Blog: Here & Now Lent 2023
Blog: Here & Now Lent 2023
Receive a daily blog post from Ash Wednesday until Easter to support your contemplation for Lent 2023.
Contemplative prayer practices should not be considered supernatural or magical channels to God. Instead, consider them figuratively as containers or spaces that provide structure for real, active, alive encounters with God’s Spirit. Six core practices provide awareness of God’s presence: breath (Breathing Prayer), daily experiences (Consciousness Examen), words (Lectio Divina), imagination (Prayer of Imagination), silence and stillness (Centering Prayer) and emotional experiences (Welcoming Prayer).
Additional complementary practices encourage growth in loving-kindness, gratitude, self-compassion, savoring, creation-encounter, discernment prayer and meditation.
Encountering God in every breath
Contemplative prayer begins with becoming present in the moment. Breathing prayer grounds the body and awakens awareness of Spirit, flowing through us with every breath. Conscious breathing provides a rhythm to encounter and attune to God’s ever-present Spirit.
Helpful insights and guidance for the Breathing Prayer
“God breathed the breath of life.”
In the practice of conscious breathing, we let our breath (and God) take the lead and show us the way. Most of the time we are not conscious of our breathing (or God’s indwelling Spirit). At the beginning or paying attention, the first reaction try to control or adjust our breath. The challenge is to become aware of our breathing without trying to change it. Learn to trust this natural rhythm (and God’s rhythm) keeping us alive and nourished since the day we were born. Develop gratitude for the breath’s tirelessly work and service.
Practice steps for the Breathing Prayer
An everyday reflective prayer practice
The Examen of Consciousness helps us learn to attend to our everyday experience, notice the movement of Spirit and to reflect on our response. It is an ancient prayer practice dating back to the 1500s given to us by St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit Order.
Helpful insight and guidance for the Daily Examen of Consciousness
The Daily Examen of Consciousness is both simple and profound. As we begin, we recall that we are in the presence of God, holding us in love. We ask the Spirit for help to become aware. We review our day, both the delightful and the difficult. We give thanks for what has been given and simply notice the ways we have embraced or resisted God’s movement. Finally, we open our hearts to become increasingly responsive to the Spirit’s gracious presence in our lives.
Practice steps for the Daily Examen
Make this time sacred, prepare the space and yourself.
Remember what happened.
Awaken to deeper presence.
Reflect on your response. What did you feel? What did you do?
Dialogue with God.
Offer gratitude and hope.
A prayerful way to read
Lectio Divina is a way of reading with the focus of attention and awareness to inner movements – stirrings of the heart and nudges from God – during reading. It’s format encourages presence with the inner experience, and surrender to the possibility of being moved, changed and transformation.
Helpful insights and guidance for Lectio Divina
In this practice, it is not so much what you read as how you read that makes it a sacred invitation to engage life more fully. In contrast to reading for information, understanding or even entertainment, Lectio Divina is a way of reading prayerfully and personally through conscious awareness and responsiveness to what is happening in us as we read.
“The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love. And just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all…. Do not ask ‘How shall I pass this on?’ but ‘What does it say to me?’ Then ponder the word long in your heart until it has gone right into you and taken possession of you.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Practice steps for Lectio Divina
Encountering God in the realm of imagination
Prayer of Imagination is founded on our capacity to imagine. It is based on the premise that we cannot see or know an incomprehensible Spirit-God but we can experience Her presence, we can feel Him in our bodies, and we can imagine Them. Our imagination is a space that can be cultivated for encounter with God.
Helpful insight and guidance for Imaginative Prayer
We have the capacity to immerse ourselves into stories, scenes and experiences through our active imagination. As we imagine prayerfully God meets us in our imagination and we cocreate. Through imagination and desire for God, the scene and space for a spiritual encounter can unfold. We naturally put form to spirit, such as, imagining the face of Jesus, the wings of an angel or the image of God. These forms manifest out of our desire to connect with God and to understand our spiritual experience.. Through a heart of prayer God moves within imagination to develop connection. As sensations of our experience engage, our bodies join through activating the five senses. When we feel everything through the senses, it rounds out the fullness of our experience and gives rise to a deeper awakening and transformation through the practice.
