Throughout the ages, people have called on God for their own needs, but also for the need of others. We pray because we desire blessing for others that we have no power to give them. That blessing might be physical or material (food, shelter, healing, safety), or it might be spiritual (peace, open eyes to see and receive God’s love). This role of intercession (one person praying on behalf of another) has been so important in church history that, for centuries, a central part of church liturgies has been the “Prayers of the People”—Christians praying for their church, community, country, and world.
Examen, or a Daily Review, is a prayer practice of looking at each day intentionally. This practice was developed by Ignatius of Loyola as a way to help disciples develop the skill of discernment. I daily ask myself questions about where I felt drawn to God, and where I hid from God. In this practice, I retrain myself to evaluate my activities based on how well I love God and others, rather than other standards. This helps me be aware of God’s presence and opportunities to love
Prayer is not just something we do with our minds—it is a whole-person, embodied discipline. Sometimes we bow, close our eyes, kneel, or raise our hands. And sometimes we need to put our feet on the ground and move in order to express our desire for God. Throughout the ages, God’s people have gone on pilgrimage—to Jerusalem, to Santiago d’Compostela, to the Irish isles—wandering, on the move, in search of deeper intimacy with God, expressing transition, change, loss, hope, and uncertainty.
Not everyone can go on such a journey, and in the Middle Ages, Christians began to walk the labryinth as a pilgrimage in place. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth has one path in and out, weaving towards and away from the center unpredictably but singularly. This practice helps us focus our minds and desire on God, and go on a journey to meet God in the center of our being.
Looking for a labyrinth nearby you? Try the Labyrinth Locator.
This practice helps you grow in your trust and love for God, by giving you a way to fix attention on who God has been in your life. By purposefully writing a brief, powerful summary of God’s faithfulness from your past experience, you will find it easier to depend on God in present and future difficulties. You will be following in the footsteps of God’s people, who for centuries have written songs and poems to celebrate specific ways God showed power on their behalf.
Praying the promises is a practice of fighting temptation, despair, frustration and apathy by centering our attention on promises God has made in His word, and putting our hope in these promises rather than whatever we can come up by our own energy. We turn these promises into prayers, asking God to provide for what He has promised, through Jesus, so that we can abide with God
The greatest gift of the Gospel is God Himself. Above forgiveness, eternal life, transformation of our hearts, the best joy is that we get God! He is always with us, and always delighted in us, because we are His children. But this deep intimacy for which our heart yearns—and which no person can satisfy—is hard to enter. We forget. We believe lies (about God, about ourselves). And so we walk as though we were not in the presence of our Beloved, even as He is closer than our breath.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles urge us to pray always. We generally assume that by this they mean that we should bring all our needs to God; and this is surely important. But through Church history, many have believed that God intends us to live continually in His presence, with unbroken communication. And this is not a burden, but a privilege. “There is no mode of life in the world more pleasing and more full of delight than continual conversation with God,” writes Brother Lawrence.
Breath prayer is a practice aimed at cultivating the habit of continually abiding in the presence of God. It is a laying hold of the Gospel—for only through Jesus can we have boldness to think God would be near our hearts, in every circumstance!