Lenten Prayer Journey

Throughout Lent, please enjoy this Lenten Prayer Journey.

Continuing to Walk in Faith

By Anne Montgomery Schmid

Certified labyrinth facilitator Anne Montgomery Schmid shares personal insight into her own Lenten prayer journey.

The journey has brought us here, to the foot of the cross. Lent has indeed been a pathway of prayer. Each week, prayer approaches have been offered in this virtual space. Personally, I have engaged in many new ways to pray that have come from various resources. Some of these prayer practices were familiar, yet I experienced them in new ways. Other prayer forms were completely new to me. I embraced some and others I gave gratitude for and then let go. 

Walking a labyrinth continues to be my most comfortable way to seek God in prayer. I have brought some of these new ways to pray into my labyrinth walks. Perhaps my walks have become like singing hymns, a way to pray twice.

In ancient days during Lent, some monks were known to crawl on their labyrinth path, especially during Holy Week. On Easter day, these monks would then dance their way to the center and back on the labyrinth. I think I’ll continue to walk, but slow my pace for the next few days. My listening and hearing have been enhanced during my spiritual growth this Lent. I have shown up, surrendered, and grown in my relationship with God. I have traveled with the Light and am grateful.

As I continue toward Easter Sunday, I will consider how to allow these new prayer practices to remain a part of my new routine and strengthen my continual growth. Every time I connect to a virtual meeting, I click “allow.” This is a good reminder for me to allow the connection with God in all ways. 

On Easter day, know that I will be dancing like the monks with the communion of saints who have and will always walk with me. 

Blessings to you as you continue on your journey.

Praying in Color

Have you ever wanted to pray but words have escaped you? Sitting still and focusing on prayer is a challenge. Listening to God seems impossible. If this sounds familiar, Praying in Color may be the kind of prayer practice for you.

Praying in Color is a visual and concrete way to pray. This practice invites our bodies into prayer, providing another way to connect with God. We occupy our eyes and hands by doodling and drawing which helps us focus our attention on a word or a person we want to pray for. These can be prayers of adoration, of thanksgiving, of repentance, or of intersession. There is no right or wrong way to do this, and you don’t need to be a great artist. You just need to be willing to try it.

All you need to begin is a blank piece of paper and a pen or some colored pencils or markers. Begin by getting comfortable. Then with pen in hand allow yourself to think of a person or word you want to pray on; some examples are peace, love or hope. Write the word or name of the person down on the paper and draw around it. While drawing let your mind wander to thoughts and prayers around the word or name. If other words come to you, then pray them and write them down and continue to draw. If no other words come to you, then continue to draw. Allow the words and prayers to flow through your mind and into your heart as you continue drawing.

Sybil Macbeth is the author of Praying in Color, Drawing a New Path to God. Sybil discusses that Praying in Color was born out of her need to pray for family and friends. Sybil had felt like she didn’t have the words to pray and that she was saying the same things while she prayed.  However, one day when she was doodling, she realized she wrote the names of her sisters-in-law on the paper. She continued drawing, and every time she made a stroke, she offered her sisters-in-law up to God. To help people get started with this prayer practice, Sybil created a website with more examples, templates, and ideas to begin Praying in Color.

Color is referenced many times in the Bible; Noah seeing the rainbow is one example. There are many interpretations, but to many, the rainbow represented God’s faithfulness and promise to protect.

Revelation 10:1: “I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head.”

We hope Praying in Color will speak to you and offer you a new and unique way to access and connect with God during your time of prayer.

More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern direction for us. St. Ignatius considered this prayer of thanksgiving and review so effective that it was the only one he insisted that Jesuits (the religious order he co-founded) pray every day. Members of this religious order do not live in communities that pray together several times a day; the Jesuits have been called contemplatives in action. But the Examen prayer of thanksgiving and review is a crucial daily habit for them.

Here is how to practice the Daily Examen:

1. Ask for light. At the conclusion of the day, look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you - a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.

2. Give thanks. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Pay attention to small things - God is in the details.

3. Review the day. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling -positive or negative. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart - whether intercession, praise, repentance or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what is coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. You can end the Daily Examen with the Lord’s Prayer.

Sacred Pause

In the middle of the Lenten journey, we take a moment to pause. We set aside time to just be, knowing there is nothing we can do to make God love us more or less. As you pause, I invite you to utilize the breath prayers you read about during this Lenten journey. Breathe in and say, “Be still and know,” breathe out, “That I am God.” After a few minutes, continue your pause with this prayer by Macrina Wiederkehr:

O Eternal Now, I long to live in the present moment. I want to stop trying to control the hours so that new paths of inspiration are free to unfold within me. I want to remember that I have the potential to be a blessing in the lives of those with whom I live and work. Take my scattered thoughts, my fragmented moments. Breathe into them and draw them into your centered heart. Open my eyes that I may see the grace that waits for me in every moment. You are the Source of every moment’s blessing. Teach me to live awake. Anoint the moments of my day. May this prayer come true in my life. Amen.

Heart-Centered Prayer

Continuing our exploration of prayer practices, we look to Jesus, who knowing himself as God’s beloved son (Matthew 3:17), faced his wilderness journey and time of trial. We too are beloved – held in the heart of God. That divine spark of God’s love is within all of us. Accessing that knowledge can be transforming.