Some suggested scenes and stories that can be starting places for Prayer of Imagination:
Practice steps for Prayer of Imagination
Beginning the practice:
For many of us we need a little help to get us going. Reading a Bible story that includes God or Jesus is a good place to start. Pick a story and then, through the steps offered below, allow yourself to be guided into the story.
Use your imagination and your senses to immerse yourself in the story:
Encountering God in the story:
Reflect on the prayer experience:
Being present in silence to the presence of God
Centering Prayer is simply being present to God in receptive silence. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, formalized this ancient monastic practice for anyone to experience a intimate way of praying. Praying beyond words, deeper than thought itself.
Helpful insights and guidance for Centering Prayer
Jesus taught that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, entwined with us in an inner space that is deeper than thought or word. The mystics encouraged us to think of silence as God’s first language, and Thomas Keating went so far as to say, “Silence is the language of God. Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.”
Centering prayer is a listening and receptive prayer, yet we approach it with intentionality. We lean into the silence of the prayer with longing and consent, awareness and response. We long to awaken to God’s presence and movement in and around us and to consent to this indwelling presence, but we quickly discover that we get carried away in thought. We embrace the process of blindly getting carried away in thought, awakening to how far we have gone and returning to our heart’s desire of remaining in conscious intimate connection with God. The repeated awakening and turning towards God may feel disheartening but is actually one of the great blessings of this prayer practice. Silent stillness may seem passive, but we are actively, again and again, giving consenting to this divine presence that is active within us.
Practice steps for Centering Prayer
Guiding steps to a Centering Prayer Practice
Praying into our emotional experiences
The Welcoming Prayer encourages us to prayerfully walk through our feelings towards a deeper Presence within us. The practice of Welcoming Prayer helps us dissolve our resistances (that disassociate us from life) and our attachments (that entangle us in the web of life) and opens the door to a fuller and freer experience of living. It is an active prayer for our more challenging emotional experiences. We ask God for the courage, strength, and wisdom to shift the inner dynamics of our lived experience so that we might find rest for our souls, even in difficult circumstances.
Helpful insights and guidance for Welcoming Prayer
Welcoming prayer is, first and foremost, an embodied prayer that we practice at a sensory level. In this practice we try to resist the tendency to analyze our experience until we have entered a deep awareness and inner hospitality for our embodied emotions. The thoughts related to an emotion tends to lead us to fixate and casts the narrative in stone. Whereas, tending to the physical sensations, with our hearts attuned to the indwelling spirit, opens up space for emotional energy to shift and the spiritual journey to continue.
The practice begins by longing for God’s indwelling spirit to guide us. Movement begins to happen when we awaken to an emotion and ask for the heart to welcome it. Then our welcome is deepened through awareness of its roots. Reminding ourselves that, though most of the time we are unaware, all our feelings are rooted and grounded in body sensations. It takes time to discover, awaken and grow our capacity to care about our sensate experience. It helps to scan your body with your mind’s eye and ask, “Where, specifically, in my body am I feeling something… and what sensation am I feeling there?” As we become more aware of an emotion’s deep-rooted presence in our body, we ask for more capacity to welcome the experience, allowing it to be what it is and giving it more space in the heart. As we give it more loving space we feel its condensed energy beginning to spread out and dissipate into the space we have offered it. We join in this inner movement by offering a willingness to let it go, releasing and relaxing its energy. We allow its energy to seep into the ground of our being where it can be nurtured by the breadth and depth of God’s indwelling spirit.
With repeated practice and presence we begin to notice habitual patterns emerge from our reflex tendency to grasp for security, affection, control or escape. We also begin to notice how graspi ng often serves to separate us from God’s indwelling spirit. As we wake up to our habitual patterns we find more opportunity to be intentional, open and trusting in our contemplative walk with God’s spirit.
Practice steps for Welcoming Prayer
Try repeating the words (below) with heartfelt presence and allow your heart to shift:
“Welcome _____ (the specific feeling or sensation), Welcome ______, Welcome _____. I release my grasping for security… affection… control… or escape… and embrace this moment as it is and entrust myself to your indwelling spirit.”
(This 6-step movement has been adapted and expanded from for the 3-step movement of Welcoming Prayer (Feel, Welcome, and Let Go) as developed, defined, and refined by Mary Mrozowski and other leaders in the Contemplative Outreach movement for contemplative prayer.)