My first year of seminary is almost done [still finishing up an assignment for my worship class this summer]. After a year’s worth of class meetings every Friday, and very poor attempts on my part to maintain some semblance of discipline, here I am writing a post on spiritual disciplines and practices so that others might check them out and find something that grounds them and tunes their hearts and minds to God.
Given my disclosure that I have a hard time maintaining spiritual disciplines in my life, do know that I try. What you’ll find following, are tools for your spiritual journey. Some are best done on your own, some with a group. Some sung, some whispered softly and others proclaimed loudly. These resources are those that I have come across over the years that have in many ways, helped me to understand liturgy, worship and what it feels like to allow oneself to be fully present in the presence of our Creator.
One of the groups I have in mind are young people–those late teens and early 20 somethings who didn’t grow up knowing what it meant to wait for something to load because the only internet connection available was dial-up. I suppose to some extent I find remnants of this in my own inability to focus and stay on task, but that mostly happens when I’m not interested 🙂
So, here are a few to try. Don’t give up after a few tries. It may take weeks and months before this is something that feels right. And if it doesn’t completely feel natural, it’s ok. You’re just being tuned.
Prayer of Examen
This prayer practice adapted from St. Ignatius of Loyola is considered a gift from God–a method of prayerful reflection on the day’s events so that one might sense God’s presence and discern God’s will. It causes us to focus on the events of the past 24 hours to see where God has worked and where God calls us to move forward or seek reconciliation.
So, how might youth groups use these tools? Say in a mission trip setting? [Marie, this one’s for you]. This could easily be used in place of a “pow, wow, how” type of exercise with your youth group. Instead of the highs and lows, a reflection of the entire day is couched in prayer and reflection, asking us to make connections with experience and God’s presence throughout the day.
(adapted from Thomas Keating, founder of the Contemplative Outreach Network)
This prayer is not a technique but a practice that helps us cultivate our listening to God. We are tuning ourselves to hear God.
1. Choose a [sacred] word that will help ground you in this practice of being in God’s presence; in resting in God
2. Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and introduce this word as “the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.”
3. When your thoughts start to wander, return to the word you choose to call you back. Don’t change the word during the course of your prayer. Instead, continue to return to the same one.
4. When you are done praying, remain in silence in thanksgiving for a few more moments.
Do you engage in spiritual practices and disciplines? What’s worked for you?
Try others on your own or with a group