Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Posted by Spalding Hurst

September 4, 2021

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

By Michelle Grgurich, SCN

Part of the Toolbox for Prayer series

Download in PDF format

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.

As humans, we engage in a variety of activities to develop relationships. We might go to a sporting event or see a movie with a group of friends, go to the local Starbucks for coffee or meet for lunch or dinner, go to a concert, read or listen to a book together or meet at a state park to hike the trails.

Our creativity in human relationships seems endless. We find numerous ways to engage with our friends and family members. Sharing various experiences together creates precious memories and deepens our relationship with each successive encounter.

Various experiences of prayer strengthen our connection with the divine. There are just as many ways to develop our prayer as there are ways to build our human relationships.

We can encounter the divine in a communal way when we attend Mass, pray the Liturgy of the Hours with others or go to a special prayer service. There is great power in joining with others to express and witness to our shared faith.

Our relationship with the divine does not end there. Just like we are in touch with our friends and family on a regular basis and not only at gatherings, so we engage in private prayer experiences to deepen our spiritual life.

When we pray privately we create space for the presence of the divine to accompany us and the voice of the divine to guide us.

Many people express difficulty in entering into prayer, often because the concept of praying conjures images of sitting alone in a room being “forced” to be quiet and to push all thoughts out of the mind. This image really limits what we can consider prayer and can leave us bored, frustrated and turned off by the thought of prayer.

Now imagine prayer as a time to free your spirit, to open yourself up to an encounter with the divine in a profound way, even for a singular moment of
connection/oneness.

What would open you to this experience, this encounter with the divine?

What is in your toolbox for prayer?

You can begin to create it by listing the types of prayer you already know that work for you and then . . . add something new!

“When we pray privately we create space for the presence of the divine to
accompany us and the voice of the divine to guide us.”

Here are some suggestions for your consideration for private prayer, see where the divine Spirit leads you. Be creative, free your spirit, open yourself to an encounter with the divine as you prayerfully engage in these activities.

Listen to reflective music – try something instrumental (no words). How does the music inspire you? Can you hear the whisper of the Spirit as you listen?

Written Journal – Write your prayer, express your sorrow, struggles, joys, hopes for reconciliation, desire to forgive. Take time to reflect on your writing.

Visual Journal – look through a magazine and cut out the pictures that attract you (pictures only, cut around all words or phrases). Paste images in a creative manner, overlapping as needed on an 8.5 by 5.5 piece of cardboard or card stock. Reflect on the images you have chosen. What theme(s) or message(s) are you speaking to you about what is attracting you through these images?

Create a Mandala or purchase a Mandala workbook – this symbol of the spiritual journey will lead you to reflection, add color to the geometric patterns through the layers from the outside to the inside, as an instrument of meditation. What emerges as a lesson for you? (you can find printable Mandala pages free online).

Read a Psalm until you find a phrase that feeds you, stop there, repeat that phrase, enter into a moment of reflection about what struck you. How is this
phrase feeding you at this time? What does it say about what you need at this time?

Walk the Labyrinth – The walk from the entrance to the center is the first part of the path a time to unburden yourself, creating space for an encounter with the divine. The center is the place where the walker receives illumination or rests in the presence of the divine, retracing the path back offers time to integrate the insights that have come on the journey.

Gyan Mudra – Sit in a comfortable position, join your thumb and first finger, rest quietly and notice the energy that is created as it focuses your mind on a state of meditation. Simply rest in the divine.

Start a gratitude journal – Every night list 3-5 things you are grateful for that day. How does this prayer help you to review your day in a reflective manner? What did you notice about the presence of the divine in your day?

Take a walk, or sit somewhere you can gaze on nature –How is the Creator speaking with you? What message is particularly yours in this journey/reflection? Pause for a minute to let this settle into your soul. Drink in the sacred pause.

Haiku – A great way to express/remember a moment in prayer. Use this short-form poem that has 17 syllables, first line 5, second line 7, and third line 5. It focuses on a brief moment of time, captures images, and offers insight. The process of finding only 17 syllables to express your reflection helps you to capture the essence of any moment in time. Other forms of poetry and prose are powerful too! Give it a try!

