Life Prayers

In our search for spiritual direction we often look for the exceptional and the extraordinary.  That is understandable, particularly in an increasingly materialistic world where what is most real is what we can sense — see, feel, hear, touch, and smell.  It is also understandable, given our tendency to think of that world as a world devoid of God’s presence.

Far too often we assume that if God does exist, God likely lurks just beyond the last material reality that we have discovered and understand.  The longing for the exceptional and the extraordinary is, then, a longing for the presence of God in a world that feels devoid of God’s presence.

Of course, the problem with this search for God is that we also unwittingly confine our sense of God’s leading to the exceptional.  The result?

  • Our exposure to God’s prompting is confined to a handful of moments in life.
  • We rob ourselves of the sense of God’s promise and providential care that is evident, every minute and every day of the week.
  • We assume that the exceptional moments are the ones that are most clearly indicative of the will of God when, in fact, they may be far from representative.
  • And we inevitably open less and less of our lives to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, living much, if not most of our lives as de facto atheists.

Our lives are, in fact, continuously open to the presence of God and the patterns that shape our experiences are at least as likely, if not more likely to represent the trajectory of God’s grace and the Spirit’s leading than are the exceptional moments.

Life Prayer (or what Ignatius of Loyola described as “the Examen”) — is the invitation to pray with our lives, to notice patterns and graces and to reflect on them in God’s presenc.  They are a means of breaking with our tendency to rely on the exceptional as the key to connecting with the Divine — the practice of bringing the commonplace front and center in our efforts to cultivate an awareness of God’s presence.

Find time, space, and silence to pursue Life Prayers on a regular basis and be prepared to learn what it means to live continuously in the presence of God:

  • Ask God to tell you when and where God has been present.
  • Ask God to remind you of times when your choices have made it difficult to be alert to and aware of God’s presence.
  • Ask God to surface the patterns in your life that are God’s enduring gifts to you
  • Ask how those gifts are meant to shape you
  • Ask what kind of gift your life is meant to be as a result
  • Invite God to help you identify ways in which to live more deeply into the life that you have been given
  • And let that life be your prayer

Gracious Lord, Lover of Souls, the life you have given me is gift, grace, and prayer.  So move in my life that ever greater reaches of heart, mind, soul, and body are aware of your presence.  So move me that my life itself might be a prayer and receive the thanksgiving of my grateful heart, in the name of your Son, my Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, including forty-four entries in Doubleday’s Anchor Bible Dictionary, as well as articles in Feminist Theology and The Scottish Journal of Theology. He is author of A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). His latest work, The Dave Test (Abingdon Press) will appear in the autumn of 2013. He is also the series editor for the new Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars Study Series.

From 2000-2012, he worked as Director of Spiritual Life and Formation and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas. As one of Perkins’ senior administrators, Dr. Schmidt was responsible for programs in formation, serving over 500 students. He developed the School's program in Spiritual Direction which has thus far served over 150 students from across the country; the program in Anglican and Episcopal studies; and the spiritual formation track in the Doctor of Ministry program. Prior to his arrival at SMU, he served as Canon Educator, Director of Programs in Spirituality and Religious Education, and Acting Program Area Manager at Washington National Cathedral. In this capacity Dr. Schmidt was responsible for the development of a program of religious education and spirituality that annually provided resources for broad-based audiences of over 5000 adults. He also designed and produced workshops and seminars for ecumenical and interfaith constituencies; hosted foreign dignitaries from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union on behalf of the Meridian Institute; and developed the programmatic work and daily operations of the Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Before going to the Cathedral, Dr. Schmidt served as special assistant to the President and Provost of La Salle University in Philadelphia and as a Fellow of the American Council on Education. From 1994 to 1995, he resided in Jerusalem, where he was Dean of St. George’s College and Residentiary Canon of the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr. He has also served in numerous parishes, including St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, All Saints Episcopal Church in Hershey, Pennsylvania and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas.

His work in higher education includes service as associate professor of New Testament Studies, as a lecturer in New Testament studies at Oxford University, and as a tutor at Keble College, Oxford. He has been a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas, Dallas.

Dr. Schmidt holds a bachelor’s degree from Asbury College, the Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University. His honors include a Fellowship in administrative leadership with the American Council on Education; a Senior Fellowship with the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research; the Young Scholars Fellowship presented by the Catholic Biblical Association; nomination to Class XI of the Clergy Leadership Project, sponsored by Trinity Church, Wall Street; the Angus Dun Fellowship (Episcopal Diocese of Washington); and an Ecumenical Service Award given by Christian Churches United (an ecumenical organization covering a tri-county area and based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). He is a recipient of the F. W. Dillstone Scholarship awarded by Oriel College, Oxford; the Hall Houghton Studentship awarded by the Theology Faculty of Oxford University; and an Overseas Research Student Award, presented by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom. Dr. Schmidt is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. From 1998 to 2000 he served as a member of the Institutional Review Board for Heart, Lung and Blood Research at the National Institutes of Health and he currently serves on two Data Safety Monitoring Boards for NIH. He is Secretary-Treasurer of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars and a member of the Board of Examining Chaplains for the Episcopal Church, USA.

In addition to his work in the academy and the church Dr. Schmidt currently serves as a patient safety and ethics consultant on Data Safety Monitoring Boards for the National Institutes of Health and Allergan, Inc.

He lives with his wife, Natalie (who is also an academic and an Episcopal priest), and Hilda of Whitby, their Gordon Setter.