Jan shared the following Friday Five last week. I didn't have the time then even to think about it, but the questions address one of my favorite topics, so I thought I'd work through them this morning:
Jan says, "At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled "Turning to the Mystics" at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST. We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being."
So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not:
1. How do you pray?
Most often I use the website Pray As You Go, which provides a daily 12-15 minutes of music, scripture, and questions to ponder. Some days I sit with a journal and spend an hour on it, some days I listen as I get dressed, some days I listen as I walk.
Other than that I tend to vary what I do. Some days the Daily Office readings at this site, some days the lectionary or other Scripture passages, some days some sort of devotional book, my favorite being Celtic Benediction. Some days silence for long periods of time. I tend to use my walks for intercessory prayer.
Sometimes my prayer is all about journaling; sometimes, coloring; sometimes, photography; sometimes, listening to music.
I try to pray the daily examen, which I have been moving to mornings, since I tend to fall asleep in the middle if I leave it till nighttime!
2. How has your idea of prayer changed over time?
I was introduced to imaginative prayer, to repetitive reflection, to prayer as listening, and to "everything as prayer" when I made the Spiritual Exercises. I suppose that I had been praying reflectively, mulling things over in the context of scripture, music, and sermons, for a long time before I stumbled upon the Exercises, but without any sort of framework.
The biggest change over the past decade is that prayer is now a constant for me. Something that at one time I struggled to incorporate into my life in some form or other, even for just a few minutes, now pervades my days.
3. Do you ever sit in silent prayer? How does it go?
Often, and it varies. I am challenged by distractions the same as everyone else is.
4. Do you have any difficulties and/or pleasures in prayer?
I have difficulties, but these days most of them have to do with exercising forbearance in the face of the language others often use to pray. Pleasures these days have mostly to do with listening to others describe their own lives of prayer. So often one would never guess at the profound interior lives of and spirit-led transformations occurring in people who look just like the rest of us, ordinary people going about ordinary lives of family, friends, and work. And so often they exert far more impact on me and my own journey with God than I could ever expect to foster in them.
5. What is the best advice that helped you with prayer?
I have been graced with extraordinary teachers in the life of prayer; it would be impossible to and ferret out one strand of best advice. I suppose that there are probably two succinct phrases that I try to remember: "We are all always beginners" and "Listen."
Bonus: Share something about prayer or an example of a prayer you like.
These days I am listening to two sets of CDs in the car that each, in its own way, is affecting my life of prayer. One is a new series on the daily examen, the practice reviewing your day in the light of your movements toward and away from God. I've read lots of material on the examen (reading is always so much easier than practicing!), but this particular series by Howard Gray, S.J., my spiritual director through the Exercises, is filled with riches in insight and eloquence.
The other is Barbara Brown Taylor's sermon series on water, preached at Chautauqua last summer. Each summer week of the Chautauqua season is devoted to a theme around which morning lectures, daily worship, afternoon speakers, and other special programming spins. BBT did a magnificent job last year of drawing drink from, as she says, "the big book of creation and the little book of scripture."