Two Wings of My Prayer Life

By Jane Karakunnel, SCN

Part of the Toolbox for Prayer series

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As an Indian Christian Religious, the two wings of my prayer life are Biblical and Indian Spirituality. At home, we had everyday family prayer which included Rosary and reading from the Bible. I was responsible to conduct it. It was a vocal prayer that did not touch my heart though there was devotion to do it. After coming to the Congregation too, prayer was mostly a recitation of psalms and singing of songs. Though I was faithful to it there was not much impact on my life. Prayer was like an activity I had to do but I did not enjoy it or experience anything in my heart.

During my education in the Seminary, I was introduced to both Biblical and Indian spirituality which made a deep impression on my life and I began to experience the warmth and joy of the magnanimous heart of God. Teaching Scripture to the novices and catechists gave me a chance to enjoy the treasures in the Word of God. I was deeply touched by the unconditional love of God who has been very active in salvation history and in my own personal history.

There are many quotations from the Bible which have inspired, challenged, and strengthened me in my vocation and mission. “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you …, I call you friends …, I have chosen you …, bear fruit that will last … (Jn. 15: 9 to 17) … I made myself all things to all people in order to win at least a few for Christ Jesus ( 1 Cor. 9: 22).” St. John’s Gospel invites me to enter into a contemplative union with God while St. Paul has inspired and motivated me to follow his pastoral heart in reaching out to the people in loving service.

In Indian spirituality, the practice of Ashtanga Yoga and the study of the Bhagavad Gita has greatly helped in my spiritual life. Yoga means four-fold union: union with God, self, others, and creation. Ashtanga means an eight-step methodology to attain this union. The first two steps are Yama and Niyama which means social and individual discipline in one’s daily life. Asana means the posture which should be comfortable and steady. It also includes my attitude towards my body and keeping the body fit and relaxed through exercise. Pranayama is the control of breath. Through breathing in and out consciously the body becomes relaxed and attuned to the Divine presence within and without. Pratyahara is controlling the senses by withdrawing from the sense objects. Dharana is concentrating on one point, one person, or one Word. Dyana is meditating on that and Samadhi is contemplation or becoming one with that. In practice, it is to concentrate on my favorite form of Jesus, meditate and contemplate which means to imbibe the values of Jesus and to be filled with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Following this method can lead one to a deep spiritual experience and oneness with the Divine present everywhere.

Bhagavad Gita is known as the Gospel of India. I was inspired by the deep intimacy of Krishna and Arjuna as master and disciple. It has helped me to understand my relationship with Jesus. Krishna suggests three margas (ways) to Arjuna to attain liberation of self and union with God. They are Gyana (knowing), Bhakti (loving), and Karma (serving). These are very much present in John’s Gospel too. “Eternal life is to know God (Jn.17:3). God so loved the world (Jn.3:16). Do as I have done (Jn. 13:15).” Knowing God experientially, loving God intimately, and serving God by serving others selflessly (Nishkama Karma).

Questions for reflection:

How do I attune myself to the presence of the Divine?

What do the two wings of prayer, Biblical and Indian spirituality, awaken in me?

Jane Karakunnel is from Patna Province. At present directress of Catholic women’s Association of Patna Archdiocese and the Bihar Regional Secretary of the women’s commission of CBCI. She has BTH from Dharmaram College, Bangalore and MTH from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She has been teaching Scripture in formation and pastoral ministry in parishes. She is also the directress of the SCNAs Program in Patna Province.

Want to read more from the Toolbox for Prayer series? Click the links below.

Praying with Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul was a French priest of the 17th century whose legacy continues to this day in all who seek to live the Charism of Charity. In his early days as a priest, Vincent was challenged to discover the true meaning of his life and vocation.
Vincent was an intelligent person, a naturally gifted teacher, and well educated. Vincent was open to and often sought the counsel of others. Through the events of his personal life, his experiences as a priest, his encounters with the poor and
needy, and his openness to the grace of God, Vincent came to recognize the Providence of God leading him as his driving force.

Heart Meditation

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris provides the opportunity to reflect on the idea that there is no greater gift you can offer, that the energy of an open heart. An open heart has the qualities of unconditional love, a healing presence, innate harmony, and compassion. Opening our hearts to these qualities allows for joy filled service to be possible. 

