Prayer Practices

Spiritual Reflection on Prayer Practices introduced in Pohick’s Lenten Program:

Resting in the Lord: Repentance, Renewal and Resurrection

The Rev. Dr. Lynn Ronaldi

It has been a joy to be with nearly 50 of our beloved Pohickians each week during our Lenten Series, Resting in the Lord! Below, I’ve summarized the spiritual disciplines each of our presenters has offered. You might try one of these forms of prayer and meditation during Lent – or anytime!

Desert Fathers and Mothers and the Jesus Prayer

We began with The Rev. Martin Smith’s reflection on the early desert fathers and mothers. They taught us about solitude, simplicity, and centering ourselves in the Lord. Rev. Martin led us in practicing the Jesus Prayer. In the tradition of desert spirituality, simply repeat this phrase with the rhythm of your breath:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Monastic Spirituality and Lectio Divina

The following week, I introduced the “next generation” of spiritual guides: the monks and nuns. Much of the monastic spirituality that spread across Europe developed around The Rule of Benedict, a simple guide to the spiritual life written by Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century. Benedict taught the spiritual practice called Lectio Divina, which is the contemplative reading of Holy Scripture. As you intend to be with God and listen to His Word with the ear of your heart, the practice of Lectio Divina includes four gentle movements:

Lectio (reading or listening to Scripture read aloud) Listening for a word or phrase that moves you. Trusting that God is speaking to you in that word.

Meditatio (meditating) Reading the passage a second time and pondering that word or phrase and its meaning in your life.

Oratio (praying) Reading the passage a third time, and responding to what you heard, with a brief prayer to God.

Contemplatio (resting) Sitting silently with the word, trusting in God’s love, presence and word without expectation.

Celtic Spirituality, Creation and Julian of Norwich

The third week, our seminarian Adam Lees spoke of the influence of Celtic spirituality and its reverence for creation. Specifically, he talked about the life and legacy of a mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich, an optimistic anchorite in who lived and prayed as a hermit during the Black Plague and shared her visions of God’s love. Adam suggested that we find something in nature that speaks to us about God, and meditate on its meaning.

The Welcoming Prayer: Fr. Thomas Keating

The Rt. Rev. Porter Taylor, our newest bishop in the Diocese of Virginia, shared a reflection on Fr. Thomas Keating’s Welcoming Prayer. Keating suggests using this practice as a self-reflective tool for identifying, welcoming, and “letting go” of those false programs for happiness that keep us from being our truest selves in Christ. These include our tendencies to seek control, security, and esteem.

Below are some of the resources our speakers suggested. They are related to Benedictine spirituality, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, Welcoming Prayer, and the Celtic contemplation of nature.

Desert Banquet, by David Keller

The Rule of Benedict, A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister

Intimacy with God, by Thomas Keating (practices of Centering and Lectio Divina)

Seeking God, The Way of St. Benedict, by Esther de Waal

Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, by J. Philip Newell

May you experience the breadth and depth of the Lord’s presence and love this Holy Lent, Eastertide, and beyond!

In Christ’s Love,

Rev. Lynn Ronaldi+