Christian Counselor Seattle
If your spiritual life has been feeling dull, trying a new practice could bring refreshment. A vibrant faith is formed in ongoing practice. Just like human relationships, our relationship with God goes through development and changes.
During seasons of change, grief, or stress it can be helpful to try new practices mixed with familiar ones. There are many ways to draw close to God, just as there are many members of the body of Christ.
Ways to strengthen your spiritual practices.
A few ideas that may help you go deeper in your faith journey include the ancient spiritual practices of Examen, taking prayer walks, exploring the depths of Christian music, and studying the lives of past Christians.
Introduction to the practice of Examen
In a nutshell, this particular prayer practice is looking back over your day for the presence of God.
If you are someone with an established morning quiet time for prayer and reading, Examen can be a good way to bookend your day. In the early morning, you may set intentions to be calm, accomplish something great, or just keep your temper in check. You may ask God to help you with these things. Then, at the end of the day, you look back to see how God was with you in all that transpired that day.
Ignatius of Loyola developed the practice of Examen along with many other spiritual exercises and devotions. According to the Jesuit Institute:
“There are five steps to the Examen as it appears in the Spiritual Exercises (n.43) of St Ignatius of Loyola:
1. Give thanks. Spend a few moments in gratitude for the gifts and blessings of the day.
2. Ask for light. Ask God to enlighten you, showing where he has been at work and present in your day through events, people, and places.
3. Examine the day. Review the moments of the day, noticing your reactions to these events, people, and places.
4. Seek forgiveness. Ask God’s forgiveness for the times when you have acted, spoken, or thought contrary to his grace and calling for you.
5. Resolve to change. Decide what in your behavior or attitude you will try to improve tomorrow.
The Examen might take 10-15 minutes to complete.”
God is intimately acquainted with you, and how you spend your days. So, why not choose to be intimately aware of His presence? The practice of Examen is rooted in prayer and self-awareness and leads to greater awareness of God’s active presence in your daily life.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. – Psalm 139:1-3, NIV
Take a prayer walk.
Have you ever made a resolve to spend more time in prayer, only to find yourself becoming distracted every time you try? Or perhaps sitting still and trying to say words sends you into sleep mode.
Combining the physical act of walking with the spiritual act of prayer will do wonders for your body and your soul. By walking you will leave aside the tyranny of the urgent in your home or workplace. Your blood will be flowing, and your words may follow suit. Set aside the need to count steps or set a timer for prayer.
Plan a distance or route, taking into consideration your time limits and ability. Then walk and talk to God, silently or aloud as you feel comfortable.
There are even specially designed prayers for walking, including labyrinths. The history of prayer labyrinths is a way to pray and walk with intention. Many churches that have a labyrinth offer it free for public use. They ask that you be respectful of the space, and use it for your edification.
Another benefit to prayer walks is of course being in Creation. Spending time noticing the world that God has made, and the creativity of humans within the world. By choosing to pay attention, you are learning to see the presence of God in the simplest places.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 (NIV)
Write songs or poems.There are hundreds of hymns and songs written as an expression of worship and prayer. Deep diving into the music of the past can give you some ideas about how to express your deepest thoughts and feelings about God and to God.
Reacquaint yourself with the songs of Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, Martin Luther, Hildegard of Bingen, Frances and so many more. Listen to musical arrangements of the psalms and other portions of Scripture. Check out current musicians who are composing new tunes to old hymns.
Try listening to familiar hymns in a different language. Better yet, watch videos of churches in other countries singing their hymns. Connecting with the universal church is a beautiful way to notice the way that God is present beyond your own spiritual habits.
After you have spent some time with the music of the past, perhaps you would like to try writing yourself. Take a deep dive into writing your own songs, without any intention of sharing them. How would you use your words to worship God?
“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” – Martin Luther
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. – Psalm 65:8, NIV
Look to history.If you have been a faithful member of one church/denomination you may feel that you are not being challenged in your faith. Develop a curious heart and mind. Try reading the works of past Christian writers. Build relationships with others in different churches. Learn about similarities and differences.
There are stories of God’s work in the recent and distant past. Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. That means that whatever you are struggling with, someone else has also struggled. And it is likely that someone has written about it somewhere.
You can draw on the wisdom not just of your brothers and sisters in Christ today, but also of the ones of the past. Be encouraged by their witness and example.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. – Hebrews 12:1, NIV
The journey of faith is full of ups and downs, trials and challenges. You may need to try new things to learn the lessons God has planned for you. By changing your spiritual practices, you are opening the doors to a deeper faith and a richer relationship with God.
Christian counseling for spiritual development.
If you have been searching for ways to go deeper in your faith and strengthen your spiritual practices, consider meeting and working with me or one of the other counselors in our online counselor directory. We will offer guidance rooted in Scripture with an understanding of the modern issues you may be experiencing. Call today to make your first appointment.
“On My Knees”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Writing Music”, Courtesy of Fellipe Ditadi, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Anxious”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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