I am preparing to begin my sermon series The Gospel According to Leviticus on Sunday (1/8/23). This first sermon is titled: “Inhabiting an Enchanted World.” It refers to much of what I have already discussed on this blog about enchantment and disenchantment. This post is a resource landing page that I will reference in my sermon. It’s a place I can point people to that will have a list of ideas of ways to structure their lives to receive more of the divine. One note of warning though: these are just ideas. They are not the definitive list or the exhaustive list or the best list. They are ideas of things that have worked for me or others in the past and so might possibly work for you in the present. As always, comment below with any ideas you have that work for you that are not included on this list.
I would recommend that you do not try all of these practices. Comb though this list and see what catches your attention. Of those that catch your attention, give it/them a try in your own way. Remember: there’s no wrong way to seek to structure your life to receive more of God. This is an experiment in holiness. If something doesn’t work, you haven’t failed! You’ve just discovered that certain practice or way of practicing didn’t work for you. Try something else or try it in a different way!
Breath prayers – This is a simple, but deeply formative practice of repeating a prayer as many times as one can think of it linked to breathing. The first line (breath in) is usually a name for God or a call for God to listen like, “come,” or “behold.” The second line (breath out) is usually a God-given desire you are choosing to express over and over that day. There is no wrong way to attempt this beautiful exercise. Consider taking a line from scripture or writing your own short simple breath prayer. Here are some examples of breath prayers to get you started:
- “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
- “My soul glorifies the Lord.”
- “My soul finds rest in God alone.”
- “Shepherd, lead me by still waters.”
- “Come, Holy Spirit, Come.”
- “Jesus, I love you.”
Fixed-hour prayers – This is exactly what it sounds like. There are fixed times throughout the day when you pray. The manner for doing this ranges from seven or more times a day to only twice a day and from very simple to quite complex. Here is a range of possibilities starting with the simple and moving to the more complex. Follow them based on your desire and interest.
- Morning and Evening – slowly and prayerfully say the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-8) and/or the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13; see also Luke 11:2-4).
- Morning and Evening – pray the 1662 book of Common Prayer’s (International Edition) morning and evening ordinaries or follow the simplified book of Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours.
- On the way to and from work – Use A New Liturgy No. 5: Here Are My Hands to turn your car into a sanctuary of praise, prayer and contemplative reflection. [It’s available on Spotify!].
- Daybreak, midday, and nightfall – pray using Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals or Every Moment Holy Volume I.
- Practice the full seven set hours of prayer for the Liturgy of the Hours: Matins (2 AM), Lauds (5 AM), Terce (9 AM), Sext (12 Noon), None (3 PM), Vespers (6 PM), Compline (7 PM).
The Examen – This is a practice to help you discern the voice and activity of God in your life. It asks two basic questions each day at whatever time one chooses. The questions can be asked in a variety of ways, but come down to asking about the “consolations” and “desolations” of the day (i.e. the good parts and bad parts of your day). Here are some ways to ask these questions. Use whichever phrasing speaks to you:
- For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful?
- When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today?
- What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
- When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others, and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?
- Where was I aware of living out of the fruit of the Spirit? Where was there an absence of the fruit of the Spirit?
- [This one is great for practicing with kids] What were today’s rainbows? What were today’s rainstorms?
Prayer ropes/bracelets – These hail from the Eastern Orthodox monastic tradition used by monks and nuns to count the number of times they prayed the Jesus prayer (or sometimes a different prayer). The Jesus Prayer is this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The idea is to use it similar to the way many children use fidget toys today. You run your fingers over the beads or knots on the rope or bracelet and pray the Jesus prayer each time. Here is the one I recently ordered. Look them up on Etsy too!
The sign of the cross -This is often thought of as being a Roman Catholic thing, but really it dates all the way back to the first two centuries of the Church and has been practiced historically by Christians across denominations and traditions. It is a way of meditating on the Trinity and centering oneself in Triune reality. It is a way also of blessing one’s body in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
How: It works by starting with your hand on your forehead as you say, “in the name of the Father…” It is a way of offering our thoughts over to God and honoring him with the mind as the origin of all our decisions and actions. Then you place your hand downward and across your heart, toward your stomach, and up to your left shoulder as you say, “and of the Son…” This is a way of reminding us that we are embodied creatures who have hearts and stomachs that feel deeply. We pray that our bodies may be used in God’s service just as Christ’s body was. And finally we move the hand from the left shoulder to the right shoulder and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” The move from shoulder to shoulder is a sweeping movement that reminds us of the free and flowing nature of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus says is like the wind and goes wherever she wants.
Art, tattoos, smells & bells, jewelry – Make your body truly a temple by wearing jewelry or having meaningful body art. Make your car, desk, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, etc. a mini-sanctuary by thoughtfully and lovingly placing things in it, lighting candles, playing certain music in these spaces, etc. Here are some ideas:
- Get a Mezuzah (see some here – also look on Etsy!) and place it on the doorframe of your house. Each time you pass through that door touch the Mezuzah and recite in part or whole the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-8).
- Get a Bible verse tattooed on you.
- Place a crucifix or cross in your living room. Try to make it more prominent than the TV and see how it affects your family’s life.
- Find a piece of Iconography (or other beautiful, inspiring, and faith themed art if you’re not into Iconography like me!) and set it as your phone’s home screen. Pause briefly to contemplate it as you open your phone.
Devotional reading – Devotional reading is a prayerful reading of short snip bits for contemplation. There are some classics in the devotional literature genre. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
[Click on the images to see them on Amazon]
Lectio Divina – A hearing of scripture with an open, reflective, listening posture alert to the voice of God. This is more about developing a relationship than gaining information. It follows in 5 steps:
- Silence – Slow down, relax, and come into God’s presence with a clear and concentrated mind.
- Read – Read your chosen passage of scripture slowly and out loud. Linger over words that speak to you and stop and pay attention to what God might be saying to you through it. Be open and responsive. Don’t judge yourself. Listen and wait.
- Meditate – Read the passage again out loud. Savor the words. Listen for any invitation that God is extending to you in this word. Reflect on the importance of the words or phrases that catch your attention.
- Respond – Read the scripture a third time. Now truthfully and authentically respond. What do you find yourself wanting to say to God? What feelings arise from reading this passage? Talk about them with God.
- Contemplate – rest and wait in the presence of God. Allow some time for the word to sink deeply into your soul.
The Psalter in a month – The book of common prayer (link here – for the version I like to use) has a rhythm for praying the Psalter (the book of Psalms) through each month. Use this and read through the entire Psalter each month.
The Proverbs in a month – There are about 31 days in each month (give or take a few days depending on the month) and there are 31 chapters of Proverbs. Read 1-2 chapters of Proverbs each day every month.
Good books on spiritual formation – Here are some easy reads with deep thoughts for those who like to read (in no particular order):
[Click on the images to see them on Amazon]
Digital Minimalism is not intended as a read about spiritual formation. I am unaware what Newport’s religious beliefs and affiliations are, if any. It was, however, one of the most spiritually formative books I’ve ever read! So I included it in this list.