’m done. I don’t put a time limit on it, I just do it until I feel complete. This doesn’t happen every day but I try to make sure it happens as often as possible. Fridays and Sundays I’m at Mass in the morning anyway but on the other days I just do my best.
Ah, and that’s another thing that I’ve found helps enormously, my prayer basket [see photo’ at the head of this post]. Having everything I need in one place and totally portable is perfect. No scrabbling around looking for my bible or rosary, no frantic search for my pen…there it all is ready to grab and go. So, what’s in my prayer basket? Hmm, more than you think lol. My CTS bible; Sacred Space Prayer Book, 2016; Just Calling bible study series [Book 1] and relevant note book; Trusting God Day by Day devotional by Joyce Meyer; A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis [beautiful book regardless of whether you’re catholic or not]; Patterns of Prayer by Eugene McCaffrey [equally delicious and the book we’re using for our Carmelite prayer group]; notebook listing people to pray for; two more notebooks [hmmm possibly too many notebooks lol although they each have a purpose, honest]; pink, blue and purple pens; my rosary beads; regular prayer beads; post-it’s and bible hi-glider pens. Yep, all of that fits in my little basket. I don’t use all of it every day and I do switch things in and out depending on mood/need. But it stops me using the excuse that I don’t have what I need to be with God.
I think the only thing I need to add now are some links to my favourite online sites that I use for prayer and bible study. I don’t use them often but they’re a Godsend [no pun intended]and if that’s more your bag then they’re fantastic, especially for on-the-hoof prayer: ~ Pray as you go ~ I use this on my phone’, particularly the Examen at the end of the day. Sacred Space which I mentioned in my last post. Ignatian Spirituality ~ a beautiful site covering all aspects of Ignatian prayer. WordLive ~ this is more of a bible study but another great site nevertheless. Daily Reflections-Alive Publishing ~ distinctly catholic but hey, horses for courses. Joyce Meyer also offers a daily devotional under the, Everyday Answers tab on her home page. So, there should be something there to suit everyone. Quite a diverse list.
I really hope this helps you if you’re struggling to find time to be with God. If nothing else just sitting silently in His presence is perfect, you really don’t need ‘stuff’. If you have a young family, just resting in His presence for a few moments may be all you can do. And on those days when you don’t manage anything other a quick apology towards heaven for not having prayed at all, don’t worry, tomorrow is another day and God is faithful and knows the intentions of your heart. He loves you regardless.
I’ll pray for you today, in case you don’t manage to ~ may you be blessed beyond your wildest dreams, may you feel the love of God surrounding you as you go through your day xx
[ps links in pink, as always]
Posted in Faith, Ignatian Spirituality, Lent & Easter, Prayer, Private Vows, Scripture, tagged Benedictine, Catholic, Faith, Ignatian, Lent, Prayer, Private Vows, Scripture on Thursday, May 5, 2016| 2 Comments »
Lent this year was a time of huge change and transition for me. A time of spiritual growth. I was so lucky not to be working because this gave me the time and space to indulge in Lent completely. Sadly, I had a flu type bug over the actual Easter weekend so missed all those beautiful services but you know what, Lent was such a blessing that nothing could put a dampener on the joy it brought me.
So, coming out of Easter-tide [although, we’re still officially in the season of Easter until Pentecost which falls on Sunday 15th May this year] I’ve been left with my mind heavily focused on prayer. God seems to be leading me down a prayerful path by opening many doors to prayer filled opportunities. A Carmelite prayer group has just started at my local church, we’re meeting once a month to spend time in contemplative prayer. This is challenging but beautiful.
I’ve also been lucky enough to secure myself a place on a, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which is being organised and offered by our local church partnership. This is such a fantastic opportunity and I feel so blessed. I get to meet with a Prayer Guide for around half an hour each day for a week, there are no words to express how much I’m looking forward to this.
I’ve just acquired myself a copy of, Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2016 which was suggested to me by the lovely Sister who is the Pastoral Administrator of our parish at the moment. It’s a book I’ve considered for the last few years but have always used the online version found HERE. When she suggested it I kind of wasn’t surprised. God has a way of bringing these things to our attention if we’re refusing to see the obvious. It’s just the most perfect devotional prayer book for me, very thought provoking and relevant.
With all this focus on prayer I’ve been thinking about exactly what prayer is and what form/s it can take. It’s a question I’ve been asked a couple of times recently. I’ve discovered this is a huge subject because prayer can be so many things, it has so many facets. It’s also unique to each person because we are all so different with myriad needs. I can’t speak for others so I’ll just describe my own experiences of prayer.
Whether it be the comforting recital of the Our Father during Mass or a handful of Hail Marys during the week, structured prayers have an important part to play. They bring me a feeling of peace and familiarity [often taking me back to my childhood] and, no matter how many times I say them, they bring something different each time. They are a safety net when all else fails and I have no words of my own. Also praying scripture, particularly the Psalms, can be a wonderful expression of prayer and devotion. There’s a Psalm for every mood and every situation.
