Over the past several months my Bible study group and I have been learning and exploring prayer. It started after one of the members returned from the National House of Prayer, located in Ottawa. She was filled with passion for prayer and as a result our group began prayer-walking around our hometown of Milton. We prayed into bullying and drug use at school, violence at parks, and the youth drop-in center in the downtown core. And although we did pray for ourselves, with the usual requests for protection as we walked and for needs in our daily lives, we never really prayed into ourselves.
Learning how to pray into myself is one of two very important things I learned at Canada Youth 2009 in July.
It sounds weird, and the experience itself is weird, at least it was for me, but it intrigued me; a sort of spiritual meditation guided by the Holy Spirit. Mark Yaconelli, one of the guest speakers at CY, introduced us to two different forms of this prayer. The first, and in my mind most important, was the awareness examen, designed to discover God’s presence in your daily life. The prayer is based on the teachings of Ignatius of Loyola. The idea of the prayer is to go back over your day, travelling back, allowing the Holy Spirit to draw out a single moment where you felt God strongly, and to remember the details of the moment. It’s harder than it seems: the first time Mark guided us through this prayer, I got nothing back; no one moment really stood out. But the second time, the moment came to me, and the prayer was complete. I allowed the grace of the moment to become a prayer of praise for God’s presence in that one moment.
The second prayer is much more personal in nature. A prayer of welcoming awareness allowed me to bring forward and personify a part of my personality, something that isn’t right with me, and accept it as a part of me. Again I know it sounds weird. It introduces you to a part of you that you could be ashamed of, and gives that element a face. The Holy Spirit enters into the mix, and brings healing and acceptance. Weird I know, but maybe too often we ignore our own deep needs, the ones we aren’t willing to share with others. Maybe we need to have some selfish prayer time when we’re alone, taking time to recharge, such as taking Sabbath.
Andrew Root (who was presented in the June issue) was the other speaker at Canada Youth. He touched on the aspect of taking Sabbath and the connection of that to relational based youth ministry (or rather, ministering to youth). There needs to be some form of boundary between you and those you minister to. If there isn’t, it could only end up harming you and the youth with whom you have a relationship.
Taking Sabbath isn’t just about going to church on Sunday morning, though that may be a part of your Sabbath routine. Remember, after creating the Earth God took an entire day to rest. And if God, the divine, took a day to rest, how much more would we need this! Sabbath is just that—taking a day to rest, relax, and pray, to recharge with God. It is time to spend away from life! And in today’s world it is more important than ever! I work in the information technology industry and I see it more and more: life is reaching breakneck speeds. With Blackberries and portable internet sticks that work around the globe, to software that allows employees to connect to company networks from any internet connection, it may actually take more effort to disconnect from the world than it does to connect to it!
So what did I learn? Take time to relax from life, read a book, and of course pray about yourself and see where God leads you.