Spiritual Reading – Enter into a place of prayer by picking up a book by a spiritual writer, notice the lines and phrases that jump out at you. How is the reading an invitation from the divine to look at a particular issue in your life or lift a prayer for people who are struggling?

Get in touch with the memory of what the divine (Creator, Redeemer and Spirit) has done in your life – You can write your own gospel, your witness to the action of the divine in your life. Holy Scripture writings do just this, the stories evoke images of the action of the divine in the lives of the people.

For 2 minutes imagine you are basking in the Light of Christ – How does the divine light transform you? What insight do you gain in this experience?

Listen to a Guided Meditation – Allow yourself to rest in a sacred space for a meditation that leads you to experience the presence of the divine in the present moment. There are many guided meditations available online. Find one that inspires you.

Art – Get creative, draw, paint, weave, quilt, etc. How does your creative spirit connect you with the divine Spirit? How does it deepen your spirituality? How is the action of the divine in you conveyed to others through your work?

Photography – Capture photos of the natural world, the busy street or a vacation spot. Sit quietly and reflect deeper on the meaning of the images you chose to take. Where do the photos lead you in prayer?

 

Michelle Grgurich, SCN, currently on sabbatical, most recently served as the Director of the Office of Congregational Ministries for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for 11 years. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she received her Bachelors in Business Administration and Master of Arts in Theology/Religious Education from Duquesne University. Previously, she served as the Director of the Department for Persons with Disabilities in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. She is fluent in American Sign Language. In addition, she participates in the music ministry at St. Vincent Church.

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

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.

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!

The Legacy of Mother Catherine Spalding

Catherine believed that God is truly present everywhere – in each person, in each circumstance of life she encountered. Through prayer and reflection she would discern, what is the loving thing to do here, right now? Then with confidence and faith she would daringly utilize all the various means at her disposal to accomplish the task that was before her and always with a gentle spirit and a loving heart.

Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

The Central Leadership Team of SCNs Sangeeta, Jackulin and Adeline wish every Sister of Charity of Nazareth and Associate a very happy St. Vincent de Paul Feast Day.

Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

I often use my prose that I produce as a creative writer, as a stepping-stone into my prayer time with God.

The Rhythm of Contemplation

Rhythm is known as the repeated patterns of movement or sound while contemplation is known as deep reflective thoughts that form who we are as a person. We each have a rhythm of life and how we contemplate. The rhythm of who we are flows out of us every day. As I stop to contemplate, I have come to realize that my way of contemplation is a rhythm of loving.

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.

Latest issue of ‘The Journey’

The second volume of The Journey Magazine for 2022 will be hitting mailboxes soon and is available to read online.

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

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.

12 Comments

  1. Angie Shaughnessy SCN

    Michelle-such wise and beautiful tips. Thank you!!

    Reply
  2. Liz

    Thank you- good reminders …

    Reply
  3. Rita D.

    Thanks Michelle. My back porch is one of my favorite prayer spot. If you ever want to experience it, come on over. In all kinds of weather, it offers various animals, trees, yard, sun and shade. All are welcome!

    Reply
  4. Maggie Vargas

    Thank you for sharing! Sometimes we do not realize we are praying by simply admiring God’s wonderful works!

    Reply
  5. Roselyn

    Thank you Michelle. Your tips for prayer, I am sure is your own experience.. I sincerely appreciate your generosity and simplicity in sharing it with all of us.. ❤️

    Reply
  6. Connie Tarallo

    Thankful, helpful and easy to manage ! Michelle, a great Tool Box of Prayer for everyone ! Blessings !

    Reply
  7. jessie saldanha

    Beautiful Michelle ,simple yet profound thoughts to pray, thanks for sharing

    Reply
  8. Blanche Correia

    Grateful to you Michelle for guiding and showing us the Path in connecting with Divine

    Reply
  9. Rita Puthenkalam

    Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your personal experience in payer.
    It certainly does help…

    Reply
  10. Nimmie

    Thank you Michelle. There is so much simplicity in this article that anyone can relate to.

    Reply
    • Carlette

      Thanks Michelle sometimes we make prayer so complicated. Thanks for reminding us of the simplicity and ease of prayer.

      Reply
      • Basanti Lakra

        Thank you Michelle for sharing this Toolbox for prayer. These tools are simple to achieve the purpose in diverse ways.

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