Prayer can be thought of as a form of worship. Some people may find a prayer peaceful or sentimental while others feel it’s not useful in their spiritual life. These types of people often perceive prayer done in one way with very strict boundaries. Before taking the Prayer and Spirituality class at Mercy, this was me. I often found myself bored during morning prayer and even day dreaming during mass. Through the concepts and topics of this course I have learned that there are many different ways to pray. This class has broadened my horizons and open doors to a whole new prayerful experience.
To begin, in the third unit we discussed the images of God. As a christian, I had already obtained the knowledge of the trinity. According to our class lectures, the trinity is three divine persons in one God. These three divine persons are The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Each “person” is god and each “person” is distinct. When I was in grade school I found this concept very difficult to understand. One day everything about the Trinity clicked. However, I wish I would’ve known of the analogies we learned during this unit. One analogy is the idea that god is love.
The reality between those different persons is that in order to have real love you need someone who is giving love and the other is receiving love. God, love, has the beloved Jesus and the love between them is so strong that a third person comes out of it. God the Father emptied himself completely, giving all that he is to God the Son out of his great love for the Son. In this way we can say that the Son is the same as the Father. The Son in return loves the Father and empties himself in that he gives his whole life, including his death, to the Father.
The Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son because it is so strong that it is regarded as a third person of the Trinity. Analogies are helpful, but can be impersonal, while the Trinity is deeply personal. This analogy has helped significantly in my spiritual life. As I mentioned before, one day the trinity clicked. Although the analogy lecture was not when I initially understood the trinity, it made the connection or relationship between all the aspects came together. Another topic we discussed in class was the idea of the many different ways people see god.
Personally, I’ve always imagine god as a male with brown hair and a scruffy beard. Over the course of this lecture I noticed that even my classmates imagined God in a different way than I did. The truth is that we don’t know what God actually looks like. We do know that God is always in our presence. God can be the wind, the light, and even the person next to you. It is important to have a image of god because it can help us understand him more and be in a better relationship due to the strengthened relationship. We can never fully understand the greatness of god but an image of god will help you in your faith journey.
This unit was very meaningful to me. Not only did it guide me to developing a more thought out image of God but also how the three persons of the trinity correlate with one another. I now find myself analyzing photos of God and my classmates and how they were made in the image of God. During mass I now recognize the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we learned about spiritual community, communal prayer, and prayers of petition. We learned about the different spiritualities within the christian community. Some of the spiritualities include Mercy, Marianist, and Benedictine.
Some educational institutions in the mid-west that practice these spiritualities are Marian High School, Mercy High School, and Benedictine University. My group did our presentation on Marist. Marist is a catholic institution which means the society of Mary. The Marist spirituality was founded by a french priest named Father Jean- Claude Collin. An example of a Marist school in metro Detroit is Norte Dame Preparatory High School. Communal prayer is a ritual intended to bring people together to an awareness of God and sacred mystery (Kline-Kator). This ritual can be formal or informal.
A communal prayer gives a sense of belonging and has a specific focus. Uniting with there through communal prayers can build bonds in relationships to grow closer to the Lord. Prayers of petitions can be included in a prayer service which is communal prayer. Prayers of petition are the most common type of prayer and are described as an request made for something desired (Kline-Kator). One step in prayer of petition is the discernment process. Discernment is the process of seeking the direction that god would want for us. In other words discernment is one way to understand gods will or desire for us in our life.
The steps of discernment is preparing, Holy indifferences to outcome, Consider intuition, use imagination, make the choice, and take action and evaluate. These topics relate to my life because before this lesson I never truly understood the point of prayer services and specific names of catholic schools. I also learned that the way I usually pray is considered a prayer of partition which is also the most common type. During morning prayer I ask God to bring peace to those who have encountered tragedies in there life. I asks this specific petition of prayer because I hope someone would do the same for me.
My family has been through our fair share o sorrows and it always comforted me. To know our friends and family kept us in their prayer. Moreover, in unit five we talked about gratitude and mindfulness. Gratitude is our natural response to the giftedness of life (Kline-Kator). Gratitude can be described as expressing thankfulness as a result of receiving something. Prayer is one way to express thanks and gratitude to the Lord. As humans we all have human dignity and because of this we are blessed, so we can bless. Gratitude requires time, awareness, humility, and independence. Thanksgiving and praise are ways we can show gratitude to God.
As we offer gratitude to God we have to be mindful. Mindfulness is praying to listen to god with full awareness and as a result we grow our gratitude for God. When this topic was first introduced, I didn’t understand how gratitude and mindfulness could be relate. Surprisingly, gratitude and mindfulness play a role in my everyday life. In the light of many unexpected deaths of people I don’t know over the last few years, when I’m on my way to school I show gratitude to God for letting me simply wake up this morning. I have been complaining recently about work load regarding school.
That was until I thought back to a video I watched in one of my past class about children begging for education in third world countries. I remembered my teacher talking about her experience with these kids when she volunteered and her specific reference to a child telling her they would give up their arms to be able to come to America and get an education. I may still complain about being stressed and tired but I will about have to give gratitude to the Lord for the opportunities that he has given me. As a result of God has blessing me with so many gracious gifts throughout my life, one day I plan to volunteer in a less fortunate country.
