Lesson 21: Continuation
This is the last lesson. I sincerely hope you kept your initial desire to bolster your knowledge and experience of God’s presence, in particular by using the three contemplative practices outlined in this course.
In this lesson I will summarizing run through all once more. You also find tips and directives on how to keep going forward.
21.1 Lectio divina: prayer text
Lectio divina is the listening, loving, prayerful and attentive method of reading the Bible. The four steps that can be distinguished (but often coalesce in practice) are:
- Reading (lectio): You repeatedly and attentively read a short bible verse, looking for words that carry special significance for you at that moment.
- Meditating (meditatio): you think about those words and how they relate to your personal life, your experiences, your feelings.
- Praying (oratio): you speak with God about what affects you.
- Resting (contemplatio): you are attentively still in God’s presence.
What is unique about this way of reading Scripture is right from the start everything is focused on the end: to rest in God’s presence. During lectio, meditatio and oratio we do use words, but even at these stages it is good to be somewhat thrifty with them. The first three steps are meant to build towards the stillness, to reach quietude in God’s presence. The, usually short, Bible text that is central is not primarily there to mull over the words (although sometimes that becomes part of it) but to pray. From the beginning of the lectio divina, this excerpt is a prayer text, a text that helps you to come into God’s presence while praying.
That is why I like to refer to lectio divina as contemplative Scripture reading. It is a process that prepares the atmosphere of contemplation for the attentive, loving, blessing, nurturing, and encouraging presence of God, the Father of Jesus Christ.
21.2 Jesus prayer: praying with a prayer-sentence
The Jesus prayer has its roots in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The traditional Jesus prayer goes: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’ The intention of this prayer is to pray it so often – at first out loud and then in the heart – that in your innermost the words eventually always reverberate by themselves. That is an incessant prayer.
You can very well pray the Jesus prayer to the rhythm of your breath. Paying attention to your breathing helps you to be in the here and now spiritually ànd physically, and to participate with heart and soul. You always ‘have your breath with you’. Breathing is the most fundamental activity that keeps us alive, but the wonderful thing is we are usually not even aware of our breathing. Our breath breathes itself.
If we combine attention to our breath with the Jesus prayer, it can be done like this:
- inhale and say (in your head, in your heart): Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
- exhale and say (in your head, in your heart): have mercy on me.
In the context of this book, praying with the words of the Jesus prayer is used as an example for praying with a (constant) prayer sentence. Other phrases, closely related to the Jesus prayer, are for example:
- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, I worship You.
- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, I trust You.
- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, give me peace.
- Lord Jesus, here I am.
- Lord Jesus, You are love.
These are also examples of possible prayer phrases:
- God, come to my rescue, make haste to help me.
- My Lord and my God.
- Your will be done.
- Seek rest, my soul, with God alone.
21.3 Centering prayer: a prayer word
Centering prayer is a way of praying whilst being fully focused on the presence of God. Centering prayer is being in God’s presence with the help of one prayer word. The following four guidelines are meant to help you learn and practice this way of praying. You have already studied and practiced them intensively over the course of these lessons, but it is always good to keep these principles in mind.
1. Choose a prayer word that symbolizes your active desire to be in God’s presence and to be open to His invigorating endeavours within you.
2. Sit down, relax and unwind, connect with your desire to be in God’s presence. Then introduce the prayer word.
3. If you find yourself disturbed by stray thoughts or other distractions just keep coming back gently to your prayer word.
4. Finish by praying the Lord’s Prayer or with a few more moments of silence.
5. This way of praying can have a profound effect on your life because silence has healing power. As humans, we all retain pain and wounds that are not given the chance to heal. In the silence, processes get going in which there ìs room for letting go of what hinders us in our life.
At the end of this course it is good to answer these two questions for yourself:
1. What has this course brought me?
2. What do I intend to do when it comes to further practice with lectio divina, Jesus prayer, and centering prayer?
It can also be fine to share your answers with someone!
In this final lesson I would like to share the following once more, because it is important to keep practicing, even now you have finished the course.
Make a choice, every day, to do an exercise with lectio divina, the Jesus prayer, or centering prayer. Also, determine how much time you want to spend on it using the timer.
Choose your ’timer’:
Maybe a good song to end this course is ‘Here I am Lord’ from John Michael Talbot. Listen calmly, let the words sink in. The lyrics are so deep, so meaningful, so straight from the heart. They might help you to continue, and keep saying to yourself: be still my soul, for God.
Tips and guidance
How can you make sure you will carry on with this and that it has not been a one off?
- Agree with someone to help each other keep doing these contemplative exercises.
- Establish for yourself the time of day and amount of time you will spend on seeking God’s presence.
- Plan a date somewhere in your diary when you will go through the lessons from this book for a second time. Repetition is very powerful! Just write: “From today I will go through the 21 lessons of Be still, my soul for a second time.”
- Opportunities often arise to practice the Jesus prayer or centering prayer: a short rest break, having to wait somewhere, a moment of silence at a church service or some other meeting, when you lie awake at night, when you are on the road, and so on. Take advantage of those occasions.
Thank you for following this course
Thank you for completing this course! I hope it served as an inspiration for you and hopefully, it has taught you something new.