Livin’ on a Prayer

Last night we had some great discussions surrounding prayer. We may or may not have also performed the greatest impromptu version of Livin’ on a Prayer ever recorded. It was fantastic! I wanted to share some ideas for ways to engage in prayer. I am posting pictures of the prayer beads we created last night, and also a resource I have created that explores seven different ways to pray. Let me know if you have any questions (britt.conley@gmail.com). Peace!

Here is a picture of the prayer beads…

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And a picture of what the different beads mean and how to use them…

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What is Prayer?
Seven Experiments in Response to God

Prayer can sometimes be a confusing or scary concept. However, there are many ways to pray and connect with God. Prayer is simply our response to the God who created humanity and continues to create within us and around us. Prayers can be words, actions, thoughts, or the ways we form our lives in following Jesus each and every day.

The following are seven prayer experiments, designed from different traditions within the Christian prayer story. Attempt each experiment in a way that is meaningful to you. Allow the experiment to guide and shape your connection with and response to God. Hopefully, you will emerge from the experiments with a greater understanding of the ways you can engage in prayer.

Experiment 1: Consciousness Examen
Experiment 2: 10 Minutes of Silence
Experiment 3: Day of Fasting
Experiment 4: Bible Meditation
Experiment 5: Prayer Walk
Experiment 6: Alphabet Prayers
Experiment 7: Prayer Visualizations

 

Experiment 1: Consciousness Examen

The examen is derived from Ignatius of Loyola and is a time of prayer that allows us to reflect on how God is moving in our lives. When attempting the examen, take 10-15 minutes at the end or beginning of your day to reflect. You can even pick one day a week to reflect on the past seven days. You can think of your responses, or write them in a journal.

Find a quiet space and in the following steps, allow yourself to be aware of God’s presence.

Preparation:  Begin with a prayer, spoken or visualized, where you ask for openness and awareness of God’s presence. Ask for God to guide your awareness. Perhaps take some deep breaths. Allow your memories of the day or week surface within God’s presence.

Gratitude: Consider what you’ve been thankful for. Give thanks to God for those things.

Reflection:
Where have you noticed God, felt the divine or been aware of something sacred (in others/the world/yourself/etc)?
Where did you feel God the least?
What are your present thoughts about God?
How have you responded to God?
How is God calling you to grow or respond?

Response: You can close your time with a spoken or visualized prayer, being thankful for God’s presence and finding hope, purpose and direction for your day.

 

Experiment 2: 10 Minutes of Silence

Silence is difficult, especially in world where connections happen around the globe in an instant. However, silence is sometimes integral in hearing and connecting with God. Jesus gave us examples of praying in silence and solitude (i.e. Luke 6:12).

For this experiment, find a quiet place and make sure to turn off electronics or other distractions. Secluded outdoor spaces are great for this experiment. Light a candle and invite God to be present in the space.

As you observe the candle or close your eyes, allow your mind to focus on a word or image that directs you to the Divine. Allow God’s Spirit to move your thoughts. If you become distracted by your surroundings or your to-do list, focus your mind back to the word or image you had in the beginning.

At the end of your 10 minutes, close with a simple thank you to God.

As you engage this practice, you can extend your times of silence to 20, 30 or even 60 minutes.

 

Experiment 3: Day of Fasting

Fasting is a practice this is evident in our Scriptures but rarely utilized in mainstream Christianity. While it can be a challenging discipline, it can be very beneficial. Typically, fasting involves abstaining from food consumption, but it can also include refraining from the internet, TV, text messages, Facebook, spending money, or other activities that tend to take up significant portions of our time.

Choose a fast. If you’re choosing food, establish a time frame. Many people fast from lunch to lunch, meaning they eat breakfast and don’t eat again until breakfast the next day. Some people choose to fast from sun-up until sun-down. Others will fast the entire day. You can give up all foods and drinks, only consuming water. Some people eat only raw fruits or vegetables throughout the day.

If choosing an activity like using the internet, you can refrain from use for the entire day.

No matter the fast, the concept is that same. As you experience hunger pains or the desire to engage in your particular activity, let that be a reminder to shift your focus to God and the ways that God is moving throughout your day. Be aware of the ways you spend your time and how you consume with ease. Allow your fast to pull you in to a dependence upon your Maker.

 

Experiment 4: Bible Meditation

This experience will allow you to engage the narrative of Scripture and connect your story with God’s meta-story.

First, you will need to choose a passage from Scripture. To begin with, you may wish to choose a passage from Psalms, Genesis or one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

Ask God to be present in your meditation.
Read the passage aloud three times, slowly and reflectively.
Consider a word, phrase or image that catches your attention and meditate on it.
Ponder the significance of this passage in relation to your personal journey.
Write your reflections in a journal.

 

Experiment 5: Prayer Walk

This prayer experience will allow you to engage with your community. You may either pre-determine a route for your walk, visiting places of significance, or allow God’s Spirit to guide you as you walk and pray.

As you set out on your walk, ask God to be present with you. As you pass buildings, people, signs of nature, or anything else, say or think a prayer for these things. You can pray for the community as a whole (i.e. healing, reconciliation, more jobs, healthier environment, etc.) or ask God to show you how you can make a positive impact in that place.

As you are walking, take extra time to notice the things around you. Be aware of the ways God is already moving in your community. If you are struggling to find words, you can simply say, “God, be present here.”

The prayer walk is fun with friends! You can even stop in significant places and pray together.

 

Experiment 6: Alphabet Prayers

This is a simple exercise that can help you realize all of the people, places, things, ideas, etc., that are in need of God’s hope and presence. For this experiment, simply go through the alphabet and pray for something that starts with each letter. This can be done individually or in a group.

For example, you can pray:

A: God, I (we) pray for healing by those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
B: God, I pray for comfort my friend who has a Broken heart.
C: God, I pray for peace for our Country.
D: God, I thank you for the love of my Dad.

You get the point. The prayers can be for anyone or anything. In this simple exercise, we connect with God and God’s entire creation, building a web of hope in realizing the world around us.

 

Experiment 7: Prayer Visualizations

This exercise helps us realize that sometimes, words are not necessary for prayer. Find a quiet place and invite God’s presence. Brainstorm visions of hope that you have for yourself, others, your community or the world. For example, you may envision your aunt being free from the pain of cancer, or your community’s homeless population having a place to live, or wars ending, or less pollution in your local river, or yourself overcoming a particular fear.

As you think of these visions of hope, close your eyes and make them a reality in your mind. Watch as images form in your imagination. What does overcoming a fear actually look like? What would the end of a war look like? When you create these visions in your mind, ask, “God, may it be so.”

These visualizations can also be utilized as group meditations, with a leader speaking the visions of hope as the group members each create their own visual images.

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