I don’t attend church every Sunday, but when I have the opportunity to pray or go to Church I make sure I give thanks to God and pray for those in need. Next, journaling and meditation was my favorite unit of the semester. Journaling is as simple and as hard as it sounds. The concept of journaling is just as it sounds, simply journaling. Expect for the aspect that my mind races in a dozen places during this time. Journaling is not only a great way to stay in touch with spiritual life but also how one perceives themselves.
When praying through journaling, we are praying our experiences to God (Kline-Kator). Journaling is one way of non verbally praying to the Lord. Some practical suggestions to keep in mind during journaling are to write regularity, be organized, choose either pen or pencil, and relax. There are many different styles to journaling namely free writing, letter writing, and prayer writing. During this unit we also talked about the Examen. The examen allows us to see God’s presence in our life. The Examen is defined as a methodical prayer helping one to see god in every day life.
Under the Examen we can have an Examination of Conscience which is a methodical way of reviewing thoughts and actions before Sacrament of Reconciliation (Kline-Kator). During this unit we also incorporated meditation. Meditation is the pondering, attending, dwelling upon, paying attention to a specific focus (Kline- Kator). When the focus of a meditation is God, it then becomes prayerful. The main aspect to a meditation is mindfulness as I described it in the previous paragraph. There are three stages to metal prayer: discursive, meditative, and contemplative.
Discursive prayer is active prayer while contemplative prayer is passive because it is resting in God’s presence. Meditative prayer is a structure attempt to reflect (Kline- Kator). Common elements of meditational prayer are to find a quiet location, have a specific comfortable posture, focus of attention, and open attitude. A few different ways to meditate is through awareness exercises, listening to God, Focused meditation, and guided meditation. Awareness exercises praises through awareness of ourselves, and creation which may include silence, nature, and breathing.
Listening to god is in conservation with the Lord while focused meditation is typically focused on a specific object, usually a blessed sacrament. Guided meditations are usually led by someone by reading scripture. (Kline- Kator). Mantra is one example of focused meditation. Mantra is a sound, syllable, word or group of words chanted or sung as an incarnation or prayer (Kline- Kator). In a mantra the specific syllable or word is often repeated in pattern of breath. The Jesus Prayer and The Rosary are two examples of mantra in focused meditation. Mantra can also be music and an example of that would be Taize.
When I hear the word ‘meditation’ my mind automatically pictures a very flexible woman standing on her head while remaining perfectly still. This unit was useful to me because I learned that meditation doesn’t including yoga and can be prayerful. My favorite mediation exercises were the guided meditations we did in the chapel. I personally found those more relaxing because it was outside the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the classroom. I also really liked the mantra songs we listened to in class. I have even attempted to mediate at home. Although I do find meditation relaxing, I also think that it is a very difficult state of mind to remain in.
I easily got distracted at home by the shuffling of feet, opening of doors, and banter in the kitchen. My few attempts to meditation at home has led me to listening to peaceful music, some even mantra. Combining journaling and meditation was my favorite part about this unit. The mediation was extremely difficult but at the same time relaxing and I could journal about my experience. With regard to journaling, I have kept journals before but I often forget about it. I’m happy to say that I’ve started a new journal and with the strategies I’ve leaned from my Prayer class I’m confident that I can maintain a successful journal.
Moving on, our class learned about scripture in prayer during unit seven. The most common way scripture is used in prayer is through mass. Scripture is the word of God which conveys the religious truth. Scripture is the story of salvation history (Kline-Kator). Carefully reading scripture is one way God speaks to us. Prayerful reading is also called spiritual prayer. One way you can pray with scripture is by placing yourself in a specific story of the Bible. Choose a story that may speak to you or relate to personal conflicts happening in life.
Holy reading, also called lectio divina, is when one picks a specific passage of scripture and read it carefully and pick a word or phrase to focus on. Read the passage a few time then pray and reflect. In other words these steps are called lecto (reading), mediatio (stop reading), oratio (listen), and contemplatio (contemplate). Reflecting on scripture is a great way to strengthen our relationship with God because it is truly the words of God. I really enjoy praying with scripture. There is a variety of different reading particularly in psalms. Psalms that I enjoy reflecting and praying on are praise, wisdom, and thanksgiving psalms.
I find that these types of psalms can relate to my life more on a personal level. I also find psalms easier to understand. From time to time I will pick up my white Bible from the shelf and read a few verses and ask myself what is God trying to tell me through this passage. My favorite part about scripture is all the connections I can see between stories. Scripture in prayer is a vital aspect to my prayer life because there is nothing that will help guide me throughout my life other than Gods words. Thus, the prayer and spirituality aspect of my life has only strengthened my relationship with God.
God works in many miraculous ways and I believe he guided me to take this class. I often have doubt regarding my faith and I think the Prayer and Spirituality class at Mercy has given me great insight on how to live in God’s presence as an image of God. Before taking this class my relationship with God was rocky. The image of God has always been the same for me but because of the unit on images of God I am now aware that God is all around us. The journaling and meditation unit sparked a light within me to incorporate these exercises into my daily life.
I find myself completely open to God when I’m journaling prayerfully. I plan to keep a journal where I can reflect on scripture and talk to God. Within the journaling unit I struggled with the meditation. I think mediation is not for me. However, I plan to listen to meditation music such as mantra while I journal and reflect on scripture. I know my prayer is genuine because by incorporating Gods words I have invited him into my prayer. As the semester comes to an end I have been heavily equipped with many different was to reach God in a different way that will ultimately strengthen my loving bond with God.