Advent Practices – Week 2 – Day 4

THEME: COMFORT ISN’T COMFORTABLE

BREATH PRAYER: LORD, HELP ME CARRY YOUR COMFORT TO THOSE IN NEED.


CENTERING:

“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”

Mark 1:3

SETTLING IN:

  • In a journal, note the day, time, and place you’re sitting.
  • Open with a few moments of silence. Rest, and breathe deeply.
  • Complete the following sentence in your journal: Today, I feel ________________.
  • Read the centering verse above slowly (aloud or silently).

Pause for a few moments of silence, then pray this week’s breath prayer.

PRACTICE:
LISTENING

For a short form of this exercise, follow the prompts in italics.

We know from scripture the Holy Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), makes us aware of our sin (John 16:8), and prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26). In his Spiritual Exercises (written around 1535), St. Ignatius of Loyola describes the Spirit as our primary listener. Ignatius encouraged Christ’s followers who were engaging in these practices to speak about them with other spiritual friends, sharing what the Lord was revealing to them. The listener was to listen with a heart of prayer, speaking very little out loud, lifting the speaker’s concerns to the Father rather than trying to fix them. This form of intercession can go a long way toward understanding our role as a fellow disciple, rather than thinking we can fulfill the role of the Holy Spirit.

Truly listening to others forces us to move more slowly than perhaps we have become accustomed. We often enter conversations with the (conscious or unconscious) goal of making our point, telling our story, expressing our feelings. In this practice, we seek to be fully present in interactions with others, slowing down enough to listen well, pray for the person we’re with, and trust the Holy Spirit to do His work.

  • Think through your schedule for the day ahead. Where will you be? With whom will you speak and interact, if even briefly? What kinds of conversations do you expect to have?
    • Short Form: Think of one person you anticipate seeing and speaking with today, and consider the things you expect to discuss with him or her.
  • Invite God to be present in these interactions, praying about each one by name. Welcome the Holy Spirit’s activity, whatever He has for you and the people you’ll see. Ask Him to direct your words, thoughts, and body language.
    • Short Form: Invite God into that conversation, and imagine Him being physically present. Welcome the Holy Spirit’s guidance of your words, and ask Him to make You mindful of His presence when you’re with that person.
  • Pray the breath prayer throughout the day as a reminder to carry His comfort to those in need. You might put a sticky note on your desk or dashboard to remind you, or write “breath prayer” on your hand if it helps.
    • Short Form: Write the breath prayer on a sticky note, then place it somewhere you’ll see it before you talk with this person.
  • As you have these conversations you prayed through during your day, pray for the person silently as they speak. Are they worried, disheartened, frustrated, fearful? Lift their concerns to God. Are they happy or encouraged? Thank God for His goodness in their lives. Slow down enough to listen to their words while asking the Lord to direct your own. Look for ways God answers your prayer to be a vessel for His comfort.
    • Short Form: During the conversation, pray the breath prayer silently. Don’t rush to speak, but pray it over and over as you listen. Expect God to answer your prayer to bring comfort to those in need.
  • At the end of the day, write a few notes in your journal about how God answered your prayer, and ask Him how He might have you respond.
    • Short Form: At the end of the day, thank God for His presence in your conversation. Is there an action He might have you take to encourage that person further?

Summary: Write in your journal a brief summary (five sentences or less) of your practice.

Closing: Lord, help me carry Your comfort to those in need.


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Photo credit Joanna Kosinska

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