Prayer is not a ‘spare wheel’ that you pull out when in trouble, instead it is a ‘steering wheel ‘ that directs the right path throughout life.
Introduce yourself to the group and share one thing about yourself that you would like the group to know about you!
AIM: To introduce the topic of prayer and the use of a journal, in an atmosphere that promotes and develops trust within this new GPRL community.
We intend to enable each person to. . . .
Become aware of their own experience of prayer and related factors: occasions, places, resources, posture, content and process
Experience ‘led’ prayer using Scripture
Begin to use a journal as a tool for reflection, both now and later.
Introductions of self : name, where you’re from, and one thing you want to share
About the Course
Zoom Online GPRL Sessions
Sharing in groups (Listening groups . . . Confidentiality)
Home-time work (Pray – Read – Journal)
Resources (session – website – personal) Bible
Commitment to Group (Attendance; absence – please email or WhatsApp in advance if possible)
As you begin the course:
Hopes . .expectations .. anxieties .. concerns
Journal . . . Buzz
Prayer—we all have some experience
Personal Reflection . . . Plenary
A Led Experience of Prayer
Relax / Read / Guided reflection / conversation
Journal . . . . Buzz
Led Review of the evening
At Home (At Home box)
- Stilling music – “Onse Vader” sung by Raimondo van Staden-Slabbert and Dr Johannes van Staden-Slabbert
Ignatian Spirituality encourages us:
- To find God in all things
- To develop a relationship with God who desires to be in a relationship with each of us
- That God initiates, extending the invitation to follow him, and I choose to respond to Christ’s pre-existing call to follow him
- That God is involved with all people and has always been involved, whether we are aware of it or not
- That Jesus reveals the nature of God to us
- To live a life of contemplation in action
Where will you pray? Tidy the spot and prepare it, perhaps with a candle or Bible or picture or flower as a point of focus.
What will you use for prayer? Read it slowly – perhaps even aloud – until you have a sense of it.
As you settle in your place of prayer, take a few minutes to become still:
Consciously relax each part of your body, focusing on each part in turn
Relax your breath; allow it to become slower, deeper, more regular
Become aware of God welcoming you – by name, perhaps with the words he said to Jesus at his baptism: You, [Your Name], are my beloved son/daughter. In you I am well pleased. Become aware of how you sense God – tone of voice, demeanor, look on his face etc. Relax into God’s presence.
Slowly recall your prayer text. Become aware of how it ‘touches’ you: Perhaps a word, image or idea stands out; perhaps it’s something that you sense/feel – about God or yourself or the scene in general.
Toss these over in your mind: Why they stand out for you? Perhaps they resonate with an area of your life, or a person, or a situation you have been involved in, or a hope or desire that you may have. Perhaps they say something to you about God or about yourself. How do you sense God and yourself?
Using your own words, share with God – as with a friend – whatever you want to share about them, simply, openly, honestly.
Listen for what God may have to say to you: What do you sense God is saying?
Bring your prayer to a formal close, using either the Our Father (which is your desire for the kingdom of God to be realized in the world and in you) or the Glory be to the Father (which is a thanksgiving prayer to God for being part of your life).
Take a short break, perhaps making a cup of tea, and then reflect back on your prayer, making notes in your journal:
What did you use? How long did you spend? How, in general did the time feel: still, peaceful, empty, a struggle etc.
What stood out for you . . . . How did you feel as you considered each . . . What might be behind your feelings?
How were God/Jesus and you present to each other?
Who was the God you met in your prayer – a God of compassion, encouragement, generosity, forgiveness, a God who doesn’t judge, etc?
Is there anything that you feel you need to go back to . . . Any unfinished business . . Anything that calls for further attention . . . Anything that calls for action?
If you have ‘exhausted’ this passage, be prepared to find a new one for your next prayer period.
With reference to any experiences of prayer that you may have had, consider the following:
Where did you learn to pray? Who taught you? What did they teach you?
Where have you prayed – and why there?
When do you pray . . . What prompts you to pray?
What is your preferred time of prayer? Is time important?
What postures have you used for prayer? Is posture significant/helpful?
What do you use for prayer?
What do you do when you pray?
Questions for Considering at Home
Have you ever shared your prayer with anyone? If you have, how did you find that?
What do you find most helpful about prayer?
What do you find most problematic about prayer?
What questions might you want to ask about prayer?
