Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent.
While fasting is likely on the minds of those who participate in the season, one practice associated with the season of Lent often goes unnoticed simply because it’s part of our lives in any season: prayer. The season of Lent, however, offers a great opportunity to dive more deeply into the practice, providing a backdrop of devotion to both experiment and expand. Given the contemplative nature of Lent, it’s also the perfect time to become immersed in contemplative practices, and for the next seven weeks, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Join me right here every Wednesday during the season of Lent for 40 Days to Pray, a series on contemplative prayer and an invitation to pray together. (Hence, the hashtag. Let’s make this a movement, shall we?) Each week I’ll provide some background on a contemplative prayer practice, as well as instructions for practicing and resources to take your practice further. Join me on this journey? (Psst: Don’t miss a thing when you sign up to get these posts directly in your in your inbox »)
Today, at the outset of Lent, we welcome all that we bring to this season with Welcoming Prayer.
ABOUT WELCOMING PRAYER
Though created fairly recently when it comes to contemplative practices and not widely known, Welcoming Prayer quickly gets to the essence of our daily spiritual journey and is a simple practice to learn and apply.
Developed by Mary Mrozowski, a founder of Contemplative Outreach, Welcoming prayer is, as the title suggests, focused on welcoming—our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, our uncertainties, our fears. Like Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House,” which suggests that each feeling has “been sent as a guide from beyond,” Welcoming Prayer considers each feeling that arises not to be something that should be repressed but rather brought into the light by naming, welcoming, and then releasing to God.
Over time, the process of Welcoming Prayer helps to facilitate the dismantling of the false self and the healing of lifelong wounds, all in the presence of the Divine. The false self, formed by our woundedness and fears, would prefer to hide behind a mask of its own making and bury any negative or uncomfortable thoughts or emotions so that they cannot be felt or seen. However, the truth is that such feelings carry in them clues for our healing, and, like a beach ball in the water, when pushed down will only rise up with greater force. Instead, through naming and welcoming these emotions, accepting their presence and opening ourselves up to the insight they have to give, the healing process can begin and the true self can be revealed.
All of this, of course, is done through the process of prayer in the presence of God—the creator and source of our true selves and our greatest champion, and thus the path and facilitator of healing. To seek healing and union with the true self and the Divine is to pray, and through the releasing of our thoughts, emotions, desires, uncertainties, and fears to God we release our attachment to what arises and instead surrender to the Divine’s healing balm.
Whether practiced throughout the day as emotions arrive or at the end of a day or a season as we look back at all that has passed and what still lingers, Welcoming Prayer has the power to deepen our relationship with God as we invite the Sacred into every corner of our being and seek the transformation that is revealed by the Light.
HOW TO PRACTICE WELCOMING PRAYER
Find a comfortable seat in a quiet, secluded place that is conducive to prayer and decide how long you would like to practice. You can either set a timeframe for your practice (20 minutes is common for contemplative prayer) or simply follow the Sacred Guide’s lead. My favorite time-keeping tool to use in these situations is the Insight Timer app—something you’ll likely use again and again over the next many weeks. You might also find this practice is better suited for “back pocket” use—a tool to pull out during the day when you feel distracted or overwhelmed to help you return to your true self and the presence of God. However you choose to practice, be sure to move at a contemplative pace to experience the riches the practice has to give.
- Focus on the thoughts and emotions that are rising up within, acknowledging their presence and sinking into their feeling in your body.
- Welcome God to the head of the table, and then welcome each thought or emotion in turn.
- Let go in the presence of the Divine by closing with the prayer written by Mary Mrozowski, below, or by simply assuming a posture of surrender or breathing a deep breath of release.
I let go of my desire for security and survival.
I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire to change the situation.
Note: Feel free to use the entire prayer, just a portion, or your own version that most resonates with you. Here’s another great one from Mary’s colleague, Father Thomas Keating.
New! Limited edition Iona wearable prayer beads
“Whatever wakes my heart and mind, thy presence is, my Lord.” -George MacDonald
This limited edition set of wearable prayer beads was created for my upcoming pilgrimage and is inspired by the Holy Isle of Iona and its Celtic Christian traditions. Only available during Lent 2017! Visit the Journey Shop »