Music: “In Thy Kingdom” from the album: A Thousand years of Ukrainian Sacred Music, by the Kyiv Chamber Choir, c. 2008.
“In Thy Kingdom” is The Beatitudes (Matt 5: 3-12a)
Listen for the tenor line that ascends ever higher.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past;
Be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope,
that we may know you as you are revealed in the Scripture and in the breaking of Bread.
Grant this for the sake of your love toward us. AMEN
Art: “Starry Night Over the Rhone” by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.
- What captured the imagination of the painter
- Have you ever sat out as the stars began to appear, followed them on an APP on your phone?
- Have you ever been to the desert or away form any ambient light and seen the night sky?
- What did you notice & reflect on?
A. Hearing God, this is the 5th week- Hearing God during a time for reflection at set times during the day.
Praying the Hours is one way to refocus on God’s presence with us and build reflection time into the day. The early church did this thru observing fixed times of prayer. Today, a form of fixed times for prayer IS a spiritual practice that can be built into our days. The question is “What do we Desire?” In the Sources section, I provided two or three resources by Phyllis Tickle (who died in 2015) which I found a treasure trove of resources as I committed myself to a year of fixed hour prayer. I was not doing very well with keeping silence and creating space to listen for God, so I asked for the grace to follow the prayers and use them as guide rails to keep my heart and mind in God. My desire was to nudge myself forward in the disciple of making sacred pauses in the day to learn to be still & listen better to God.
Fixed Hour Prayer/ Praying the Hours
Fixed-hour prayer is the oldest form of Christian spiritual discipline and has its roots in the Judaism out of which Christianity came. When the Psalmist says, “Seven times a day do I praise You,” he is referring to fixed-hour prayer as it existed in ancient Judaism. We do not know the hours that were appointed in the Psalmist’s time for those prayers.
By the turn of the era, however, believers had come to punctuate their work day with prayers on a regimen that followed the flow of Roman commercial life. Forum bells began the work day at six in the morning (prime, or first hour), sounded mid-morning break at nine (terce, or third hour), the noon meal and siesta or break at twelve (sext, or sixth hour), the re-commencing of trade at three (none, or ninth hour), and the close of business at six (vespers). With the addition of evening prayers and early prayers upon arising, the structure of fixed-hour prayer was established in a form that is very close to that which Christians still use today.
The values of using “written prayers”:
- Give us a way to pray when we are tired, overwhelmed, or in a dry reason of our spiritual life
- Put us in touch with a rich vocabulary of prayer, praise, petition, adoration, thanksgiving
- Puts us in touch with our roots, prayers that Christians have prayed for centuries, even millennia, and which Christians all over the world are doing at some point in the day
- We join the “Communion of the Saints” here on earth and around the throne of God.
- The prayers in some of the past sessions have been from Phyllis Tickle book The Divine Hours
B. The Examen of Self – another spiritual discipline which creates a space, our pause in join in God’s company
- The Examen is an examination of our life or our day, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
- The subject matter of the examen is our life, the events of the day that has just passed, that we just experienced. The Examen looks for signs of God’s presence in the events of the day: lunch with a friend, a walk n the park, a kind word from a colleague, a challenge met, a duty discharged. The Examen likes the humdrum and ordinary.
- In the examen we allow and participate with Holy Spirit looking at our conscious experience of the day, e.g., what do we think about as we sit in traffic or wait in a long line at the grocery store?
C. Why is it good to pray the Examen?
- God is very much present in our daily world, and in our human experience. Granted it doesn’t represent our whole experience with God but the experiences of our day are a vital part of it. (also, we know God through a variety of prayer practices, scriptures, worship, books, & through friends and family coworkers and people we meet).
- We can trust our experience more and more because God lives in us.
- The Spirit makes us aware of moments that at first, we might easily pass by as insignificant, that can give direction for our lives.
- The Examen helps us get acquainted with our feelings. Prayer is not branch of therapy. But feelings are part of our lives every day and God reveals himself to our conscious experience as we go about through our day. Fear, delight, boredom, peace, disgust- all these and other feeling God uses as signposts, warning flares and waving flags. They say: Look over here! Something important is going on!
- Many Christians ignore their feelings as ignoble, fearsome and un-trustworthy. But they must be brought into the light and the inner heart the feelings exposed to the presence of God, or they will “pop” out in ministry or in family life or in relationships.
- Examen gives time and a space for us to acknowledge ourselves, who we really are, in God’s presence, focus on the strong feelings or something subtle that lingers in your awareness, as we pray give a chance for us to come to God for healing and rest and reassurance. – In Spiritual Companionship or Spiritual Direction, we/trained Spiritual Directors provide help and encouragement to someone to discuss the ordinary events of their day, to listen to their feelings in the presence and love of the Lord Jesus. Not to offer therapy, but to offer presence, listening as if holding a mirror in the name of Jesus, and silently waiting in His presence as the Spirit guides and directs. We create a space for God.
- It might be a positive feeling, elation, satisfaction, peace, or something more troubling like anger, depression, worry. Now we can ask God what tis behind the emotion. Where does it come from? What does it tell you about the way you live your life? What might God want you to do about it?
- Don’t worry that this kind of prayer is an invitation to let emotions take over your life. Allowing feeling to surface in he context of gratitude and prayerful openness to God is a good way to address them without being overwhelmed.
- By asking God what they mean, we make them vehicles of grace instead of unruly passion that can take us down.
Tonight’s Exercise: The Examen of Self
The Basic Daily Examen…
…is a great way to pray to look for God’s presence in your life. The Examen is a time of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern His direction for us.
- Become aware of God’s presence. – 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.
- Review the day with gratitude. – 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. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
- Pay attention to your emotions. – 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? God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from 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. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
- Look toward tomorrow. – Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope. Talk to Jesus like a friend next to you. 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.
End the Daily Examen with the Our Father, or any another prayer you feel appropriate. –
Our Closing Prayer Together This Evening: (I prayed this prayer as a Chaplain-Intern & Chaplain during the night hours as I walked the halls visiting patients at Banner Thunderbird and Banner Good years back.)
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary,
bless the dying, soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted, Shield the joyous;
And all for your love’s sake. AMEN
May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a
peaceful night and a perfect end. AMEN
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, by Ruth Haley Barton, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, c. 2006
Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence, by Ruth Haley Barton, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, c. 2004.
A Simple Life-Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen, Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, c. 2011.
Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life, by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn, Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press, c. 1995.
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, compiled by Phyllis Tickle, New York: Image, Doubleday Books, c. 2000.
The Divine Hours (Vol.2): Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime, compiled by Phyllis Tickle, New York: Image, Doubleday Books, c. 2000.
Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from The Divine Hours, compiled by Phyllis Tickle, Doubleday Books, published by Galilee, c. 2003(?)
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours, compiled by Phyllis Tickle, Doubleday Books, published by Galilee, c. 2003.