“For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Reading the Bible is difficult. It gave rise to 43 000 Christian denominations all over the world, all claiming the truth. A good question then will be: “How do we get to the truth that we believe in?” A possible answer for this dilemma was already posed by St. Gregory of Nyssa (c 330-395) to read the Bible with our heart and not only with our head and to experience living, active power that is hidden in the text. St. Gregory knew that one of our big temptations is control, and that human nature tends to use the Bible for its own purposes. Instead of God handling the sword, we become sword masters. Instead of making God the object of our study, we should become the object. In other words we should read the Bible, in order that the Bible can read us. That can only happen through deep prayer.
He proposed a way of developing a closer relationship with God by reflecting prayerfully on His words. He called it Lectio Divina or godly reading. In Lectio Divina, the chosen text is read four times in total, giving an opportunity to think deeply about it and respond thoughtfully.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
When I found your words, I devoured them; your words were my joy, the happiness of my heart (Jeremiah 15:16).
It is like looking at the meal that is placed before you, deciding which part you want to eat first, which looks the best, what you want to save for last, and taking that first bite.
Read slowly, the second time more slowly and then even more slowly.
It is like chewing on the food, tasting it, deciding whether you like it or not or if you want more of it or want to try another part of the dish. Meditatio means: “To roll around and about in your mind”. Fast-food is also in the order of the day in spiritual circles, and we don’t have time to digest the food that God gives. We need to take it slow and notice all the textures and flavours of the Scripture.
We share our meal with God, and conversation tends to flow naturally. It is not only about the food, but also about Jesus at the table. Oratio means speech, discourse, or dialogue. Spontaneous and vulnerable prayers are birth in a safe place of honesty.
After the food is tasted, the conversation, the laughter, the friendship, we “rest” in the company of the other. Now is the time to take it all in, savouring it, enjoying it, just “being” there with the God that you love.
Lastly, Fr Keating describes the four stages of Lectio Divina as compass points around a circle, with the Holy Spirit moving seamlessly between them. It is helpful to follow the stages in order. Like learning an instrument, once the basics are learned, one can improvise!
Dr Theo Geyser
I am standing at the door,
if you hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
Christ Knocks at the Door
The picture, known as Christ, the Light of the World, was painted by Holman Hunt, 1851-53, and is now in St Paul’s Cathedral. It is associated with Revelation 3:20.
Opening the Door
The image of Revelation 3:20 inspired the artist to depict our relationship with Christ in a popular painting. The painting shows a door overgrown with vines. The door obviously has not been opened in a long time. As you examine it, you realize it has no outside latch or knob – it can be opened only from the inside. At the door stands Jesus, knocking – not pounding, just knocking patiently.
What is your relationship with Christ like right now? Is the door of your life open to let Christ in, or has it been closed for a while? Jesus will not force his way into your life. Jesus seeks a close friendship with you, and real friendship – real love – always involves a free choice. No one can choose to open the door but you.
Complete any unfinished parts of what we did in the session.
Choose one or two of the texts below to pray with, perhaps one from Scripture and one other.
Try using the prayer guidelines above, if you find these helpful.
Pray with each of your texts for around 15 minutes during the week (longer if you have time).
Before the next session, re-read the notes in your journal.
As you read, be aware of what stands out for you; perhaps make some notes of this.
LINK: An example of a reflection on the painting Light of the World by William Holman Hunt
Some Texts for Prayer During the Week
I made you in my own image and likeness, and when I made you, I saw that you were very good (Gen 1:27-31). [So] you are a work of art (Eph 2:10) and part of my household (Eph 2:22).
This is my prayer –
that, though I may not see,
I may be aware
of the silent God
who stands by me;
that, thought I may not feel,
I may be aware
of the mighty love
who doggedly follows me;
that, though I may not respond,
I may be aware
my silent, mighty God
waits each day,
waits each day
and through each night
for me – alone!
As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, so the Lord will protect you (Deuteronomy 32: 11).
For God is there
And God will watch,
All my life
For me, for me
To come to Him,
And the way is there –
Though only dimly comprehended . .
But God – this patient God,
Do not be afraid, . . . . . . , for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name, you are mine. Should you pass through the sea, I will be with you; or through rivers, they will not swallow you up. Should you walk through fire, you will not be scorched and the flames will not burn you. For I am Yahweh, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. You are precious in my eyes. You are honoured and I love you. (Is 43:1-4)
In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people (Ephesians 6:18).
‘I’m prone to distractions, God.
I find it hard
To keep my thoughts on you.’
God looked down
‘I wish I could say
The same about you.
I can’t get you out of my mind.’
(The Book of Furrows. Patrick Purnell, S.J.)
Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mt 11:28-30)
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)