Week 14 Prayer Exercises
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1 As I begin Part Two in Sacred Story, I consciously determine if it is beneficial to change the number of times I pray daily. I will ask for patience to start each day with renewed commitment, even if I miss a day’s prayer. I will bring my notebook to each prayer period. I will begin this week a habit of a simple daily journal.1 At the end of each day, I will mark one event that increased my faith, hope and love, and one event that decreased my faith, hope and love.
2 I will listen attentively to my experience to discern the two plot lines in my story. I will do this by consciously attending to my fantasies and/or daydreams.
3 As I begin Part Two in Sacred Story, I will encounter several more foundational exercises. Like the exercises leading up to a Whole-Life Confession, these additional exercises will help identify important narrative themes in my story that I can bring to my formal times of prayer. The exercises’ meaning and energy come from my asking God for help and grace—from my relationship with God.
I will awaken to the present moment.
I will awaken to my spiritual nature.
I will not make any decisions based on fear.
I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:
Take this full week after your Whole-Life Confession for this Ignatian Daydream/Fantasy exercise. It is inspired by St. Ignatius’ “awakening” while he was recovering from his battle wound. Now is the perfect time to do this exercise, because after Reconciliation you have much more clarity and peacefulness to see, by grace, the contours of your story.
Ignatius, while recovering from battle, discovered that his daydreams and fantasies were pulling his heart in two different directions. One direction was toward vain, self-serving, self-indulgent exploits rooted in his wounded human nature. The other direction was toward holy aspirations representing his authentic human nature, and the deepest aspirations of his heart. These latter daydreams had been inaudible and out of view most of his life. The black noise of temptations, and the false self-portrait, both deafened and blinded his heart. Aided by grace he awoke to the existence of the fantasies and daydreams, and by grace, discovered that only one of the two storylines expressed his authentic human nature—the deepest dream of his heart.
You will discover that many daydreams and fantasies fight for room in the conscious and unconscious spaces of your heart. No matter their differences, or the fact that they might seem unrelated, they always fall into the two storylines representing the two trajectories of your heart. One set of daydreams or fantasies trend toward infinite Love, holy appetites, integration, humility, reconciliation, hope, peace, wakefulness, sobriety and gratitude. The other set of daydreams/fantasies trend toward finite things, appetites low and earthly, disintegration, narcissism, resentment, cynicism, anxiety, unconsciousness, drunkenness and lack of gratitude.
Begin this week by paying attention to your daydreams and fantasies. Let them see the light of day. You will find their traces everywhere: in things you purchase, or want to buy; in your favorite songs, movies and stories; in radio and TV programs that claim your passionate loyalty; in the lives of artists, athletes, actors, saints, politicians—the heroes you emulate and admire, or those you disdain; in your programs of study and your job applications; in the friends you have, or wish you had; in the things that happened, or things you wish had not happened; in the places you want to visit or make your home, and the places you want to leave and never return; in the worlds you visit in cyberspace, or the one you visit in your inner sacred space; what motivates you to exercise and discipline yourself or what influences you to fall out of shape; in the individuals and groups you love, and those whose love you reject; the people you offer forgiveness, or those you refuse to forgive; in the people you envy, wishing you had their looks, talents, connections, wealth, happiness, or relationships; in what causes you to practice your faith or causes you to forget and forgo its practice; in the persons and events that stir your sexual lusts, or persons and events that stir your childlike innocence; in what opens your wallet to give to the needy, or closes it to their need; in the stories, images and experiences that break your heart, or those that cause your heart to be joyful; in the things that make you cry, or that make you laugh; in the person or group you want to spend the rest of your life with, or the person or group you want to spend the rest of our life avoiding; in what moves your heart to thanklessness, or makes it swell with gratitude.
Do this exercise in the context of your daily 15-minute prayer sessions, allowing it to permeate your actual daydreams. Your brief journal entry at the end of the day can itemize just one thing that brought you hope and peace that day, and just one thing that eroded your hope and peace. In light of this fantasy exercise, focus on themes related to the two main daydreams/fantasies that you unconsciously or consciously entertain. An example: “I daydreamed about x today and it brought me joy because…”
Your own daydreams and fantasies may not be so sharply felt but will most likely align with the two themes described below.
Anxiety, fear, lusts, compulsive appetites, resentment and anger, control of others, getting even/ getting back, addictions, lost innocence, aggression and vices populate their story lines. In short, they are narcissistic dreams/fantasies linked to your broken heart and wounded human nature. These daydreams/fantasies generate electrical energy, excitement and urges to things low and earthly. They inflate your ego and excite you while you are fantasizing or engaging them, but they leave you dry, empty, hungrier and dissatisfied—even depressed—after the fact. Or out of your sadness, depression, anger, emptiness and dryness, you may turn to them for satisfaction and release—like a narcotic—a painkiller for your heart.
Peace, calm, self-control, forgiveness, surrendering angers and hatreds, appreciation of beauty and innocence, holy dreams and high ideals, inspirations to selfless love, desires for healing and the joy of making a difference and living a meaningful life are their storylines. These storylines are linked to your God-given human nature, and the deepest dreams of your heart. These daydreams/fantasies generate peace, tears, quiet hope and aspirations to all things innocent, beautiful and noble. They humble your heart and fill you with gratitude while you are fantasizing or engaging them, and they leave you fulfilled, content and satisfied—even joyful—after the fact.
(Ps 51: 17-19)
1 Our studies have shown that those who committed to two times a day for prayer were more faithful in cultivating a sustainable daily practice. Also, research revealed that those who practiced a simple logbook or journal exercise were also more faithful to the prayer disciplines.