Week 7 Prayer Exercises
In addition to this week’s prayer materials, there are Encouragements and Wisdom (PDF).
In addition to this week’s Encouragements and Wisdom, the Sacred Story Community offers their heart to this question: You are to ask for God’s inspiration to help you discover the name of God that speaks directly to your heart. Ask to be inspired to discover the name that reaches your heart. Wisdom from the Sacred Story Community, Week 7 (PDF).
1 I will review my 15-minute quiet time(s) for the week ahead and visualize where I will go each day and at what time(s). I will ask God for the grace to keep those times sacred. I will have my notebook at hand for each prayer period.
2 During my 15-minute quiet prayer this seventh week there are two prayer exercises. I will take the first half of the week’s prayer periods for the first exercise, and the second half of my prayer periods for the second exercise.
1. I will ask God for the grace to identify how the Ten Commandments fit into my life as a gift to bring awareness, healing, balance and God’s peace.
2. I will ask God for the grace to identify the deepest hope of my heart for my life and my future.
I will not read ahead.
I will awaken to the present moment.
I will take each day and each exercise as it comes.
I cannot do Sacred Story better by going faster.
I will ask God to help me.
I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:
1). For the first half of the week, use the Decalogue Examination of Conscience to better understand your life story and the gift of healing and balance that God desires for you. Pray that your imagination be graced so that the most important issues in the Commandments, those that illuminate your history (your story), will come into your mind and heart. Pray to “see” what you have never seen before. Pray to see your life as God sees your life.
The Commandments were given to the Chosen People in a Covenant that was sealed with a blood sacrifice. The Church reflects that the power of the animal sacrifice sealing the Covenant receives its power from Christ’s blood, which it foreshadows. The Commandments, as gift, are a foundation for God’s work to repair our broken human nature, to forgive us, and reopen the way to eternity: the work of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is no wonder then that laws enshrining the Commandments’ truths have transformed stories of violence and injustice to stories of civility and justice for countless millions of people in the last three millennia.
For this exercise, we are reflecting on the Commandments to enhance our understanding of their richness and wisdom. The exercise will help to clarify how each Commandment carries its own responsibilities and boundaries. These Decrees — a synonym for Commandments — will ignite your imagination so you will be able to hear them differently. These decrees — statements by God — serve as a reminder to us when we have forgotten to remember and know the truth about God, humanity and oneself. They are a gift to guide our way home so our thoughts, words and deeds bring life, not death.
Before concluding your prayer period, use your notebook to record where in your life you have missed the mark in living the Decree you reflected on. Be specific, honest and courageous. Ask for the grace of integrity and openness to embrace the truth of your own experience.
This may be a helpful format to follow as you reflect on the each Decree. Identify the Decree (and the sub-themes in the Decrees) as mild, moderate, or strong depending on the challenge this specific Decree presents to you. For example, you may write “6th — moderate, especially regarding (issue);” “4th — mild regarding (person);” “7th/10th — strong regarding (event).” Use codes if you prefer to safeguard confidentiality and augment honesty.
Note: The purpose of this exercise is to simply identify your challenges with the Commandments. With Christ by your side, watch with curiosity and detachment, without self-blame. God sees beyond any patterns of sin and failure you have, or think you have. God knows you for who you are. God loves you. God is the Divine Physician who desires to help you honestly see your life as it is so He can bring forgiveness, healing, freedom and peace.
2). For the second half of the week, pray for the grace to remember the books, stories, songs, events, movies and art, that have the power to bring you to tears. Pray to remember the turn of phrase, the lyric, the dialogue, the word spoken to you, the melody, and the image that has touched your heart so profoundly that your only response is to weep. The shortest phrase in the Scripture is “Jesus wept” (Jn 11-35). What causes us to weep holds significance in our history, and informs our story. Pray to remember and feel what moves you to tears.
The Gospels record that Jesus wept twice. He wept over Jerusalem, for failing to recognize that the time of its deliverance was at hand (Lk 19: 41-44). And He wept for His good friend Lazarus, “see how he loved him” (Jn 11: 33-6). Both instances reveal Jesus’ deep longing for humanity’s reconciliation and peace. It is Christ’s desire to bring freedom from death’s grip, that death which resulted from humanity’s disobedience. Jesus’ weeping expresses the deepest longings of His heart. His tears reveal His mission in life, a mission He received from the Father, for those He loves.
Tears reveal the deepest longings of our heart. They are a window to the heart and soul. Ask God for the grace to remember and understand what brings you to tears, what breaks your heart or expresses your heart’s longings for healing and peace.
Use your 15-minute prayers in the second half of the week to recall what causes you to weep, that is, what brings you to tears and expresses the deepest longings of your heart. Do not spend more than 15-minutes for each of your prayer periods. For your prayer, sit apart in a quiet place. Find a comfortable position that permits you to be alert. Breathe deeply for a few minutes, mindful that God’s love sustains your very life.
Next, using the personal name for God you identified, ask God to enlighten your memory and imagination so that you can remember and understand what brings you to tears, and why. How is your life mission — your story — revealed in your tears? What stories, movies, books, songs move you to tears and what can God help you understand about your life from them?