Private intentions and petitions are another important facet. Praying for the needs of others and ourselves. I’ve begun to keep a book of people and causes to pray for because otherwise I’m worried I’ll forget. The list is long….and forever growing.
There are those arrow prayers that I fire heavenwards throughout the day. Maybe just, ‘Jesus, help me’ or ‘Bless this person, Lord’. These are small, but mighty. Acknowledgements that Jesus is always close, always on hand to guide and encourage. We just have to reach out to Him.
In our monthly contemplative group, prayer is silence….it’s listening…..it’s being at one with God. Listening is a very important part of prayer and something that people often forget. They can be so busy with a ‘shopping list’ of people and personal needs [which are important] that they forget to just listen. . . . to just ‘be still and know that I am God’. [Psalm 46:10] Remember, prayer is a two-way street, God also has things He would like to say to us, to ask of us. ‘Listen with the ear of you heart.’ Rule of Benedict, Prologue.
I also do a lot of Ignatian Contemplation where you place yourself within a scene or event in the bible, usually from the Gospels, and imagine what you can hear, see, smell, taste and feel…you put yourself in that place, lose yourself in the story. Imagine that you’re there with Jesus in the boat as he calms the waters…. It’s a truly amazing way to pray and it has revealed some amazing insights to me, and God has spoken right into my heart during some of these exercises. As an alternative to this I sometimes just imagine that Jesus is sat opposite me at the table in my kitchen and we have a conversation. This is a very simple act but totally mind blowing at times. We’ve had some great chats, Jesus and I.
Back in August 2009 I wrote the words below ~ I found them today and they are still relevant: ~
Prayer is unique to each individual
It’s that hurried word on waking or a constant all-day dialogue.
It’s half an hour of liturgical trawling through the Breviary.
It’s that conversation with the ‘no one’ beside you at the table or in the car ~ it’s our faith that makes that ‘no one’ a someone!
It’s just a thought ‘thrown’ God’s way.
It’s a heartfelt plea on the back of despair or a word of joyful thanks at a beautiful moment.
Prayer does not have to be words, it can just be silence. It’s a two-way street and that silence can be filled with listening.
Most of all prayer, in whatever form, is an act of fidelity to God.
On the face of it, not much has changed since I wrote this, but yet everything has changed because I have changed. There are a lot of echoes of what I still do today but it all feels very different. A lot more authentic somehow. I particularly like the reference to prayer being an act of fidelity to God. Our way of demonstrating our faithfulness to God.
In an ideal world my whole life would be my prayer, to be ‘always in His holy presence’ and keep ‘a loving gaze on God’. [Patterns of Prayer, McCaffrey OCD p19] It is something to aspire to.
Hi everyone xx
I’ve just had a week off for half-term. Yes, I know that’s early but my new job is in an academy so they get to set their own holidays/terms. This week is chosen so that families can take advantage of cheap holiday deals out of season, and also hopefully enjoy an Indian summer [has been quite a nice week here in the UK].
During my week off I’ve been doing all the things I really love ~ journaling, hair cut, meals out with friends, loving my animals without time constraint and welcoming a new kitten into the house [that’s another post I think 😉 ]. And yes, for those who are counting that makes SIX cats, we’re done at six I promise. Also a few things that I’m not so keen on such as a dental check-up and trying desperately to overcome a terrible, persistent earache that I had for over two weeks in the end. An uber course of antibiotics has hopefully seen the back of it, especially as I took the last one this morning. Here’s hoping!
So, one of the lovely things I’ve done this week is make a ‘Prayer Journal’. I got the idea from a lovely lady called Gina Garland who made THIS YOUTUBE video about how she made it, and also offers a free booklet of very detailed guidelines too. There is an email address under the video where you can request the booklet, and Gina will send it to you by return as an attachment. I got mine in less that 24 hours, impressive given the time difference [USA].
So here are rather a lot of photos of my ‘Prayer Journal’. I’ve literally only just finished it today. I used an ARC planner, A5 size in the poly cover. Here is A LINK to one exactly the same price and size as mine, just a slightly different cover design. I was going to buy an A5 binder as Gina suggests in the video, but Staples have no inserts, dividers or A5 sized anything to go in one, plenty of binders but pretty useless without the basic accessories. As I already have all the ARC things from making my daily planner/diary it made sense just to buy the poly one. Okay, I’ve waffled enough……photo’s…..
I hope you’ve enjoyed this ‘walk’ through my Prayer Journal. If anyone has any questions or if any of the links don’t work then don’t hesitate to message me. Many thanks go to the lovely Gina for sharing her idea and help booklet so freely.