Praying with Our Past: Lights and Thanksgiving

As we pray with our past, we may see with new eyes:

2) We may begin to see a pattern in certain events of our lives, or recognize how blessed we have been—a recognition we may not have had at the time. We may remember moments that we had dismissed where God touched us deeply.

As a sister, I make an annual retreat every year. People tell me that they admire sisters for making silent retreats—but making retreat is no hardship. Usually, my retreat is one my favorite weeks of the year because I get to spend quality time with my Beloved! Still, if I come to the retreat from a time that is busier or more distracted than usual, sometimes it can take me a couple of days to settle into the deep silence.

One particular year, I remember struggling a bit more than usual to get into the silence and deeper prayer of the retreat. As usual, I prayed with a passage of the Bible, and later in the day went to speak with the retreat director. I talked about what happened during my prayer time, and then moved on to how I was struggling to get into the retreat. After a few minutes, the director stopped me. “Tell more more about your prayer time with that passage,” he encouraged me. “It seems to me that God was speaking to you very powerfully there.”

Startled, I was quiet for a few minutes, then I recalled my prayer and spoke about it. As I spoke, I realized he was right. Several days later, I thanked him for helping me to pay attention to this profound moment where God spoke to me—a moment that I had overlooked because I was distracted by something else! That moment of prayer became the key to my entire retreat.

Praying with our past can be a powerful experience of God’s saving love:

  • We better realize how faithful and intimate God is in our life
  • We grow in trust
  • We come to understand our relationship with God better: how God seems to work in our lives
  • We grow in being able to recognize how God is working in our lives right now

When we pray with our past, we can always conclude our prayer with an act of thanksgiving for how God has revealed his faithful love in our lives.

To Pray With
Luke 24:13-35

After Jesus’ death, the two disciples who left Jerusalem to go to Emmaus needed to share their sorrow and confusion with Jesus. As they unknowingly shared and retold their story to the Risen Jesus, Jesus opened their hearts to the mystery of grace at work in their lives to the point that they were able to understand their time with Jesus in a new way, and eventually recognize Jesus with them in the breaking of the bread.

Follow the steps for Lectio Divina in praying with the beautiful story of Jesus’ Resurrection appearance to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. After your prayer, you may find the following reflection questions helpful:

1. Imagine that you are one of the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, and you are joined by a mysterious, trustworthy Stranger. Share with him your most recent experience of being angry, betrayed, discouraged, grieving, or lost. How does it feel to tell Jesus how you feel? Does Jesus say something to you?

2. Have you ever had an experience of prayer that set you on fire? How have you allowed that fire to burn, grow, and set your life alight?    

3. The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus on the road. When have you been surprised by God? Where might God be standing in your life right now, or walking alongside you, but unrecognized?

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