(Inspired by Saint Ignatius of Loyola's love for God)
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You may be familiar with a Week of Guided Prayer or Directed RetreatGoes to the Parish, or to a particular prayer experience in your church community. This web site will be up for the month of June, 2014 in this format. It is written to especially invite people from Elora United Church to participate, but open to friends of same.
My experience with Praying the Scripture or Guided Prayer began as a ministry student while at Calvary United Church, Kitchener in 1980. The Rev Bruce Seebach introduced me to this form of prayer for which I am grateful. I have never read scripture in the same way since I experienced the Ignatius Disciplines.
Calvary United Church offered a congregational retreat during my student year with Fa. John Haley S.J. (Loyola House, Guelph, Ontario) as facilitator. Both Doug and I spend a day at a local retreat center, each in our own way, at our own pace, yet guided and encouraged by the Ignatius Exercises.
I was introduced to silent retreats at Loyola College, again with Fa John as my guide. I remember the modest room to which I was assigned with one small window, narrow mattress pad on a metal single bed and bare wall and floors. All meals were taken in silence in the dining room. Nodding to each other when meeting in the hallway was normal, but mostly one walked with head lowered.
I continued with the prayer exercises until in 1982 we went west to our mission church. By then I had an excellent library of Guides for Prayer, Spiritual Friends, Praying the Scripture, etc. The town in which I was placed in Alberta had previously had a much beloved Roman Catholic priest, which made it easier than I expected to introduce 'Praying the Scriptures'.
Upon returning to Guelph in 1984, I picked up with prayer opportunities and continued to learn and serve in this area.
The Rev John Buttars (then Harcourt United Church minister) along with others, facilitated several days of Guided Prayer at this church which linked with the Thursday afternoon gatherings at Loyola College/Guelph.
I have continued this tradition in different ways over more than thirty years of active pulpit/church ministry, with different sized groups in a variety of ways.
Web sites offer a special process. I hope you will enjoy this process provided..
I hope praying the scripture will become an ongoing practice for you as you fall into step with this way of communicating with God. After all, it is all about you and God.
Begin this special time with this or similar steps:
Environment: Choose a place and position that's comfortable for you. Prepare your environment with music, candles, running water, quietness, etc.
Presence: Acknowledge God's presence. This is a privileged time spend with God. It's all about relationship - this is a time to develop a deep connection with God.
Orientation: This is the time to meditate on the different ways our actions, thoughts and prayer can be directed toward God's praise and service. To do this well, it's significant to weighting the importance we put on created things as they can get in our way. How can we develop an 'indifference' to all (human) created things? The disciplines focus on the importance of this as the first step of detachment before going on to praying scripture..
"Jesus prayed alone. At times he prayed with others too, but frequently he prayed alone. As good as it is for me to be with others in prayer, the example of Jesus suggests that it is also good, even necessary to be alone with God and to pray in solitude" (Bishop of Crookston. Love: A Guide for Prayer Bergan/Schwan).
Some of the upcoming information and exercises are extracted from the manual, "Directed Retreat goes to the Parish:" John Feltri, S.J.writes:
"This is a manual. It contains things that you might like to copy and use for others. Go ahead. I tried to write it in such a way that you could use some of the things and discard others."
This particular invitation to the experience of prayer begins June 1, 2014. The lectionary readings for this week include the ascension of Jesus. He told his disciples, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gifts my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about."
Waiting is not a particular nice experience. It's filled with the unknown, uncertainty and surprises. This is where we begin. and here is where God will begin to speak to you through scripture as the Living Word.
I hope you will read and listen; read and listen again; and then read and journal, while continuing in prayer. Sit on your deck, in your favourite chair or under a tree. It is a journey. It is holy ground.
My early praying scripture resources still remain on my shelf:
Disciples and Other Strangers ( Dimension Books, N.J.1974) Edward J. Farrell
Opening to God (The Upper Room 1977) Carolyn Stahl
To Stand in the Cross (The Seabury Press, N.Y 1978 ) Francis B. Sayre Jr
Love, A Guided Prayer (St. Mary's Press, Minnesota1984) Jacqueline Bergan & S. Marie Schwan
Forgiveness: A Guide for Prayer (St. Mary's Press, Minnesota 1985) Bergan/Schwan
Surrender: A Guide for Prayer (St. Mary's Press, Minnesota 1986 Bergan/Schwan
Freedom: A Guide for Prayer (St. Mary's Press, Minnesota 1988) Bergan/Schwan
And of course every Maxie Dunnam prayer Workbook (Upper Room, Nashville, Tenn) that he wrote.
A few others that have escaped my book shelf go unnoted.