We have inherited a set of everyday tools that can help open us to God
How has life been over the past 18 months of the pandemic? For most of us it has changed in ways we could not have imagined. Not only have our everyday movements been restricted, but shopping changed, relationships changed, even ministry has changed.
One thing is sure – God has not changed during the pandemic. Even in the midst of all the disruption, God remains. How have you connected with God during this challenging time? During Covid, in the isolation of our homes and the shrinking of our social circles and calendars, some of us may have discovered new and life-giving routines and rituals, or new ways to connect with God we don’t want to surrender, as life slowly returns to its busier, more crowded pace.
How is it with you and God? How has God reached out to you, reminding you of His presence in your life?
- Perhaps you’ve noticed the beauty of creation on one of your many walks – evidence of God’s beauty and creativity.
- Perhaps there have been times of returning to the Father as the prodigal son or daughter.
- Perhaps you’ve noticed the still, small voice within, reminding you of the Spirit guiding your life.
- Or perhaps you’ve been the hands and feet of Jesus, helping those who can’t help themselves – evidence of Jesus in your life.
What practices have you found life giving in your relationship with God?
- Walking in the cool of the morning?
- Praying a breath prayer – "Welcome, Lord Jesus. Welcome"?
- Reading Scripture slowly, waiting for God to speak personally to you?
- Giving time in silence and solitude – solely for God and you to be together?
- Journalling your prayer to God?
Let’s try something right here in the magazine. Use this space to start jotting down any practices that helped you draw close to God during the times of lockdown and distancing.
What don’t you want to give up as life returns to normal?
If you have had a regular spiritual practice, you have the beginnings of a deliberate plan for time spent noticing and living in God’s presence through disciplines and spiritual habits. Christians have been doing this for centuries. Often this plan to build and maintain good habits is called a rule of life, a guide for living out our life more intentionally in the presence of our loving God.
Simply put, when we notice what spiritual practices are life giving and avenues of God’s grace, we can commit to them, crafting our own version of a rule of life. As the pandemic restrictions ease and life returns to normal, it is the perfect time to sit, pause, reflect and plan how we want to be in our spiritual lives moving forward.
Here are a few more spiritual practices, or avenues of grace, you may be interested in trying. Many generations of Christians have grown closer to God using these disciplines. They can enrich your life with God and others. As you read through them, check off the ones that resonate with you that you might like to add to your evolving rule of life.
Breathe deeply the air God gives us every moment of the day and night. Begin every morning with three deep and slow breaths, focusing on your breathing. This will slow down your anxious heart. It will help bring you to a place of quiet.
☐ BREATH PRAYER
As you continue this simple practice of breathing, repeat a phrase to Jesus: "Come, Lord Jesus. Come." Allow this practice to lead you every day – it can be with your coffee or tea – or after you’ve got the children settled or off to school. Give yourself those few moments to welcome the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
☐ THE EXAMEN
A particular type of prayer, rooted in the Ignatian tradition, that is usually done at the end of the day. In a very real sense, you can examine or review your day with God.
- Ask God to join you in reviewing your day, asking Him to shine light on areas that need attention.
- Thank God for the day – for it was a gift.
- Prayerfully review your day, asking God for His guidance.
- Notice the potholes of sadness or sin. Ask God for guidance and forgiveness.
- Notice times where you sensed God’s presence and help. Offer up thanks and praise.
- Consider tomorrow – when and where you will need God’s help. Thank God for the time together, for continuing to form you more and more into the image of Christ.
☐ VISIO DIVINA
A prayer practice that facilitates an experience with God, receiving a word or impression to encourage and guide your life.
Choose a picture of natural beauty or sacred art, for example by Rembrandt or Caravaggio.
Simply gaze for up to ten minutes, noticing your inner responses to what you see.
- Where do you find yourself focused in the picture?
- What meaning does that image have for you and your life?
- Ask God to reveal His intention for you through the image.
- Thank God for this experience and how He uses art to speak to you.
☐ LECTIO DIVINA
As you quiet yourself before Jesus, prayerfully select a Gospel reading. Read a portion quietly and meditatively. For example: Mark 1:1–8, which is a short description of John the Baptist as the waymaker. Read the passage three times, silently or aloud.
- First reading Notice a word or phrase that jumps off the page for you.
- Second reading Notice again and ask God, "Why this word?" or "Why this phrase?"
- Third reading At the end, simply offer up your understanding of God’s intention by drawing you to your word or phrase and wait for His response. End in quiet with thanksgiving for God’s Living Word.
☐ GOSPEL IMAGINATION/GOSPEL CONTEMPLATION
As you are reading your daily portion of Scripture, you may discover an image that draws you. As you read the Scripture three times, you may wonder, "Where am I in the story?" As you see yourself in the story, notice your reactions to Jesus – and perhaps Jesus’ reactions to you. Stay with the story as long as seems right. After the reading take your experience to prayer, thanking God for His Living Word.
As you return to the Father anew, begin at the end: Psalm 150. As you read it, notice your internal response to the Psalmist. Offer your own praises to God for His surpassing greatness, both in the world and in your life.
PHOTOS (THIS PAGE AND OPPOSITE): SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Is there a trusted friend(s) with whom you can share your experiences of God? Using the space below, name a few of those friends. Mutual sharing can be a blessing for both of you when you share, and for the other(s) who hear about your relationship with God.
These conversations are not support groups or Bible studies – they are rather a practice of deep listening to each other. We listen to the story shared and we listen to God. Only when we hear from God do we offer a word of encouragement, a Bible verse, an image or perhaps a question. Afterward pray for the friend who shared the story.
After reflecting on what spiritual practices worked for you during Covid, and perhaps what you missed, and thinking about what new habits you might like to explore from the list above or others, use this space or a journal to make a spiritual plan for abiding in God.
Sandra Broadus of Toronto is a spiritual director and executive director of Emmaus Formation Centre (www.EmmausFormation.ca).
Watch our June 8 webinar Living Well after the Pandemic: Cultivating Spiritual Wellness and Mental Health as We Emerge From Covid featuring Carolyn Arends, Ken Shigematsu, Danielle Strickland and April Yamasaki at www.FaithToday.ca/Webinars.