Some of the spiritual practices in your email each week will require a little guidance if you're new to them. These guides will help you get started.
1. Lectio Divina
(The following is from the book 'Quiet' by AJ Sherrill.)
In the sixth century, St. Benedict developed a meditative approach to Scripture reading called lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”). This method prioritizes what God is speaking to us just as much as what God spoke to our ancestors. In other words, lectio divina invites the Holy Spirit into the reading as it moves the reader and four distinct directions: Read, meditate, pray, contemplate.
So as not to get bogged down with new terminology, follow this simple pathway in your scripture reading today:
Create an inviting/inspiring space. Perhaps this means lighting a candle, tidying a room, creating a playlist to underscore, and sitting in your favorite chair.
Select a passage to read from Scripture.
Have paper/journal and a pen handy.
Give yourself to these four directions (20 minutes total, 5 minutes for each).
READ - Slowly read the selected text 3 times.
REFLECT - Select a word or phrase off the page that sticks out.
WRITE - Spend time writing about why you selected that word or phrase.
REST - suspend all thought and sit quietly with God. Trust that God heard your worry, anxiety and/or longings, and is acting on your behalf (Romans 8:28).
2. Prayer of Examen
(Adapted from Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids)
The Prayer of Examen is a daily spiritual exercise typically credited to St. Ignatius of Loyola [1491-1556], who encouraged fellow followers to engage in the practice for developing a deeper level of spiritual sensitivity and for recognizing and receiving the assistance of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the practice is increasingly becoming aware of God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s movement throughout your day.
Practicing the Prayer of Examen
This Prayer of Examen is primarily an exercise in remembering. One is invited, through four portions [presence, gratitude, review, and response], to concentrate on experiences and encounters from the past 24 hours. The beauty of the practice is its simplicity; it is more a guide than a prescription.
If some portion feels especially important on a given day, feel the freedom to spend all or most
of your time in that portion. The purpose is to increase awareness and sensitivity, not to finish or accomplish a task.
Suggested Practice Guide:
A comfortable and relatively quiet location is likely most conducive for reflecting
The experience doesn’t need to be a certain length—as little as ten minutes could be sufficient, and you could spend more time on certain portions compared to others
It might be helpful to journal your thoughts and recollections or to write out what you notice during your times of prayer
Consider sharing your experiences: allow encouragement and insight from others to influence you and cheer you on, and when appropriate give the same, together striving to be an ever-faithful “community of solitudes”.
For a full description, go to tinyurl.com/ExamenFull
3. Centering Prayer
(Adapted from The Method of Centering Prayer Leaftlet by Contemplative Outreach Ltd.)
We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. In the Christian tradition Contemplative Prayer is considered to be the pure gift of God. It is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing - closer than consciousness itself.
Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of Contemplative Prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier times in an updated form. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; rather it casts a new light and depth of meaning on them. It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.
Suggested Practice Guide:
Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within e.g. holy, Jesus, Father etc.
Sitting comfortably but uprightly and with eyes closed settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
When you become aware of thoughts*, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer period (minimum 20 mins recommended), remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
*thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections.
Explore more Centering Prayer
If you would like to develop the practice of centering prayer the following resources may prove useful:
- The Method of Centering Prayer Leaflet from contemplativeoutreach.org - the originators of the modern practice of centring prayer.
- Centering Prayer iOS app from contemplativeoutreach.org. (App)
- Centering Prayer (Track 3) on Vapour EP by The Liturgists. (Audio Liturgy) | Website | Spotify | iTunes
- Centering Prayer II (Track 7) on Garden EP by The Liturgists. (Audio Liturgy) | Website | Spotify | iTunes
4. The Sign of the Cross
It may be helpful to use this guide as you open and end your time of daily prayer when prompted to use the Sign of the Cross.
The Sign of the Cross is a symbolic gesture which marks the four points of the cross over ones body. In general Orthodox practice (there are many others), the right hand is used. The thumb, index and middle finger brought to a point symbolise the Trinity, three persons sharing a single essence. The remaining two fingers are kept pressed close together and to the palm, representing the human and divine natures united together in Jesus Christ. They are then placed on the forehead after that moved down to the solar plexus. Finally the hand is moved to the right shoulder and horizontally across to the left. As one moves through the Sign, one recites, at the forehead, "In the name of the Father"; at the solar plexus, "and of the Son"; and across the shoulders, "and of the Holy Spirit, Amen." It also represents loving God with all one's heart (when touching solar plexus), soul (when touching left shoulder), mind (when touching forehead) and strength (when touching right shoulder).