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Daily Prayer - 2013-01-06

Presence

I pause for a moment and think of the love and the grace that God showers on me, creating me in his image and likeness, making me his temple....

Freedom

It is so easy to get caught up

with the trappings of wealth in this life.

Grant, O Lord, that I may be free

from greed and selfishness.

Remind me that the best things in life are free.

Love, laughter, caring and sharing.

Consciousness

Knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I can afford to be honest about how I am. How has the last day been, and how do I feel now?
I share my feelings openly with the Lord.

The Word of God

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherd my people Israel.
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Some thoughts on today's scripture

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  • I loved the Bavarian custom of chalking G M B (Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar) on the wall of each room of the house on Epiphany morning. These are the names that tradition assigns to the Magi, representing all the nations of the world. More and more it is true that the nations of the world move to our shores, and come into my home. Do they discover you there, Lord? If justice and love are to be found in my home, then visitors, like the Magi, will be overwhelmed with joy, and pay you homage.

Conversation

Do I notice myself reacting as I pray with the Word of God? Do I feel challenged, comforted, angry? Imagining Jesus sitting or standing by me, I speak out my feelings, as one trusted friend to another.

Conclusion

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,

 world without end.

Amen

If you appreciated the daily prayer or have any suggestions or insights we will be glad to hear from you.

Awareness of the Presence of God

If someone asked you to give them another word for 'God', you could use the word 'Presence', for that is what God is. When Moses asked Yahweh his name, Yahweh replied, 'I am who am' and this means 'I am present'. God is really saying, 'I shall be there for you.' God is intimately present to everything, and especially to us. Jesus's name is Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us'. Matthew's Gospel ends with the marvellous statement: Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.
(from Finding God in All Things by Brian Grogan SJ)

Body Exercise

Sit in your chair, upright but comfortable, with your back supported. Let your body relax (without slouching), with your feet on the floor in front of you and your hands at rest on your thighs or joined in your lap.

Close your eyes, or fix them on some point in front of you. Now let your whole attention focus on what you can feel in your body. You may start at your feet and work upwards, letting your attention dwell, perhaps only for a few seconds, on whatever part of the body you can feel, shifting attention from one part of the body to the other, although the longer you can hold attention on one part, the better. Your attention is on what you are feeling, not on thoughts about feeling. If you are uncomfortable, or itch or want to move position, just acknowledge the discomfort, assure yourself that it is all right and, without moving, continue to focus attention on what you can feel in the body.

The mind rarely leaves us long in peace to do this, but begins to demand attention with comment and questions: This is a waste of valuable time. What has this to do with prayer? Is this some kind of Hindu thing? What is the point of it? Deal with the questions and comment as you dealt with the itch; acknowledge them, then return to feeling the body.

You can, if you like, move into more explicit prayer by repeating to yourself St Paul's phrase, In him I live, and move, and have my being.

(adapted from God of Surprises by Gerry W Hughes SJ)

Breathing Exercise

This exercise involves concentrating all your attention on the physical feelings of breathing in and breathing out, without deliberately changing the rhythm of your breathing.

Focus attention on feeling the cold air entering your nostrils and the warm air when you exhale. At first you may become self conscious about your breathing and find it becomes irregular, but this does not, as a rule, continue. If it were to do so, and you find yourself becoming breathless, then this exercise is not for you at present.

Most people find that on doing this exercise the pattern of their breathing changes, the breath becoming deeper and slower, and they begin to feel drowsy. In itself, it is a very good relaxation exercise, but if you care to use it for more explicit prayer, then let the inbreathing express all that you long for in life, however impossible it may seem in practice, and let the out-breath express your surrender of everything to God, all of your life with its worries, sins, guilt and regrets.

It is important to do this without self-judgement, whether of approval or disapproval. Keep your attention fixed on your desire to hand over all these worries about self, and do not clutch at them as if they were a treasured possession.

(adapted from God of Surprises by Gerry W Hughes SJ)

Listening Exercise

Sit in your chair, upright but comfortable, with your back supported.

Now just notice the sounds that you can hear, sounds far away. Just hear them, don't even try to name them.....

Notice fainter sounds, then sounds which are nearer. Just listen, become aware of them.....

And the sound of your own heartbeat, faint, but your own rhythm of life....

And the sound of silence in your place of prayer, the silence within yourself....

Listen like this for a few minutes.

(adapted from Praying in Lent by Donal Neary SJ)

God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

- Written by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Praying for freedom

This prayer helps us to put ourselves at God's disposal. Saint Ignatius describes this 'Preparatory prayer' as asking for 'the grace that all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed purely to the praise and service of the Divine Majesty.' (The Spiritual Exercises, no. 46) You might try these words:

Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this time.
I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.
Please help me to clarify and purify my intentions.
I have so many contradictory desires.
I get preoccupied with things that don't really matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart,
whatever I do will follow my new heart.

