The Week of Guided Prayer introduced in the last edition of Outlook has come, but for me and many of the other pilgrims certainly not gone! The experiences of the week will continue to resonate with many of us, awakening us to the presence of God in our lives, to his closeness and to the intense and unconditional love he has for us. Many of us will continue to pray with the Bible as we were shown, and some of us will seek out opportunities through retreats and quiet days to continue the journey. Some of us may even seek out a prayer guide to make sure we have a companion along the way.
What we were shown in the week was a way of prayer based on the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. We communicate with God through the human faculties that he created for us, including our imagination and capacity for visualisation. By finding a quiet place each day, with phones diverted and family distracted, we can enter into a peace and stillness where we can draw ourselves into Gods presence. The chosen Bible passage, gently absorbed, without expectation or anxiety, can soak into the fabric of our being. We can imagine ourselves in the scene depicted, there with Jesus as he walks and talks. We can see his face and talk to him, and in the stillness we can hear, or feel, or understand his response. Sometimes this emerges gently; sometimes with mind-blowing power!
We come together on the first day, to establish the community of prayer, so that we can hold each other in our thoughts and prayers during the week, and to meet the guide allocated to each of us. We entrust the week to God, and, whatever the experience, it will be unique to each pilgrim. The guide provides an idea for a passage for the following day, and explores any doubts or anxieties. Most importantly, the guide listens to the pilgrims experience of the prayer, and shares the joys and difficulties and pains. Sometimes the pilgrim can experience a complexity of feelings and thoughts and the guide can help to deepen understanding. Sometimes the pilgrims experience may seem barren and the guide can help to find God even in these empty times.
If you did not join us on the Week of Guided Prayer, but would like to know a little more, Gerard Hughess book God of Surprises might be helpful to you.
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