Saint Ignatius suggested about 400 different types of prayer and so when we use the phrase ‘Ignatian Prayer’ we have to recognise that this is a very wide discipline of prayer that we are talking about. One of my favourite websites for leading us in a type of Ignatian prayer is ‘Sacred Space’ – https://www.sacredspace.ie/ – give it a go if you have a moment!
We are having a sermon series on prayer and so I thought it might be good to share some thoughts and prayers here on the blog to.
The first one is about our deepest desires. Saint Ignatius believed that God speaks to us through our deepest desires – it is in that place where we find God. He believed that we can trust our feelings because at heart our very deepest desire is to return to God’s. Here is an exercise to get in touch with our deepest desires:
When was the last time you asked yourself what you really want?
And how long did you entertain that longing? Thirty seconds? A couple of minutes?
What inner or outer voices suggested that, whatever it was, you ought not to be so foolish as to think it could be satisfied?
At some point, did you judge yourself to be willful or selfish?
As those of you who come along to Family Praise will witness, my approach to prayer is not always conventional – I’ve used paper plates, bounced tennis balls, shouted, used different voices, threaded beads and thrown around balloons. In my own prayer life, I have ‘chats’ with God, sometimes I rant at him, I love praising him – but quiet, regular, devotional prayer is a struggle for me– so I was very interested in the recent ‘Teaching on Prayer’.
The first week, Alan spoke about the ‘Occasional Offices’ – these were new to me and seemed quite formal. Yet participating made me feel part of something bigger and there was an awareness of something ancient. It would not be something I personally would use regularly on my own, but I can appreciate that the formality will appeal to others.
The second week was much more up my street. Ignatian Prayer – in my very simple terms, reading a story from the Bible and then using your imagination to put yourself into that place and seeing what meaning or message you are given. It needs practice, but it is definitely something I will try again.
I feel God gives us our bodies and we prayer can be physical. In my younger days I was really self conscious and hated doing anything where I might look silly. Leading Family Praise cured me of that and now some of my favourite hymns are ones with actions. I even get the urge to wave my hands about during the main service – but restrain myself. So maybe it was not surprising that the session on Body Prayer was my favourite. There are set movements for different times of the Church year and we went through ‘Letting Go and Being Set Free’, which is for Confession and Absolution. The movements for the Lord’s Prayer added a dimension I had not known before and I have continued to use them sometimes.
Next came the session on Christian Meditation. There are many different types, but we were introduced to the John Main tradition. For those who have tried meditation, maybe as part of a yoga class, this was fairly familiar as it has its origin in those traditions. The intention is to push aside all the clutter in your mind. I found that fifteen minutes of silent meditation went amazingly quickly, but at the moment I’m not ready to do this unsupported. I would be interested to explore other types of Christian meditation though.
The final evening was about ‘Journaling’. We were encouraged to think about it as writing a letter to God, remembering how special it is to receive a handwritten letter. We tried it out and I enjoyed the experience – to do it regularly will take some discipline but I’m going to try.
I really enjoyed the five sessions. It just shows that prayer can be very diverse and not everyone has to communicate with God in the same way. For me, it opened up new ways of praying. Personally, I think God really doesn’t mind how we pray, all He wants is for us to spend time with Him.
artwork by Alison Ridgeon
on the Prayer Course!Are you interested in spirituality and prayer?
Would you like to try out five different methods of prayer?
Starting at the end of April, St Mark’s Church in Upper Hale, Farnham, GU9 0LT is hosting a five week course on prayer. Each week, a speaker will come to talk about one form of prayer and then help people try it out.
The guest speakers include Linda Scrivener – an Ignatian trained spiritual director who has led quiet days and Individually guided retreats, based at St. Columba’s house, Diane Rutter – a Companion in the dispersed Christian community, Contemplative Fire, and Jan McGrory – a member and Oblate of the World Community of Christian Meditation.
Come to St Mark’s on Tuesday evenings at 7:30pm, the schedule is below:
26/4 Introduction & The Daily Office
3/5 Ignatian Meditation
10/5 Body Prayer
17/5 Christian Meditation
The evenings are free, and there is no need to book – just turn up on the night.
To find out more contact the Reverend Alan Crawley on 01252 820537 or firstname.lastname@example.org