November 2018 Contemplative Prayer

I am currently a ministerial intern at Spring Glen Church in Hamden, Connecticut. A group gathers for Contemplative Prayer once a month. A majority of the November meeting was spent in reflection on many life updates for those who attended. Two different types of prayers were discussed and I thought they might be helpful to write about here. 

During worship on the Sunday previous to Contemplative Prayer, Rev. Susan Murtha had shared a message with the children on prayer. Rev. Susan taught the congregation a five finger prayer inspired by Pope Francis. I created an image to accompany her instructions for this blog post.

I also shared with the group a similar five finger prayer to be used as a daily examen, a type of prayer developed by St. Ignatius. You can view a brochure produced by the Jesuit Institute of London explaining the five finger examen in more detail here.

Our session concluded with a Lectio Divina reading and contemplation of Wendell Berry poem, The Peace of Wild Things. I love using this poem in prayer. I hope that you find inspiration in the words.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry, from On Being. 
https://onbeing.org/blog/wendell-berry-the-peace-of-wild-things/

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October 2018 Contemplative Prayer

Spring Glen Church offers Contemplative Prayer one night a month. Below is the agenda from the October gathering. Led by Laura Kisthardt, YDS Pastoral Intern, and Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes, Sabbatical Coverage Associate Pastor. I (Laura) have added links and notes for anyone who would like to use this agenda for individual or group use.

  1. Begin in silence (10 minutes)
  2. Leaf Meditation (5 minutes individual reflection, 10 minutes of sharing)

We used fallen leaves gathered from outside for an object meditation. You could use a leaf, a shell, a rock or any other natural object. Spend 5 to 10 minutes with the object. Observe it and turn it around in your hand. What do you notice about the object? What strikes you? Does it remind you of anything? Consider the objects role in creation.

3. Ignatian Examen

I guided the group through a modified version of the Ignatian Examen used each Sunday in my home church of Cleveland Park Congregational UCC. You can find a version of the examen to use on your own here: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/how-can-i-pray

4. Loving Kindness Meditation

There are many variations of Metta, or loving kindness, meditations. This is one that I selected to use this day. If you are using it for personal prayer, sometimes it can be helpful to record yourself reading it slowly on your phone or computer and then use the recording for meditation to allow yourself to be fully present and not be reading.

https://blog.buddhagroove.com/the-buddhist-metta-lovingkindness-prayer/

5. Breath Prayer with music

Return your focus to your breath. I find it helpful to use 3 part breathing. Imagine filling your lungs from the very bottom, middle and then top. Hold that for one count before exhaling the air out in three parts: top, middle, bottom. That type of breath is not necessary though if you find it to be a distraction. If you would like to use a mantra in addition to the focus on your breath, I suggest something simple, either two or four words to be used on the inhale and exhale. Inhale: “Peace” and Exhale: “Love”. Or Inhale: “Holy God” Exhale: “Show Mercy”.

We listened to four songs from this album (one of my favorite to listen to during prayer):

https://karenrugg.bandcamp.com/album/cathedral-canyon-native-american-flute-meditations

6. Lectio Divina Psalm 46

You will slowly read the passage three times. The first time, let the words wash over you. The second time, start to become aware of words or phrases that stand out to you. The third time select one word or phrase where God is speaking to you right now. After the third reading, spend 5 minutes in silent prayer reflecting on that word or phrase.

7. Closing Prayer