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Mar 31, 2020
The forced isolation that comes with the Corona Virus Pandemic can be viewed as a gift when seen as an unprecedented opportunity for engaging in a variety of spiritual practices that require solitude. What if you thought of these days as the Jews consider the Sabbath—the most sacred of times? A time to cease, rest, reflect, delight, and pray. Using these days of self-isolation as a Sabbath to nurture your inner spiritual life will disarm fear, sustain hope, pull you into a solidarity with a suffering world, and prepare you to bring Jesus’ teachings to life when you reenter your everyday world. The Spiritual Practices we will be sharing in the coming weeks are mostly meditative and are specifically chosen because they are best observed in silence, stillness, and solitude.
Praying our experiences as a spiritual practice is an invitation to open our lives to God. In his little book, “Praying Our Experiences,” Joseph Schmidt shows how our experiences can become the content of our prayers and can lead to a newfound oneness with God. By focusing on praying our personal experiences prayer becomes a total experience, bringing together the many strands that make up our lives. Praying our experiences is opening ourselves to God in order to know ourselves as God knows us and to love ourselves and others as God loves through the experiences of our life.
Schmidt advocates that we pray with our life experiences in mind, telling our story to God much as St. Augustine, Teressa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux did in their autobiographies. As our story is enfolded into the providence of God’s story, our true identity and calling is revealed. Schmidt believes that these stories can become prayers of the heart and are founded and rooted in our life experiences. And, that sincere reflection on these stories of the ordinary experiences of our lives has a prayer value. Let’s take a closer look at how Schmidt suggests we might approach praying our experiences.
Praying our experiences as a spiritual practice is referring to focusing on our own life experiences as the subject matter of our personal prayer time. Reflecting on our experiences with honesty and with a sense of anticipation and discovery is at the heart of the process of praying our experiences. Also, using Scripture as a light to further explore, clarify and illuminate our experiences adds depth and meaning to the practice of praying our experiences.
Praying our experiences is by nature reflective. That is, we begin by thinking about or meditating on a particular life experience. The situation might be a joyful or a painful one. For example, you might pray the experience of a hurtful argument you had with a family member or friend. Now that you are on the back side of the argument you are more calm and willing to bring the experience before the Lord. You simply recall the incident and open yourself to welcome the truth God wants to reveal to you about the experience. You are willing to allow God to enlighten you, improve you, or guide you in your next steps. In praying this experience you might explore your feelings leading up to, during and after the argument and any unmet needs of yours that aroused your anger and contributed to your hostility. You might recall how Jesus told us to deal with our enemy and how to address any situation where we feel wronged. By honestly searching our motives and what is going on inside of us, we enfold our story into the truth of the Gospel, the Spirit of Truth that is within us calling us to be our truest and best self.
Of course, not just difficult experiences have to form the content of our prayers. We can pray our joys and our victories as well, and become more thankful and more aware of God’s grace and goodness.
As praying our experiences becomes an integral part of our prayer life, we begin to more clearly see our motivations, priorities, and values, our goodness as well as our duplicity. As we grow in self-knowledge we begin to experience God’s blessings, are moved to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God, and to welcome His transforming power. As we embrace our experiences and become more aware of our blessedness and our brokenness, we become more aware of the gracious and loving presence of God in action in our daily living.
Praying our experiences puts us in the company of the holy men and women of the Scriptures. Job, Mary, and most notably, Jesus himself intuitively prayed their experiences. It can become our way of praying as well.
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