The ancient desert monks talked about “the cave of the heart,” an interior place of wrestling and reflection on the divine spark within. Heart-centered prayer – like breath prayer – is an embodied prayer practice inviting the merging of mind, spirit and body. Everyone has access to the journey within the heart. Here are some guideposts as you travel inward:

  • Choose a way to center and calm your thoughts – focus on your breath – or a Scripture passage – or a lit candle – or meditative music. Here is a link to the Celtic song Oscail mo chroi (Open My Heart)
  • In your imagination, move your awareness from your mind (where judgment and myriad thoughts live) down to your heart (where intuition and feelings live). Perhaps bring your hand(s) to your heart.
  • Notice what arises. Make room for what or who is there. No need to resist or change what you find.
  • Call to your awareness the divine spark of God’s love that lives in your heart. Seek God’s infinite compassion for who or what you are holding.
  • As you experience compassion, breathe out compassion and connection with other hearts. The apostle Paul wrote, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…” Philippians 1:7

Lent invites us to a journey within the heart. Our hope is that you will travel lightly, accessing what is already there. May you come to know yourself more fully as the beloved child of God you are.

February 25, 2021

As we journey through Lent and explore prayer practices to enhance our spiritual journey, this week we would like to offer breath prayers. This ancient practice is a simple, yet beautiful prayer that allows us to connect with ourselves, with God, and to be present to each moment. You breathe without thinking, and when you breathe slowly, you slow yourself down and center yourself away from the distractions and worry of the day; breath prayers can have tremendous benefits spiritually, physically and mentally.

How do you begin? Choose a familiar phrase, Bible verse, or prayer. Different words or verses can be used, depending on what you are praying for and what feels right to you. Pray half of the words as you intake your breath, and the second half as you exhale. Some people like to be very still, in a quiet spot while quieting their mind. Others like to center themselves throughout the rhythms of life: when walking, sitting at a traffic light, first thing in the morning, or as you fall asleep.

Here are a few prayers we have found helpful to begin with: 

(Inhale) Be still and know – (exhale) that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
The Lord is my shepherd – I shall not want. (Psalm 23)
Love – Peace
Jesus Christ – have mercy (shortened from the “Jesus Prayer”)
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God – have mercy on me, a sinner (the “Jesus Prayer”)

When first praying using your breath, it is helpful to remember that this is a non-judgmental prayer. You do not need to do things perfectly. We continue to breathe in and out. Even if you do not have the optimal space or time to offer a longer meditative breath prayer, you still have the opportunity to slow down, breathe deeply and feel God’s presence. Some days, just a few deep breaths with God can allow you to face the next task, and know that God is with you.

The beginning of Lent can be a time to stop and try doing this prayer more intentionally. The longer we are able to sustain our attention while practicing breath prayer, the more we can respond to being called into a quiet conversation with God. We shift from reciting words primarily to calm the physical body, to a quietness inside where we can begin to listen to God. We won’t always get there. Sometimes we can only quiet the mind. But that is a huge blessing in and of itself. If you find that you want to add this prayer practice to your toolbox but are worried you may have trouble maintaining it, try incorporating things you love from your surroundings that promote calm, make you feel safe, and allow you to be present. You may want to integrate calming music, a candle, or an image that brings about relaxation and calm. We pray that breath prayer will be a blessing on you and your journey through Lent.

Beginning on the Labyrinth
By Anne Montgomery Schmid
February 18, 2021

This article is the first in a series of posts throughout Lent about prayer practices. Each week a new prayer practice will be introduced to help guide you through the Lenten season.

It’s time. Here we go, again. It’s time to embark on our journey through Lent, our pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I’ll be honest with you. This is not my favorite season nor my favorite journey. Lent seems to be a great challenge for me. I’ve given up body parts and let go of loved ones during Lent. Why can’t I just give up chocolate? But doing just that wouldn’t take me to the cross, lead me to the risen Christ. So, it’s time. I do know that I am not alone on this journey. That helps. Many people journey with me. And God does, of course. I invite you to journey, too.

When I travel, I bring along my GPS (Guidance Powered by Spirit). This navigation system includes scripture verses, poems and prayers. Consulting these as I prepare and progress on my pilgrimage really helps as I walk along the path. I also bring my toolbox. Some of my tools include breath prayers, sacred pausing, the Prayers of Examen and Praying in Color. I’m happy these resources will be shared with you. As we progress in our journey, these guides will be posted on the Virtual Caring Corner page of the church website. On the labyrinth webpage you will find access to a wonderful Lenten Labyrinth Journey devotional booklet as well as finger labyrinths.

The labyrinth found me during Lent in 2012. Walking a labyrinth has helped me to journey to Jerusalem in a meaningful way. I’ve left a lot of tears in the labyrinth. I’ve also found peace in the labyrinth. The great part about walking a labyrinth is that it meets me where I am. I don’t have to know anything as I take my first step. All I need to do is walk and breathe. As I place one foot and then the next, I focus on my breath and I focus on being with God. God listens to me, and I try to listen for and to God. It’s so good for me to allow my body to carry me as I give my mind a rest.

This Lent looks different, as you know. I won’t be able to walk the large canvas Chartres labyrinth in the gym or Congregational Hall. But I can still walk a labyrinth. In my neighborhood, I wind in and out of side streets and eventually stop in a beautiful little park. That’s my center of the labyrinth. I sit on a bench for as long as I need and listen and breathe. I watch the birds in the trees, and I watch the clouds float by. God has created wonderful and marvelous images! Then when I’m ready, I leave my bench, my center of the labyrinth, and wind my way back home. When the weather is not cooperative, I use a finger labyrinth and “walk” with a finger. I find my body swaying as I do this. It reminds me of that peaceful feeling when holding a baby. I am God’s child, so this feeling makes sense to me.

So, it’s time. Let’s go. I plan to travel light. I’ll be travelling with the Light. I think I’ll pack some chocolate. Just in case.