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 Rueben 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, as well as several books: 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), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.