Spiritual Practices and Resources
We can calm our rushing mind and body by being attentive to God’s presence. Our very intention of searching for God is prayer. If we look for God in everything we see, do, hear, taste and feel, we may experience the Spirit praying in us. Through this seeking, may our eyes and ears be opened to the healing presence of God.
We can teach our children about the Spirit by helping them to see, hear, taste and feel God’s presence. A song I share in Kindermusik goes like this:
I can’t see the wind, but I know it’s there,
it cools my face and it ruffles my hair.
It lifts my kite up in the sky
and whispers as it passes by.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“The New Song”(adapted) by Susan Cherwien
Praying with the Path of Compassion
Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, follows a threefold path of compassion: “The courage to see. The courage to feel. And the courage to act.” This “Path of Compassion” seems to lend itself to the ancient practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) as well as audio divina (sacred listening) and visio divina (sacred seeing). The following suggestions are ways you may pray with this path.
1. Courage to See (and I would add Courage to Hear) – lectio divina, audio divina and visio divina
See with the eyes of your heart (see God through scripture, poetry, art, dance, creation)
Listen with the ears of your heart (hear God through music, nature, voices)
Notice what words or images come to mind as you observe and pay attention to God in our midst.
2. Courage to Feel – meditatio
Reflect on what God seems to be saying to you through these words, images or events.
As you ponder the words and images that speak to you in a personal way, allow them to move from your mouth, eyes, ears and mind to your heart, to a place of deeper awareness. What we see and hear is not always comfortable; that is okay. Tell God, honestly, how you are feeling.
3. Courage to Act – oratio
How does Christ invite you to respond to these words or images? Ask, “God, Where are you leading me?” Be receptive to what God may want to do with you. Pause and collect a prayer (spoken or sung) to return to God. Allow your deepest self to be touched and changed by God.
Contemplatio – Wait and listen, let go of your own words, and simply “be” with God. Continue to carry these thoughts, words and images with you throughout the days and weeks ahead, offering them to God in prayer.
Opening Ourselves to God
When we open ourselves to God’s presence and abandon ourselves to divine truth, the creative power of God’s love stirs within us.
We begin to see things that we never saw before. God starts to do things through us that surpass what we could ever do of our own accord.
New life springs forth from our depths.
“Humble Leadership” – Graham Standish
Scripture Coming Alive
Over the past several weeks (in this section of the Chapel Bell) scripture has been paired with short videos, creating a new way for you to try visualizing and praying with a sacred text. Another way you may wish to pray with scripture is by reading it out loud or asking someone to read to you. This can be a wonderful way of praying with friends or loved ones from a distance. There’s no need to be still while reading or meditating on a passage; moving can allow the words to move more deeply into our being. You may even wish to strike a pose, such as arms outstretched to the sky or simply curling your body into a ball, asking God to hold you in his loving arms. These are just a few ways we can allow God’s Word to come alive for us today.
Finding Our Teachers
If we choose to, we can see everyone as our teacher. Those people who have admirable qualities can inspire us; those with destructive qualities can remind us of our shortcomings and motivate us to change.
When we meet kind people, we can develop feelings of gratitude and use those people as role models to inspire our own kindness and generosity. We can also learn from unkind people. Seeing how sensitive we are to criticism and hostility, we can remember how sensitive others are and resolve to treat them gently. We can also practice forgiveness and find how much better this feels than smoldering with resentment for days.
To begin this exercise, select an initial time period such as a morning or a day. During that time, try to see each person you meet as a teacher bringing you an important lesson. Your challenge is to recognize what that lesson is, then to learn as much as you can from this person. At the end of the day, look back and review your interaction with each person, the lessons each one brought, and what you learned.
As exercises like these are repeated, the eye of the soul gradually opens and we become increasingly aware of the sacred within us and around us. Every person becomes a teacher and a reminder of our spiritual nature, while every experience becomes a learning opportunity . . . and we see the world as a sacred schoolhouse designed to heal and awaken us, and to teach us how to heal and awaken others. What greater gift could the world offer?
Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: 1999), 203–204.
Lectio Divina in Nature
The following exercise helps us deepen our connection with God in creation. This lectio divina with nature is adapted from an exercise practiced by Nancy Wiens, who emphasizes that too often we think of ourselves as apart from nature. “We, too, are nature – the human part of nature that has the ability to be self-conscious and make choices by enacting free will. So, praying in the outdoors of nature helps us connect with our human nature before God.” This prayer can open us to experiences of God in ways that spoken prayers or word prayers did not do before.
Step One: Silencio. Become present to your surroundings in nature by sitting in silence for a few moments. Ask God to address you in this prayer through nature.
Step Two: Lectio. Look around you. Take some time to walk around and survey the piece of creation that surrounds you. As you do this, notice when something draws your attention. It could be something attractive, or even something that upsets you. As you gaze on it, imagine God also gazing on it.
Step Three: Meditatio. Continue to be with this part of nature that has drawn your attention. Think about what you know about this part of nature. What are the connections you might make with your life right now? Be aware of your feelings as well as your thoughts. What is God saying to you in this encounter with nature?
Step Four: Oratio. Express yourself in some way to God. Respond to God’s gift in nature in some way. Express your experience to God – your feelings, bodily sensations, and thoughts. Resist editing them. Simply communicate with God.
Step Five: Contemplatio. Rest with God in what you notice, and reflect on how that awareness speaks to your life. Open your whole self to God by moving beyond words and images. Bask in how your human nature has communed with the rest of nature and also with God.
From “50 Ways to Pray” by Teresa Blythe
Be thou praised, my Lord, for brother Wind and for the air, the cloud, the serene and all kinds of weather, by which thou givest thy creatures sustenance. St. Francis of Assisi (13th c.), from “Canticle of the Sun”
- Light a candle (a common symbol of memory, prayer, and presence; of the light that darkness could not overcome, and of the life that death cannot destroy)
- Take a few deep breaths to still your mind and body
- Be silent and open your heart to God’s presence; you may wish to recite a simple prayer such as this passage from Psalm 25:
- Close your eyes and listen for God’s voice