Category Archives: Meditation

A Lenten Meditation

United Methodist Hymnal
Hymn 386: Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown
Charles Wesley

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,

Whom still I hold, but cannot see!

My company before is gone,

And I am left alone with Thee;

With Thee all night I mean to stay,

And wrestle till the break of day;

With Thee all night I mean to stay,

And wrestle till the break of day.

 

I need not tell Thee who I am,

My misery and sin declare;

Thyself hast called me by my name,

Look on Thy hands, and read it there;

But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?

Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?

Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

 

‘Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy mercies move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.
To me, to all, Thy mercies move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.


By clicking on the picture below you can see an excellent “3 minute Retreat” video prepared by United Methodist Communications using this Wesleyan hymn as background. I hope it is as peaceful to you as it was to me.


Lenten Meditation

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Ignatian Meditation

English: Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) França...

English: Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) founded the Society of Jesus (commonly called –the Jesuits- Pope Francis is one). The youngest of eleven children, Ignatius left his home in the Basque region of Spain to become a page for a noblemen. His life of brawling, gambling, and womanizing was disrupted when the nobleman lost his position. He then joined the army and was badly wounded when he was hit in the leg by a cannonball. During his one year recuperation as a prisoner of France henturned to God. His Spiritual Exercises for a 30-day retreat were modeled after his own conversion experience and are considered a classic of Western spirituality. Ignatian Meditation is a part of the system Ignatius described in his Spiritual Exercises.

Ignatian meditation is counter-intuitive to our culture. Parents and grandparents who have watched their children and grandchildren “play like” have the easiest time with this prayer. Mine have played at being Harry Potter, SpongeBob and Dora. Ignatian Meditation asks that you enter into the story of scripture, and become a part of it. This form of meditation engages the imagination and asks you to become a child again.

The instructions are sometimes presented in quite a complex way, these can help you begin.

Points for Ignatian Meditation

  • Find a quiet place to pray. This may be in your room, a church, outdoors, or your office with the door closed.
  • Establish a sense of inner peace and tranquility. Let the cares and concerns of the moment slip away. Sometimes reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 or a favorite prayer from memory will help get into the prayer.
  • As you relax into God’s presence, take a moment to greet the Lord. Ask God to guide your thoughts.
  • Slowly read the passage. Get a sense of its geography and flow. Is there something that stands out to you?
  • Read it again, using a different Bible translation. Is there something in particular that is touching you?
  • Place yourself in the story. Are you a main character? A spectator? Think about the following:
    • What are you wearing?
    • What are the sights? Smells? Textures? Sounds?
    • What is going on around you?
  • Who else is there? Do you recognize those around you?
  • Surrender to the story. Interact with your surroundings, allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit as you speak and engage with others.
  • Do not try to control the prayer.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
  • How are you feeling? Is your “heart on fire?”
  • As you bring your prayer to a close, take a few minutes to speak to God about it.

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The Practice of Lectio Divina or Sacred Reading

English: Lectio Divina Português: Leitura Oran...

The simple prayer practice of Lectio Divina takes us through four movements, as we are drawn closer to God through each prayerful reading of the chosen passage.

Choose a short passage- just a few verses.

Make yourself comfortable in a place that is as free from interruptions as possible. Begin with a time of silence, humbly asking God to quiet your heart and make you aware that you are in His loving presence.

When you are ready, begin reading and praying through the four movements:

Lectio (READ): On the first reading, simply open yourself to the presence of God. Read the passage slowly and prayerfully, allowing short pauses between sentences. (Over time you will discover whether it is more helpful for you to read silently or out loud- try them both…) As you read, take in the words and the overall flow of the passage. Then allow a time of silence following the reading- continue to open yourself to the Spirit of God.

Meditatio (REFLECT): On the second prayerful reading of the passage, listen for a particular word or a phrase through which God wants to speak to you. You will notice your attention being drawn to something (or if this doesn’t happen, just choose a word). Once you have “received” the word or phrase, begin to silently meditate on that. Reflect on why God would highlight this for you today, ask Him any questions that come to mind, and note things that seem important as you meditate on what He has given you. Remember that the focus is on listening to what God has to say to you.