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Prayer is communication with the divine (Creator, Redeemer, Spirit), a
relationship, like our human relationships, that needs to be nurtured regularly. Just as in a human relationship we find different ways to build our relationships, so it is with the divine.

Using Inclusive Language and Feminine Images of God in Prayer

We all know that God is spirit and as such has no sex or gender. Unfortunately, language is too limited to describe an infinite, transcendent, non-human God with whom we desire to have a“personal” relationship. We can only talk about God in metaphors, knowing that we will never fully be able to describe God.

While male metaphors for God abound in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), there are female metaphors to help offset an overly male God view.

What Leads me to God?

A quick and easy answer to this all important question, “What leads me to God?” might be, “Everything!” That answer bears much truth in it. Plunging more deeply, however, reveals places and happenings, situations and persons who bring God front and center into my life. It could be a beautiful tree, an imposing mountain, a peaceful, winding river, the discovery of a poem, a passage from Scripture, being alert and finding God wherever the divine may be waiting for me. Places would be where Eucharist dwells and where I sit to pray. The places where I find the beauties of nature bring God right to me. A fragile flower, a singing bird, a lovely cloud call out the Creator’s name.

Praying with Catherine Spalding: From the Known to the Unknown

What seems like a lifetime ago, during a third grade social studies activity about daily life for the Kentucky pioneers, I vividly remember taking turns churning
butter and pouring melted tallow into iron candle molds. I was fascinated by all they embarked upon on their journey. From an eight-year-old’s perspective, their
lives seemed unbelievably difficult – fraught with obstacles to daily survival, uncertainties about the future, and risk. I could not understand why someone
would choose this path; however, I admired the passion, grit, ingenuity and faith in God required to cross from the known into the unknown. All that I learned back then took on its own shape in my active 8-year-old imagination and I believe those early images of the pioneers awakened in me a curiosity and awe about acting on a dream. What was it like to be so strongly drawn to move into the unknown – willing to risk it all in the name of hope? I was captured by this pioneer spirit. As I grew older, my understanding became more informed, less imaginary and more inclusive of the various impacts of this westward movement. Today, it continues to be expanded as we search to recognize the full story of that era and our place in it – good or bad. We still have so much to learn. However, for this reflection, I will focus on the part that captured my interest as a child – spirit, passion and resilience.

Letting Scripture Speak

Lectio Divina is a special kind of Scripture prayer. The term means a “holy reading” or “a prayerful reading” of Scripture. It is a process of praying with Scripture in a way that invites us to be more open to hear a personal and meaningful message from within the passage. This kind of prayer also leads us to a contemplative stance in our prayer with Scripture.

In this article you will find the four basic steps of Lectio Divina: READ, MEDITATE, PRAY, CONTEMPLATE. I will attempt to explain these steps in a practical way. My hope is that this process will help us to pray with the Scriptures in a richer way. This reflection is meant to aid us in understanding and following the spirit of each step and also to help us to become more open to God’s word within the Scripture passage you select.

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

As an Indian Christian Religious, the two wings of my prayer life are Biblical and Indian Spirituality. At home, we had everyday family prayer which included Rosary and reading from the Bible. I was responsible to conduct it. It was a vocal prayer that did not touch my heart though there was devotion to do it. After coming to the Congregation too, prayer was mostly a recitation of psalms and singing of songs. Though I was faithful to it there was not much impact on my life. Prayer was like an activity I had to do but I did not enjoy it or experience anything in my heart.

See No Stranger

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris encourages us all to let our light shine and “see no stranger”. We must look beyond ones outward appearance, and instead see them as a sister or brother that we do not yet know. This allows us to open ourselves up to the possibility of connection, let go of the impulse to view others as different, and enables us to pay attention to others stories.

Dance as Prayer

Dance was always a part of my life growing up. I am from German heritage so polkas, along with the chicken dance, conga lines, the hokey pokey were a big part of our family celebrations. Our joy and enjoyment was expressed with our whole being – mind, heart and body. I loved it!

But, I never thought of dance as prayer until the novitiate. Our novice director, Sister Mary Pauletta, had a Sister friend from another community who visited her when I was a first-year novice. This was in the post Vatican II days when lots of new ideas were emerging. The Sister friend introduced us to liturgical dance. She choreographed several dances to psalm songs and many of us participated. Though her name is long lost in my memory, I will never forget the gift she gave me by introducing body as well as mind and heart to my way of praying. I loved it!