A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing
It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.
The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.
Topic 18: Step Two: Rumblings and Resistance
For this exercise of prayer you will need a pen and paper.
There are times when we can‘t settle down to pray. Sometimes it is very apparent to us why. Feelings are strong and our thoughts are chaotic. Other times we think we are settled inside but we can‘t pray. There can be many reasons for this, but at times this situation may be the result of our not really being aware of the rumblings and resistances within us. The following exercise is helpful for these times of prayer. Sometimes I can complete the exercise in 15 minutes. Other times it can become a deeper prayer that lasts a couple hours. In either case it inevitably leads to a much closer relationship with God.
Draw on the paper a stick figure representing how you feel right now. With an X mark those parts of your body which are registering tension. After a while you will notice a pattern. Don‘t try to relax the tension, just observe it.
Then begin a list to the right of the stick figure of anything that begins to come into your mind: emotions, memories, situations, thoughts. Each of them should be only one, two, or three words. For example, after a stressful day I compiled the list: time limit, deadline, demands, force, control, make it happen, want this for myself, shame, emptied. Let us take a minute to explore this list before beginning the exercise for ourselves. This list represents the situation that is creating the tension: perceived time limits and deadlines. It moves on to how I am dealing with the situation: force, control, make it happen. Then the list begins to reflect how I feel about myself as I respond to the situation: want this for myself, shame, emptied. Simply start freely writing down whatever you think or feel or remember or desire as the words and feelings come to you. Do not worry about any particular order. The point is simply awareness.
Underneath the list you have already created next to the stick figure that images how you feel, write the strongest presenting emotion. Then drop the story and just concentrate on what it is to feel this emotion. Ask yourself what is underneath this emotion and wait for a flickering indication of something different moving beneath the layer of this feeling. Write it down next on the list. Concentrate on this feeling and ask what is underneath it. When you become aware of it, write it down, and so forth until you reach the deepest emotion.
That deepest emotion is protecting the most vulnerable and sacred center of our soul. If we allow our awareness to slip past the pain and fear of that defensive ―outpost‖ we will discover a place and a presence. For each person I pray with, this sacred place looks slightly different, but it always is beautiful and there is the clear personal presence of God.
This is a most beautiful place to pray, a contemplative, still, quiet resting.
You are my God.
You are forever.
You are all.
You are darkness and light.
You are near by and far away.
You are in the stars and you are in every cell of my body.
You are the beginning and the end.’
You are invisible. You are safe.
You are strength.
You are patience.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are the fury of truth that will not back down.
You are the tenderness of love that will never end.17
Remain in silence. Accept whatever you are feeling: peace, anger, resistance, bitterness, joy, hope, and excitement. Let the feelings rise and fall until there is silence.
“Heal me, Lord” (inhale) and “Hold me” (exhale)