Oratio (RESPOND)On the third prayerful reading of the passage, listen now for God’s invitation, and respond from your heart. The Living God is always inviting us in some way… to let go of something, or to take up something; to do something or be something… the invitation can take innumerable forms. Following the reading, continue to listen for His invitation and then respond silently or out loud from an honest heart.

Contemplatio (REST):The focus of the fourth prayerful reading of the passage is to simply rest now in the love that God has for you. Let the words wash over you- there is no further need to reflect or respond- allow God’s Spirit to draw you close and fill you with His love, grace and peace. Linger in this place of deep connection, for you are being filled and refreshed for your continuing journey.

We encourage you to take a word, phrase or image with you when it is time to return to the day… something to which you can return throughout the day… something that will remind you of the love of God for you, and the special message He had for you today.

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Closeness to God

Thomas Merton's hermitage at The Abbey of Our ...

Thomas Merton’s Hermitage

It would be a great mistake to think that mystical contemplation necessarily brings a whole litany of weird phenomena-ecstasies, raptures, stigmata and so on. These belong to quite a different order of things. They are “charismatic” gifts, and they are not directly ordered to the sanctification of the one who receives them.

—-Thomas Merton “What is Contemplation?”

The great cry of our time is,” Let me see it!” This cry pushes in on every aspect of our existence, even our spiritual journey. Somehow, we have begun to believe that every act of faith requires some sort of proof or outward manifestation for it to be real. Merton reminds us that not all things are for our own self-gratification. The “gifts” in particular, are for the edification of the church, and when we practice contemplation we should not expect some spectacular results that make us some guru of great faith. Contemplation and centering are acts of the individual and bring us to understand what it means to be close to a loving God. Through such closeness we can live a life that is spiritually fruitful and face the many trials that we encounter.

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6 Tips on Contemplative Prayer

English: Saint Benedict A contemporary icon of...

I was directed to these 6 tips on Contemplative prayer by a fellow blogger. They were written by Carol Crumley who is Senior Program Director for Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. St. Benedict, a sixth century spiritual leader, advised his monks to “listen with the ear of the heart,” that is, to listen deeply, noticing the many ways God spoke to them in their daily activities as well as through scripture and worship. I share these tips with you.

6 Tips on Contemplative Prayer

  1. Establish a daily set-aside time when you can honor your desire to open to God. We recommend 20 minutes of silent prayer time daily. For some that might seem like a long time. For others, it may be way too short. The exact number of minutes is not that important. Start with what is right for you. The important thing is doing it daily.
  2. Create a set-aside place, a space that honors your intent, where you can sit comfortably and uninterrupted for your prayer time. This might be a prayer corner or even a prayer chair. If a chair, just make sure it is different from the one you sit in to watch television, work on your computer or take a nap. A different chair will help you be more alert and attentive in your prayerful listening. You might also place a candle or flower or image in your prayer space, something that helps draw your focus to God’s presence.
  3. Begin with stretching and releasing any physical tensions. We carry the tensions of the day or night in our bodies. Notice the places in your body that are tight or constricted. Stretch into those places, hold for a moment or two, and then relax the tension. Sometimes a gentle body-stretching practice is all that is needed to quiet the mind and prepare the body for opening in prayer.
  4. Notice your breath. Your breath is a spiritual tool that you always have with you. It is your most intimate connection with God. Sense your breath as a living instrument of God’s spirit, ever cleansing and inspiring. At any time or place, you can notice your breath. Is it rapid or slow? Shallow or deep? Just noticing and slowing your breath can quiet the mind and draw you deeper into the heart of God. It is the most fundamental practice in the spiritual life.
  5. Open to God’s living presence, keeping your desire for your own and the world’s fullness in God before you in prayer. No words are needed. Simple, quiet openness and availability are enough. Trust that God’s healing, transforming power is at work whether you know it, you believe it, or not.
  6. Find support for your spiritual life. Support can come in many forms. Listen to music that stirs your soul. Go to a museum and feast your eyes on great art. Walk in nature. Read some of the great classics by contemplative authors. Study the lives of the saints. Find a spiritual director who listens with you to the movement of the Spirit in your life. Attend worship services that nourish your spiritual heart. Seek out others who share a similar desire and join with them for dedicated times of prayer.

