Being Aware of How God Is Near

This is a guest post by Greg Herrle, as he begins An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.An Ignatian Prayer AdventureAs I completed my first retreat as a freshman in high school, I remember wanting to find a way to carry the lessons from that retreat to my daily life. I have struggled with this concept ever since. I always leave a retreat knowing my relationship with God has progressed, but I often find it difficult to transition back to daily prayer with equal success.

I wonder how making a retreat over eight weeks of “normal” life will compare to the experience of spending a few secluded days in reflection. Will it be easier or more difficult? Will I remember to participate each day? Will it be as meaningful when I am not removed from all of life’s distractions?

The graces of the first two days of the Ignatian Prayer Adventure give me great hope for the rest of the retreat: “Be more aware of how God is near.” I think this one little phrase will help to ensure continuity over the next eight weeks. I find myself often thinking about this throughout the day at work or in meetings, trying to find ways God is near me. Without the luxury of escaping the world for a few days or weeks, it is important for me to remember this retreat really is a part of everyday life.

The first week of the retreat begins with the Anima Christi, which brings continuity to my prayer each day. I have found this prayer in particular to be very powerful. I have prayed these words many times before and always enjoyed them. However, praying this for seven days straight brought me a whole new level of appreciation. I found one line stood out each time I prayed: “Passion of Christ, strengthen me.”

The image of the passion of Christ immediately catches my attention. However, as I pray on it, it seems to be the weakest human moment of Christ’s entire life. It is a moment when Jesus is tortured, humiliated, and ultimately left to die on the cross. Thinking of this alone can bring thoughts of sadness, anger, humility, and pain. Yet in this prayer we are asking for this moment to bring us strength. Such a thought seems entirely crazy, that we could find strength in Christ’s suffering. And how do I implement this in my life? I think the answer goes back to this week’s grace of being aware of how God is near. Even in the moment of Jesus’ passion, we know God was present. Then must God also be present in our own moments of suffering, anger, sadness, humility, and weakness. I pray this retreat will help me to remember that.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I felt a bit lost when I began to pray this morning: nothing to look forward to, nothing to desire. I read Psalm 139 a couple of times but this Psalm which had previously blessed me so many times felt external today. I felt called more to listen to myself. I tried to be present to myself from deep within, to be real. I had a wound and an ache that needed attention. Without being aware of how it happened a comfort stole over me gradually. I felt strengthened within, more whole, as if a Friend had understood me though I hadn’t used any words. I felt a hope and the beginning of something new. I was able to come out of myself, listen to the birds outside and take on the tasks I had to do.

  2. The line that strikes me most from this passage in Isaiah is ‘Because you are precious in my eyes and honoured and I love you’. This makes me feel very special, very prized and cherished by The Lord – the Father looking lovingly at his child. And I know that it applies not just to me but to everyone. I am precious in His eyes and loved and so is each person I meet.

  3. I was “hooked the first day of this retreat when the Scripture verse was Isaiah 43:1-7 and then the next day it was Psalm 139. These are such healing Scriptures. They show me how much God loves me. As insignificant as I am in this world of billions of people, God sees ME.

  4. So far I have been getting little mental “pop-ups” during the day. Reminding me to be purposeful, pointing out how I could do better in certain situations, telling me to stop for a break, and so on.
    I use my time in the car (sans radio) to just be. I realized this a.m. that you cannot avoid the things of the world, you are in it. How you deal with everything is another story.
    Thanks for the input and inspiriation.
    m.

  5. Thank you, Greg.
    I found this reflection to be very helpful. I was pondering how I could find the time to “get in my prayers” and in the process started to become anxious and unsettled. Whoa!
    Reading”Being Aware of How God is Near” gave me inspiration and calmed my spirit. God is so close to us. Hallelujah
    Also, I was moved by Claire’s words: “God created me for his glory,however’ inglorious’ I may feel.” Blessings of the lenten season to all.

  6. I am really looking forward to the reflections as well.
    I’m like Robin in that I made the Exercises in Everyday Life taking from September to June last year. I had just retired and had promised myself that gift, and, indeed it was an incredible gift to spend unlimited time in prayer and reflection. The challenge this year is that I’m much busier and have returned to university to study theology part-time. I have to be intentional in how I spend my time now.

  7. Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
    Yes, somehow this is also my favorite line. Thank you for pointing out that indeed Jesus was at the weakest moment of his human life.
    The surprise and the thrill of this week till now is that God created me for his glory, however ‘inglorious’ I may feel…

  8. I’m so looking forward to your reflections.
    I made the Exercises in everyday life; it took about a year, starting in the early fall. At first, I found it terribly difficult to make the time for prayer, to focus at all, to find any kind of way to incorporate into my life what it seemed that I had taken on. By the springtime, however, the Exercises filled my life, and my prayer wove itself in and out of all the daily ordinariness (which, my director said, is how you know that they’re “taking”), in addition to its filling long extended periods of time. By May, I no longer wanted to go to work! I was far too busy enjoying my prayer life.

  9. I’m wondering much the same thing, Greg…how this retreat will unfold in the noisiness of everyday! I made the Exercises the first time over just 30 days, and in silence. This time round I’m having to make (or find) my own silent pockets in the day.
    I’m looking forward to your posts!

  10. “… this retreat really is a part of everyday life.” If we move and live and have our being and know that all is assimilated in God, that he is here with us always even when we are not aware and especially when we wish he would look away for a moment, then we become habituated to God centered living. We understand then that God is always right there right now and when we forget, he reminds us. At least that’s how I do it.

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