Before your prayer period ends, write down what caused your tears. Record why this caused your tears (if it is clear). Reflect further on what this might possibly reveal to you about your story. Do your tears reveal your deepest longings and God’s desire to bring you hope and peace?
First Decree: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no strange gods before me.
Is God the center of my life? Have I displaced God with my career, work, concern for wealth and pleasure? Does the worship and honor of God take shape in my weekly religious practices? Do I pray often? Do I turn to God for forgiveness often? Have I resorted to relying on superstition, the occult or astrology in place of asking for God’s assistance?
Second Decree: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Do I casually take God’s name in vain? Do I have a habit of swearing in jest or in anger? Do I use God’s name to damn other people? Do I nurse hatred of God in my heart? Do I harbor anger towards God for the difficult things in my life or in the world? Do I reverence God in my heart?
Third Decree: Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
Do I make every effort to prepare myself for the Sunday Liturgy? Do I make every effort to attend the Sunday Liturgy? Do I allow social or sporting events to displace or limit my attendance at the Sunday Liturgy? Do I limit unnecessary servile work on Sunday? Is Sunday a true day of spiritual rest and refreshment?
Fourth Decree: Honor your Father and Mother.
Do I give proper reverence to my mom and dad for the gift of life? Do I thank them? Do I spend time with them? Do I strive to forgive the shortcomings of my parents? Do I hold anger or grudges against them in my heart? Do I try to respond to them with love and charity? Do I attend to them in their sufferings and weaknesses? Am I patient with their infirmity as they age?
Fifth Decree: You shall not kill.
Do I strive to overcome the prejudices I have against individuals or groups? Do I resist acting on my prejudices so as not to harm persons with my words or deeds? Do I act with cruelty towards others? Do I risk my life or the lives of others by using illegal drugs? Do I risk my life or the lives of others by driving recklessly or intoxicated? Do I strive in words and deeds to promote the value of life from conception to natural death? Have I ever helped someone terminate a pregnancy or end his/her own life? Do I strive to do everything I can to uphold the value of each person? Do I harbor satisfaction in my heart at the death of those people whom I consider evil? Do I vote for politicians/civil servants because of their positions to protect and promote abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment or pre-emptive war? Do I mourn the loss of all human life, no matter the cause of death?
Sixth Decree: You shall not commit adultery.
Ninth Decree: You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse.
Do I protect my covenant relationship with my spouse and uphold its sacredness? Do I strive daily to support my spouse? Do I turn to other persons for emotional support to make my spouse envious? Do I denigrate my spouse by comparing her/him to others? Do I speak harshly about my spouse behind his/her back to gain the affections of others? Do I uphold the sacredness of my covenant commitment by never seeking the sexual attention of those to whom I may be attracted? Do I uphold my covenant by never engaging in any sexual activity with someone other than my spouse? Do I use pornography to arouse my sexual appetites, or to avoid intimacy with my spouse? Do I denigrate the spiritual integrity of persons by focusing on their physical beauty or appearance? Do I protect my covenant relationship by not purposely fantasizing about sexual relations with someone other than my spouse? Do I hold sacred the gift of sexuality for marriage? Do I strive to cultivate purity of heart as a sign of God’s own single-heartedness? Do I reverence sexual intercourse first and foremost as the gift most akin to God’s creative energies, a gift of love to create a human life destined for an eternity with God? Do I casually inhibit God’s presence in this divine gift with drugs or medical procedures when there is no legitimate reason?
Seventh Decree: You shall not steal.
Tenth Decree: You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
Do I cheat on papers and exams to steal a better grade? Do I take things that do not belong to me? Do I keep things I have borrowed? Am I honest in my investments, taxes, and in all my financial dealings? Do I use legal loopholes in tax laws or business practices to harvest financial rewards that ultimately hurt the less fortunate? Am I honest and truthful in my business dealings even if it means I may lose profits or customers? Do I vandalize or harm property or goods that do not belong to me? Do I envy those who have more than I do? Do I let concern for wealth and comfort take center place in my life? Do I live lavishly because I have the resources to do so? Do I spend money on luxury goods I do not need? Do I live with envy of those who have more than I do? Do I respect the limited resources of the earth as a divine inheritance to benefit all people? Do I give a percentage of my earned income to the poor? Do I strive to live so as to minimize waste and protect the environment? Do I examine my investment patterns to discern if companies I own, or in which I have stock, are treating their employees justly and are protecting the environment in their practices? Do I ever put the drive for profits ahead of the welfare of persons or the environment?
Eighth Decree: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Do I uphold the honor of other people’s reputations? Do I avoid spreading gossip and avoid seeking gossip from others? Do I share information about people with third parties, even if it is true, when that information threatens the person’s reputation? Do I avoid spreading lies or rumors about other people? Do I challenge people who gossip and spread damaging information about others? Do I avoid and denounce TV, radio, magazines and newspapers that employ the tactics of personality destruction and malicious gossip to sell news and generate profits? Do I tell others what they ought to do instead of getting my own house in order?
1 If you feel called, you can reflect on the entire Decalogue as enumerated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 561-672). You can either purchase an inexpensive paperback or you can access the text online:: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c1a1.htm