In all that I am today, all that I try to do,
all my encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings
and especially in this time of prayer,
in all of this may I place my life in your hands.
Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. Amen.

Prayer for review of consciousness

Lord, you know me better than I know myself. Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life. Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me. Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life. Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation, and closed myself off from you. Help me in the day to come, to recognise your presence in my life, to open myself to you, to let you work in me, to your greater glory. Amen.

Listening to the Word

Read over the passage, slowly, several times and see if any word or phrase stands out for you, and stay with that phrase for as long as you like before turning your attention to any other.

The process is a bit like sucking a boiled sweet (for US readers, hard candy). Do not try to analyse the phrase, just as you would not normally break up a boiled sweet and subject it to chemical analysis before tasting it.

Often a phrase will catch the attention of our subconscious mind's needs long before our conscious mind is aware of the reason for the attraction. That is why it is good to remain with the phrase for as long as possible without trying to analyse it.

I may find all sorts of distractions running through my mind, but some thoughts, far from being distractions, can become the substance of my prayer. It is as though the phrase of Scripture is a searchlight which plays upon my stream of consciousness, thoughts, memories, reflections, daydreams, hopes, ambitions, fears, and I pray out of the mixture of God's word and my inner thoughts and feelings.

Scripture as a Searchlight

The opening verse of the Bible, Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep and God's spirit hovered over the water, is describing a present state of affairs, not a past event, and when I pray from the Scriptures I am letting the spirit of God hover over the chaos and darkness of my being.

When I allow the word of God to hover over my preoccupations, then anything can happen, for he is the God of surprises. It is important that I do not hide my inner chaos from the word of God or from myself. We are often so trained that we think it wrong to allow any negative feelings entry into our prayer, especially negative feelings about God. We have to learn to grow out of this training, expressing our feelings and thoughts freely before God and trusting that he is big enough to take our tantrums. There is no point in pretending before God, who knows us better than we know ourselves.

There is no thought, feeling or desire within you which cannot become the substance of your prayer in the light of God's word, when you know that God loves the chaos that is you and that his Spirit working in you can do infinitely more than you can think or imagine.

Dealing with Distractions

Trying to pray like this, it may well happen that the mind begins to fill with questions and apparent distractions. How do I know that I am not deceiving myself? How do I know these words are true, that God really does communicate himself through them? Do I really have faith in God? These are valid questions, but for now let them wait. When a child is frightened in the night, mother goes and lifts the child and says, 'It's all right,' and the child gradually quietens. But if she has a prodigy on her hands who replies, 'But mother, what epistemological and metaphysical assumptions are you making in that statement and what empirical evidence can you adduce in support of your contention?' then mother really has a problem in her arms. In prayer we are like that impossible child if we refuse to listen to God until he has measured up to whatever criteria we may care to lay down. We communicate with him first with our hearts. The heart is not mindless: it has reasons, deeper than we can see at first with our conscious minds.

Having left the questions aside for now, what do I do with all the other distractions which flood my mind? I may begin to wonder if I left the gas on, or remember an Email I forgot to send. If it is urgent, like the gas, the safest thing is to go and check. With matters that can wait, perhaps jot them down for later. Anything else which comes to mind, far from being a distraction, can become the substance of my prayer.

Conversing with Jesus

Imagine you see Jesus sitting close to you. In doing this you are putting your imagination at the service of your faith. Jesus isn't here in the way you are imagining him, but he certainly is here, and your imagination helps to make you aware of this. Now, speak to Jesus .... if no one is around, speak out in a soft voice .... Listen to what Jesus says to you in reply, or what you imagine him to say .... That is the difference between thinking and praying. When we think, we generally talk to ourselves. When we pray, we talk to God.

Anthony de Mello SJ, Sadhana pages 78-79

Saint Ignatius calls this conversation a 'colloquy', and says:

A colloquy is made, properly speaking, in the way one friend speaks to another, or a servant to one in authority - now begging a favour, now accusing oneself of some misdeed, now telling one's concerns and asking counsel about them. .... In the colloquies we ought to converse and beg according to the subject matter; that is, in accordance with whether I find myself tempted or consoled, desire to possess one virtue or another, or to dispose myself in one way or another, or to experience sorrow or joy over the matter I am contemplating. And finally I ought to ask for what I more earnestly desire in regard to some particular matters.

The Spiritual Exercises nos 54, 199

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