SOME REFLECTIONS ON A WEEK OF GUIDED PRAYER….
Sharing our experiences about God with one another is always a fruitful experience. We learn from and we relate to each others experiences of faith. Sarah Tully shares her experiences of a Week of Guided Prayer she followed recently.
The Invitation - We acknowledge our call to become attentively present to our Lord this week.
Monday, Day One
Unselfishness in prayer is the essence of prayer. When one takes away all of the ‘decoration’ what we are really left with is us and God and to persevere with prayer even if we are not getting anything out of it because that is what prayer is- “The usefulness of prayer is in its uselessness.” It is a call of deepening faith in that all we are left with at this time is an idea of God and we have to rely on faith alone. Why? Why does God require this? Why does God step back and leave us in this “desert place”? Well, this is an invitation; perhaps not a desert but something that is positive and maybe we should nurture such a gift and not be perturbed by a shift in relationship with our Lord. We can understand Christ, God however presents to us the mystery that is faith.
We can explore God in the detail of everyday life by a smile or a compliment for example. This is the ‘Everyday God’ that we hear so much about. In the detail however we will find gratitude and regret-what we are thankful for and what we can do differently next time. People who are thankful are always kind people. Regret shouldn’t be about guilt but an acknowledgement that things could have been done in a different way. Maybe we just need to put some more effort and time into the detail of God? Maybe this is about practicality of prayer as opposed to a change in relationship with God? Mother Theresa found prayer to be at times a burden. Wow, here we see a woman that has pioneered as a servant of God in such a profound yet real way and she too has experienced difficulty in prayer. What did she do? She stuck with it. That is the key. And there lies the comfort. So many of us struggle at times in our relationship with God and then we do what comes easiest-we walk away. We forget that prayer is for God and not for us. We forget that we offer our time, ourselves to God. We forget that God is the all powerful and that it is Him that commands our attention and not the other way round. And when we realise, either by ourselves, or, by the grace of our Lord that it is in our unselfish prayer that brings us to Him, so close you can almost feel the warmth of his breath on your face, then, our prayer is made.
LORD, HELP ME TO BE UNSELFISH IN PRAYER.
Tuesday, Day Two
There is always a certain expectation when on retreat. There is an expectation on oneself to be almost fervent in prayer and be re awakened to scripture. There is an expectation on the guide, to provide the right text, the right word the right sense of company. And, let us not forget the expectation of our Lord to make himself known to us during this special time. I am still struck by the idea of unselfish time with God. It has shed new light on old thoughts. How do we meet our own expectation when the time doesn’t seem to be there to pray and to discuss that prayer? This is a universal condition, I am sure, and although our thoughts can be with God during the day our tender attention to Him is not. Is prayer a burden? Does it contain its own demands? Where do these demands come from? Sometimes all we are left with is our faith. “Your faith has saved you”
A work colleague looked at me today quite seriously and said “you are very holy aren’t you” and she stared at me for a time, looking almost puzzled as she tried to discover in her mind who I am. I looked back and laughed. I didn’t think it required an answer. And then I thought about it later. At that time I had the opportunity to say that I am not holy, I just love God. It really is very simple. But I didn’t think of it, it was an afterthought. It didn’t come to me as a natural answer and I was sorry that it didn’t. There are some very “holy” people out there, and many of them do not know what love is. Is it possible to be continually present to God in our everyday lives or do we accept that He will sometimes be placed as an afterthought?
I love music and I think sung words can have more impact at times than spoken words. It is easier to sing the truth guarded in the safety that it is a song rather than just naked words. We listened to a song and discussed in brief the importance of searching, and the importance too of being still-“Be still and know that I am God.” After searching for such a long time in so many different ways the singer felt “closer to fine”. She concludes that the less she searches and asks questions the closer she is to being fine, feeling well or whole even. My interpretation of this is that she spent so much effort in looking for answers about God that she never actually sat with Him and let him talk himself. She never listened. Her energy had expended itself on other things that were assisting her understanding of God but were not supporting her feeling of God. Is this too my experience? Where is the balance between searching and being still? Do they vary in importance throughout our lives? We know that God’s voice is often subtle, if he were to shout; we would become fearful and lose our way. So He doesn’t. He is patient. He waits for us. Thank God for that.
LORD, HELP ME TO BE STILL.
Wednesday, Day Three
Cardinal Basil Hume said that “doing nothing in prayer is still praying”. I suppose it would depend on whether that nothingness was for God or just clocking in the time for some other motive. There are many motives to prayer. There are many forms of prayer. “Zacchaeus welcomed Him joyfully”. How wonderful. Maybe that is what we are called to do in prayer? - to open up our hearts and welcome him joyfully into our lives, thoughts and feelings. To welcome him joyfully means to allow him into the darkness of burden and into the light of gratitude, or by just being present-the very thing we call nothing which is the greatest offering of all, for he is “gentle and humble in heart.”
As I review the year I imagine that God is distant. Or, maybe just different. Other things have demanded time and effort and priority. I believe in Him and His love and I know I love him, but in a different way now. I refer to it as God the Ex! Like a boyfriend once loved then separated from and still love, but in a different way. The need or desire to spend time with him isn’t so alluring and satisfying anymore yet that mystery still surrounds him. God the Ex. So it seems it’s time to encourage Him back into my life most probably by using honesty and giving that bit of extra time and effort to it. Relationships are a two way street and it is in faith that I wait for a response to that need. Or, maybe He wants me back too and it is only now I am considering responding to that invitation. “Love is patient, love is kind.” What is your invitation?
We must not forget the importance of how what is currently going on in our lives effect our prayer time too. If we are tired our prayer may be tiresome, if we are stressed our commitment to prayer may be stressful, etc. We come before God as a complete person and should accept that He knows us better than anyone else even ourselves. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” How do we become more fully alive to the Lord’s presence? I say I believe, and truly I do, but is it my unbelief that needs to be nurtured?
LORD, HELP ME TO WELCOME YOU JOYFULLY INTO MY LIFE.
Thursday, Day Four
The resurrection scenes are fuelled with high emotion. Our Lord says “Peace”. Healing brings peace, and peace brings us closer to Him.
LORD, HELP ME TO HEAL AND TO FIND PEACE.
Friday, Day Five
God spoke to me today and I heard His voice. I was happy that with just a few hours to go before the end of my retreat he made himself known to me. I didn’t expect to hear him where I did. My love for God is steadfast and although there comes in life trials that interfere with our relationship my love for him is never distorted. As Christians we know that Our God is a God of love, of peace, justice and compassion. “Praise the Lord my saviour.”
PRAISE THE LORD MY SAVIOUR.