Posts in Spiritual Disciplines
Labyrinth Prayer
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The labyrinth isn’t a specific spiritual discipline, but it can enhance other spiritual disciplines, such as prayers, meditation, or centering. It allows you to “get lost”without actually losing your way.

To use this labyrinth, trace along the path with a pointed object (like a pen) without lifting. Go slowly, and don’t focus on the rest of the maze—just the path in front of you.

While traveling the labyrinth, you can pray, repeat a memorized scripture, meditate, or even sing a song.

Here’s a specific, centering way to practice: As you travel towards the center, release your burdens and worries to God. Once you reach the center, reverse direction and move outwards, asking how God can use you in the world.

If you’d like, you can also practice this spiritual discipline on a full-size labyrinth! St. Francis Episcopal Church in Temple has a labyrinth path you can walk, freely available to the public 24/7, located on the southwest side of their property.

If you don’t feel like traveling, you can also practice this discipline on any walking path. Walk slowly, and once you feel like you’ve traveled far enough, return the way you came.

(The labyrinth design in this booklet was first created in the Chartres Cathedral, built in France in the 13th century.)

Fasting

It is a wonderful blessing that we rarely go hungry. But in our age of plenty, we can also develop large appetites…for food, and also for comfort. We can become addicted to comfort.

The spiritual discipline of fasting invites us to practice self-denial. And somehow, this physical denial frees us, allowing a spiritual feast. The Bible is full of examples of fasting. In fact, Jesus assumes his followers will practice giving, praying…and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18). Yet it’s unfamiliar to most of us.

Richard Foster writes, “More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us … We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface … We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.”

If your physical health permits, we encourage you to try a “meal-to-meal” fast of 24 hours or so. Begin a fast (of food) following an early supper, then break your fast the next day with a late supper. (Alternatively, you can fast from other comforts, like social media or television.) Do not dwell on your fasting, but instead focus on seeking God’s will during your times of hunger. Feed your soul.

We recommend that children fast from screen time, not food. They can replace that time with prayer or Bible reading.

Examen ("Examination")
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Too often, we go through our day, unaware of the world around us, unaware of God, and even unaware of ourselves.

The spiritual discipline of examen is one way we can pay more attention, to notice God and your God-given desires.

Find a quiet moment to reflect on the events of your day. Ask these questions (or similar ones):

  • When did I give love? When did I withhold love?

  • When did I feel energized? When did I feel low?

  • Where did I see God at work today? Did I notice it while it was happening, or only afterward?

  • What emotions did I experience today? Are those emotions telling me something I need to hear?

  • What should I be grateful for? What were God’s gifts in my life today, big or small?

  • What is one thing from today I feel called to pray about? What should I pray about as I prepare for tomorrow?

Families with young children: you can practice some of these questions at meals or at bedtime.

  • “I spy God” – where did you see God at work today?

  • “Rose, thorn, bud” – what was something good that happened today? Something sad? What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”)

Lectio Divina is a form of devotional reading of scripture used for centuries, especially among Christians who couldn’t read, but instead memorized key passages of scripture.

Choose a scripture, and practice these five steps:

  1. Silencio – quietly prepare your heart. Release the chaos around yourself and welcome God’s presence.

  2. Lectio – read the scripture you’ve chosen. Read it aloud. Read slowly. If a particular phrase or word draws your attention, pause and dwell on that phrase.

  3. Meditatio – meditate. Read the scripture again, out loud, and listen as you read. Is God speaking to you within this text? Reflect on the words, especially any that stick out.

  4. Oratio – prayer and response. Read the scripture again, but this time turn it into a prayer. Talk to God about this passage: what you are feeling about it, what you are feeling about yourself, anything else that comes to mind.

  5. Contemplatio – contemplate and rest. Allow the words you’ve spoken to sink into you. Consider how you might remind yourself of this passage throughout the day.

Families with young children: use a children’s Bible and pick out a story together. Ask questions about the story. Share what you think about the story. Invite them to pray to God about this story. Practice a short time of silence with them, then close in a final prayer together.

Silence & Solitude
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We live in the Age of Interruption. We have access to the entire world in a smartphone that fits in our pocket, but we’re also shackled by its ability to interrupt our lives.

We live in the Age of Busyness. We have packed schedules, filled not only with work but also with pleasure. In this culture, we can have so much fun, it’s exhausting!

The spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude call us to something different. Not merely a rest from activity, but rest from busyness. We quiet ourselves and our world so that we can listen for God.

Here are some ways you can cultivate silence & solitude:

  1. Take advantage of your daily “moments of solitude”—as you first wake up in the morning, your commute to work, a time after the kids are in bed. Instead of filling that moment with media…let silence speak.

  2. Find a time and space to intentionally retreat. Turn off your phone and rest. If your brain is still filled with anxiety or things to do, bring a journal and write down those thoughts, knowing you can revisit them after this time is done.

  3. Fast from media—smartphones, TV, etc.—for a time.

  4. During your prayer time, spend some of that time in pure silence, resting in God’s love and listening.