We live in a noisy, busy world. Quiet, silent prayer is counter to our culture and yet it offers the missing spiritual resource our souls need. Contemplative prayer is not just for ourselves alone. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that, “To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe.”

Contemplative Prayer is a way of being rather than something that we do, a way of being open to God all the time. As you return to your busy day, remember, there are no right ways or wrong ways to pray. You can trust whatever is simplest and feels most natural for you.

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Centering Prayer

Today I would like to imagine being alone or with a group of people who, alone or together, are in a quiet place with no background music, just simply sitting in silence for twenty minutes. They do not speak or pray aloud; there are no books or Ipads in their hands. They are not reading or writing. They are not busy with anything. They are there to allow God to fill their consciousness and give them peace. They do not pray with their lips but with their silent hearts and with their very being. This is a simple description of Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer was first practiced by the ancient monastics of the desert, but it can still serve us today. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to listen for a word from God for twenty minutes? I would venture to say, that for most of us, twenty minutes of silence is an eternity. For me it has been a wonderful discovery of a peace that I never thought existed- a peace and tranquility that can only come from God. When I am silent and totally centered on hearing from God it seems as though I can feel the stress of life flowing out of me like a river emptying into an ocean. Perhaps it is one of the best spiritual practices that I have ever been challenged to master.

As twenty first century Christians, we often feel that God is best found in activity and motion, but it is time that we took a better look at the practices that built the church in its formative years. These practices sustained people who lived with harsh conditions and great persecution, a type of life that is unimaginable to us. These godly men and women found it necessary to commune with God in an intense way. For them, it was just God and God alone that guided and protected all.

Much of what I read and see tells me that Christianity as we know it is dying a fairly quick death. Perhaps the answer to the salvation of the faith is not found in mega churches or new ways of worship but in the rediscovering of the foundational tools of the movement. Centering prayer is one of those foundational practices that could change your life as it has changed mine.

Click Here for more about Centering Prayer

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Ascetics & Prayer

Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various worldly pleasures, often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Many religious traditions (Buddhism, the Christian Desert Fathers) include practices that involve restraint with respect to actions of body, speech, and mind. The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions lived extremely austere lifestyles, refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. They practiced asceticism not as a rejection of the enjoyment of life, or because the practices themselves are virtuous, but as an aid in the pursuit of physical and spiritual health.

From these ascetics much of our prayer and contemplative practices were given to us. In these day of stress and multiple pressure of life we can learn much from them. One of these ascetics was medieval mystic Ignatius of Loyola.   Today I present a very simple practice known as the Daily Examen. The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.  The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. Here’s how it works.

 

At the close of each day find a quiet place, and perform these tasks.

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

5. Look toward tomorrow.

I believe that these simple steps can change your perception of God and yourself.

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A Prayer of Julian of Norwich

julian1In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and savior. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Amen

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Julian of Norwich

Church of St Julian, Norwich

Church of St Julian, Norwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

—-Julian of Norwich

Julian was an anchoress. An anchoress is one who lives a solitary life, and dedicates that life to getting closer to God. Very little is known of Julian beyond her work, “Revelation of Divine Love.” She is the first woman who wrote a theological work in the English language. Her sufferings and wisdom still speak loudly today.In the coming weeks I will be blogging about the works of Lady Julian now and again. This quote is just the beginning.

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Help Us Lord

Help us, O Lord, never to nurse the grievance that separates us from you and from one another. Grant us grace to forgive those who have wronged us. May we know that no sin is so great that it cannot be confessed; no wound so deep it cannot be healed and no sinner so lost that grace cannot bring them home. Amen.

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