Week 34 Prayer Exercises
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1 I will visualize my week ahead to identify places I can find technology-free zones for my 15-minutes of prayer each day. I am also learning that my resolution to spend no more and no less than 15-minutes in those prayer periods increases my fidelity to the practice.
2 I will continue this thirty-fourth week by praying the five meditations of Sacred Story prayer. As St. Ignatius suggested, I enter my prayer at least once daily. Each time I pray my heart opens more fully and I am carried forward in my Sacred Story.
3 I will ask God to help me understand the school of spiritual discernment. This week I will ponder St. Ignatius’ wisdom on how I ought to act when influenced by the desolation of counter-inspiration.
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 practice Sacramental Reconciliation monthly.
I will ask Jesus for help when I am troubled.
I will thank Jesus daily for life’s gifts.
I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:
Awakening to Sacred Story Discernment Guidelines
Guidelines for Fundamental Healing and Spiritual Growth
Take some time this week to read and reflect on this seventh lesson in discernment. Last week we examined the Divine inspiration of spiritual consolation and the counter inspiration of spiritual desolation as embedded in our lifestyles. This week we will consider St. Ignatius’ wisdom on how we can help diffuse the impact of counter inspiration’s desolation when in its grip.
Guidelines for Fundamental Healing and Spiritual Growth
Diffusing Counter Inspirations
Personal sin, addictions, and emotional/psychological wounds make a person vulnerable to spiritual desolation. When gripped by spiritual desolation, your faith, hope and love is diminished. Ignatius offers indispensable guidance when you are under the influence of counter inspirations and are spiritually desolate, discouraged, hopeless and frustrated. If you closely adhere to these guidelines and act on them, you will avoid much pain and grief in your life. Do not despair if you do not understand the guidelines now. There will come a time when this wisdom will help you.
Ignatius offers four principles for how we ought to act when tempted by the counter inspirations of desolation.
1) When spiritually desolate and experiencing a loss of faith, hope and love, NEVER change course away from the positive resolutions and decisions you reached while under the influence of the Divine inspiration of consolation. Never change course when in desolation!
When you suffer the anxieties and the pressures of counter-inspirations’ desolations, do not change course! Human nature’s enemy feeds on spiritual/emotional wounds and on broken hearts. The counter inspirations may seem logical but they never lead to freedom, peace, or your heart’s healing. None of the choices and decisions influenced by the counter inspirations of desolation, no matter how utterly logical they might appear, will ever increase faith, hope or love. One must be vigilant when tempted by an urgent or compelling need to act immediately. When you feel compelled by an anxious urgency to reach a decision or engage an action, it is a clear sign of counter inspirations at work.
2) During times of desolation, redouble efforts to open and orient your heart to God. Use prayer, examination of conscience, and perhaps some simple penance or fasting to seek God’s grace (Mk 9:29).
Counter inspirations make it difficult to see and feel authentic human nature. Amplifying positive efforts on spiritual fronts might feel incredibly difficult. Yet St. Ignatius’ experience demonstrated that we need, at these times, extra exercise of spirit and body to resist desolation. A determined spirit is necessary during such times. Also, be attentive to thoughts, words, or deeds that are based on inaccurate assessments of your authentic human nature. Allow the times of desolation to instruct you!
3) God provides the essential support and grace necessary to withstand these times of trial and purification.
The support you need will come from your natural abilities, assisted by Divine grace. You may feel completely overwhelmed by temptations, or the darkness of spirit associated with disordered attractions and compulsive behaviors. Yet there is sufficient grace for salvation, even if the logic of the counter inspiration indicates otherwise! Jesus, the Divine Physician, is very close to you during these times of purification. When you encounter the full force and darkness of counter inspirations, be assured that God is present to you When you encounter the full force and darkness of counter inspirations, be assured that God is present to you even though you may not feel God’s presence.
Watch for Obsessive Thinking
You are always either in a state of consolation or desolation. These lessons are teaching you to notice these two spiritual states that have been with you all your life. If you find yourself becoming obsessive about tracking what state you are in at each moment of the day, then you have succumbed to counter-inspirations. Strive for an alert heart and mind. Pray to avoid an obsessive attitude. Being aware will serve your spiritual growth. Being obsessive will harm your spiritual growth.
Do not be deceived by the feelings, no matter how strong or mocking they might appear. This is especially true when your weaknesses, shame and failings are painfully highlighted. Through trial and error, St. Ignatius learned that God is not absent. Trust Ignatius’ wise counsel and affirm your faith in God during times when you do not feel the Spirit. Instead, consciously thank God, who in complete faithfulness, will embrace you. Thank God aloud and affirm God’s salvific role in your Sacred Story.
4) Intentionally strive to cultivate patience and persevere in the religious practices of your faith when influenced by the desolation of counter-inspiration.
The Divine inspiration of consolation always returns. In the interim, use the means of prayer, penance, and self-examination to resist and gain the most from these times of trial. To counter the anxiety you may experience, embrace desolations as an opportunity to deepen your maturing life with God. Be not afraid.
Considerable spiritual and human progress, as well as illumination, will result from your patience and perseverance during these trials. In time you will discover that these times of stress, endured in faith, can produce the enlightenment, healing, peace and hope you seek. Therefore, do not fear them.
Say aloud the one thing that makes you question God’s love for you. Now hear the Lord say: “Nothing in the past or the future; no angel or demon; no height or depth; nothing in all of creation will ever separate you from my love in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:38-39).
When to Make Decisions
Counter-inspirations are usually accompanied by anxiety, electrical excitement and a compelling urge to act quickly and definitively. Never make decisions when you sense these emotional states.
Divine-inspirations are usually accompanied by a deep and abiding peace and calm with no urge to act quickly or definitively. Only make decisions during times of Divine-inspiration’s peace and calm.
Learning the difference between these two spiritual states of heart/mind will serve you very well. It is hard to resist the compulsive urge to act quickly when in the grip of counter-inspiration’s anxieties. Resist! You will save yourself a great deal of pain the enemy of human nature desires to inflict on you.
(Ps 90: 16-17)