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Lent is a great opportunity to grow closer with the Lord and really gain an understanding of His will for our lives.
In Lent, we focus on praying, fasting and giving. We hope to help you look at these three pillars differently this Lent in a series of blog posts.
This is the first of those blog posts. In this article, we are looking at prayer and how we can pray differently.
(Watch this video if you are wondering “Why pray differently?“)
This Lent, two Catholic men are encouraging all of us to embrace the love of God in our busy, modern lives.
The 3 pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
The first prayer – can become mundane for many people. We sometimes feel stuck in our prayer life. We sometimes feel uninspired.
Lent is the perfect time to re-charge our prayer life.
Even if you think, “I pray all the time, I get nothing out of it”. . .
And even if you have been Catholic your whole life – praying can feel new.
It can be exciting.
It can be enlightening.
I invite you to give this type of prayer – imaginative prayer – a try this Lent.
For centuries, Christians have sought a more intimate, personal encounter with Jesus through the practice of Ignatian contemplation, also known as imaginative prayer.
If you would like some free resources that will familiarize yourself with this type of prayer, here are two:
Jerry Windly-Daoust tells us how it works in this video? Why Pray Differently?
Jerry has more information about this type of prayer, plus additional resources on his website gracewatch.org/imagine
If you really wonder what would it be like to meet Jesus, face to face?
To walk with him along the roads and seashores of ancient Palestine…to eat with him, to hear his words, to witness his miracles? Get this new book: Imagine You Walked with Jesus: A Guide to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer
This type of prayer seems to really be resonating with Catholic men . . .
Another Catholic author and Catholic dad, Dr. John Spitzer, also recommends this type of prayer in his book Finding God Again and Again.
This work (that we recommend you read this Lent) is a very different type of book.
This is a personal story – not from a Saint that lived over a hundred years ago- but from a Catholic Christian striving for Sainthood today.
One thing we don’t do as Catholics enough is give our testimonies. Our stories are important. They provide encouragement, hope and real life advice that will allow others to grow closer to Christ.
Spitzer gives a great testimony in Finding God Again and Again.
Yes, you can find God in your own life – again or for the first time.
Written by Dr. John Spitzer
One short review of this book might convince you to read it:
” …This book is helpful for anyone suffering. . . “
“Thank You, Dr. Spitzer for sharing your story. Truly courageous. This book is helpful for anyone suffering.
Your love of the Lord is amazing.
I want to reread it already.
Learning to not hold on so hard.”
Jerry Windley-Daoust, author of Imagine You Walked With Jesus, gave a more in depth review:
Vulnerability, honesty, and wisdom characterize the very best spiritual autobiographies (think of Augustine’s “Confessions,” Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain,” or Day’s “The Long Loneliness”). I found all three in Dr. John Spitzer’s “Finding God Again and Again.”
Spitzer is a pediatrician, husband, and the father of two children who, although he was born in the U.S., spent much of his childhood in Cali, Columbia, before returning to the United States. He wrote this book in pieces over the course of nearly twenty years (2001-2020), labeling each chapter with the month and year of its composition. The result isn’t a neat retrospective, filtered and edited to conform to a dramatic arc. Instead, he took me on a journey through the ups and downs of his life, including several bouts with cancer.
Although he gives some details of these experiences, his focus is on his internal life, especially his relationship with God. I got to see this relationship evolve and mature as the trials he faces lead him to new insights and practices. He moves from a more discursive style of prayer, for example, to a more contemplative style, walking us through several rich experiences of encountering Jesus in imaginative prayer.
But even in the early parts of the book, Spitzer’s relationship with God is poignantly intimate.
I recognized myself in his efforts to get his relationship with God “right”: like me, he has to learn again and again that there is no “getting it right” per se, only a childlike surrender to God’s love and mercy.
Spitzer is Catholic, and the spirituality he practices has a Catholic “flavor,” drawing on Catholic spiritual masters and Ignatian spirituality, for example. There’s an immediacy and rawness to his writing that reminds me of what Therese Martin might have written if she had lived into middle age.
“I have two main yearnings: I yearn to find my identity, and I yearn for love.” Spitzer frames his account with reflections on these yearning at the beginning and at the end of the book: “When I realize both of these yearnings in my relationship with God, then my heart feels at peace.” The search for this peace runs through the whole book; anyone walking a similar path will benefit from the wisdom and guidance Spitzer provides in these pages.
Catholic Dad thoughts on Lent:
Do you ever think that Lent is for people that don’t think about God all year round? Or maybe, Lent just isn’t “your thing”?
Both authors, Spitzer and Windley-Daoust, are dads. I asked them to share some thoughts on the season of Lent. Here are there responses.
Author, John Spitzer, M.D., offers these thoughts on Lent:
Lent is that time of the year that gives me an opportunity to get closer with God. It is an exercise to die more to myself so that God can be more in my heart.
It is an opportunity to tune out the noise in the world and try to feel God’s caress, love and mercy.
I close my eyes as I settle my heart and mind, let God illuminate me so that I realize that my attachments to the world are not that important.
I dream that someday I may feel what St. John of the Cross expressed in his third stanza of the Dark Night,
Oh, That Joyous night,
In secret, seen by no one,
Nor with anything in sight,
I had no other light or mark,
Thank the one burning in my heart.
St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) was a Spanish Carmelite priest who worked along with St. Teresa of Avila to restore the Carmelite order and was a major figure in the counter-reformation in Spain. The Dark Night, one of his poems, is “a song of the soul delighted at having reached the high state of perfection, the union with God, by way of spiritual negation.” (St. John of the Cross, Alchemist of the Soul. Antonio T. de Nicolas. Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1996.)
Lent is an opportunity . . . an opportunity to invite God into your heart more often.
Author, Jerry Windley-Daoust, offers these thoughts on Lent:
I don’t particularly look forward to Lent—if I’d been an Israelite during the Exodus, I’m sure I would have been one of the whiners.
But the reason we do Lent every year is simple: We don’t want to stay in Egypt; we don’t want to stay enslaved.
The key to doing Lent well, I think, is to remember that God doesn’t send us into the desert alone; he goes with us. He “rains down bread from heaven” … but just what we need for today. The desert was the Israelites’ spiritual training ground, their preparation for the Promised Land, and Lent serves the same function for us today.
This is one of the reasons I wrote Imagine You Walked with Jesus: to help people become more aware that they don’t have to do this journey alone; Jesus walks with them, even in the desert.
It’s an introduction to Ignatian imaginative prayer, where you let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination so you can enter the world of the Gospel: to smell the sea, to hear the sounds and see the sights of first-century Palestine. The point is to live inside the Gospel story, and to encounter Jesus there in a very real, down-to-earth way—to let him look you in the eye, so to speak; to let him touch you and speak to you. It can be a very profound experience.
The book includes forty readings from the beginning of Jesus’ life through his death and resurrection, so it’s great for Lent.
If you want to teach your sons about this type of prayer, get them a copy of Be Yourself: a Journal for Catholic Boys!
This journal introduces Ignatian contemplation with a “Time Travel” prayer activity! Plus it will help the young man look at prayer and God’s mission for him in a way he never had thought of it before!
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