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Daily Prayer - 2013-01-27

Presence

I remind myself that, as I sit here now,

God is gazing on me with love and holding me in being.

I pause for a moment and think of this.

Freedom

"In these days, God taught me
as a schoolteacher teaches a pupil" (Saint Ignatius).
I remind myself that there are things God has to teach me yet,
and ask for the grace to hear them and let them change me.

Consciousness

In God's loving presence I unwind the past day,

starting from now and looking back, moment by moment.

I gather in all the goodness and light, in gratitude.

I attend to the shadows and what they say to me,

seeking healing, courage, forgiveness.

The Word of God

Luke 1: 1-4, 4, 14-21

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary.

Some thoughts on today's scripture

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  • I must take personally what God says here. He says: ‘You are the one I choose today to bring good news to the poor and oppressed. The Holy Spirit is upon you. I am sending you!’ Jesus saw these statements as giving him his identity. Do they give me mine?
  • Holy Spirit of God, you are the living force in the words of the Gospel we proclaim. You are the wind on which the message about Jesus is borne to others. Our agenda is to proclaim you. This is worth all the trouble that this life can bring.

Conversation

Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.

Conclusion

I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.

Amen

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

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)

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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