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 23: Step Seven: An Examen of Consciousness
The moment we say YES to God‘s desire for relationship with us, God gives himself abundantly to us, pouring out gifts greater than our hearts could fathom. This is the key to the deepest reality of our lives: we are loved. This love spills over into the concrete ways our life unfolds, and God desires our response, our love in return.
Take a moment now to think back over the past day or so. In hindsight where can you see God giving himself to you, God drawing you, God loving you?
God desires our love in return for his love. Love is not just a feeling, an attraction, but a decision in the deepest part of our being to put God and his desires first in our life, a decision which actually honors our own deepest truth. But we also know that many other desires, needs, addictions, and values stir up interior movements in our hearts that sway us away from the attraction of this love. God works concretely in our day and there are interior movements in our hearts that are opposed to these workings.
Holy Spirit, grant me the insight to see what God has been doing in my life this day. Where has he been attracting me? Consoling me? Calling me? Changing me? Help me to see the interior movements that have been opposing God‘s activity and desires in my life. Grant me insight and wisdom so that I might overcome all that hinders my freedom and so that God‘s life in me through grace might abound all the more.
Take some time to review the day hour by hour looking for the affective quality of your prayer or work or relationships. Look for those places in which you felt spiritual consolation accompanied by a sense of clarity and light. Where did you feel troubled and spiritual desolation?
Choose one incident or reaction that stands out particularly for you at this time. Recall to mind the details of the incident and its context, the people involved and how it make you feel. Ask yourself if you are experiencing consolation:
- Is the experience moving you toward God?
- Are you more accepting of others?
- Have you become more sensitive and gentle?
- Do you have a more realistic view of yourself?
- If the incident is painful, are you sad because God has been offended?
- Underneath tension or conflict, is there a sense of faith?
- Are you turned in on yourself or outward toward others?
Or are you experiencing desolation:
- Do you feel more turned in on yourself?
- Has God slipped out of your consciousness?
- Is he no longer a part of your activities?
- Do you feel alone and separated from God, even though you desire to be with him?
- Does everything seem confused or difficult?
- Are you ―happy,‖ but with a sense that you are fooling yourself?
- Is the experience moving you away from the Lord?
- Are things out of perspective?
As you take notice of your feelings, ask yourself what are the thoughts that arise from these feelings. Discern which thoughts are of God and which are not. Which thoughts bring light, clarity, and a sense of connection with a loving God? Which thoughts bring confusion, discouragement, and a sense of disconnection with God? Accept those of God and reject those that are not of God.
Examine the desires of your heart and discern whether these are in accord with God‘s desires or not. When you recognize desires in your heart that are not in harmony with God‘s desires, ask for the grace to let your plans and dreams go and to surrender to God‘s dreams for you. Surrender all.
Ask forgiveness for the ways in which you have been straying along the path of his love. Take some time to meditate on the passion, the parable of the Prodigal Son, the parable of the lost sheep sought for by the Good Shepherd, the woman who washed Jesus‘ feet, or any other passage from Scripture which strengthens your trust in God‘s love for you personally. Place yourself in the scene. Speak directly to Jesus. Allow him to speak to you. Take some time to experience God‘s love for you outpoured now even more abundantly after your prayer of sorrow.
Look ahead to the day to come.
Choose one activity, situation, relationship or event in which you want to be more in sync with God’s desires for you. Imagine what this would look like. Curiously ponder: what could be different about this activity or situation? What are various new approaches you could take? What do you need in order to be different when accomplishing this work? Be specific. Ask the Spirit to come into that activity with you, in you, and through you.
Write a letter to Jesus or journal briefly regarding what you have learned in this prayer about yourself and about God‘s desires for you.