‘Somehow everything else just fell into place’ – motherhood & a week of guided prayer

POST BY SBishop

Credit Pixabay
Credit Pixabay

I was instantly attracted to the week of guided prayer advertised in the parish newsletter because of its description and emphasis on ‘daily life’.  Having recently become a mother for the first time, my life and its daily rhythm have changed dramatically. During the first months of my daughter’s life, she rarely allowed me to put her down at all, let alone maintain my previous routine of quiet prayer and reflection. Amongst all the preparation for our new baby, my husband and I had rather naively failed to consider the practical considerations of our prayer life as a family of three. When signing up to the retreat, I was struggling to find time for prayer as I had known it previously. However, thankful for the greatest gift of our daughter and with a renewed awe for the beauty of creation, I had a strong desire to reactivate my prayer life as a mother and alongside my four-month-old daughter.

The opening meeting of the retreat, on the Sunday afternoon, was one of the very few times that I had ever left my daughter. The timings of this meeting, as well as the evening workshops enabled me the space and time for personal reflection and stillness. Furthermore, the flexibility of my prayer guide, whom initially seemed somewhat sceptical at the mention of my daughter attending the daily meetings, also helped me to truly develop a new approach to prayer within my daily life, which is of course, with my little girl, the very reason for seeking to participate in the retreat.

I found the calmness, thoughtfulness and knowledge of my prayer guide very helpful. Initially, I had been rather nervous of meeting one to one with a prayer guide, having never done so previously and I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, meeting each morning provided a daily rhythm to the retreat and encouraged me to resume daily prayer, to make it a priority and to reflect upon it. I found my guide approachable and supportive, making suggestions for approaches to prayer and suggestions of scripture.
With the support of my guide and evening workshop I discovered alternative ways of praying within the Ignatian tradition that I hadn’t before considered or attempted.  For example, the use of visualisation when praying with scripture, as well as the guidance to use my thirty minutes of daily prayer with scripture, as only a starting point for continued prayer and reflection throughout the day.  I was advised that when taking a walk, to consider it as a ‘prayer walk’ noticing the wonders of God and considering the words which struck me from the scripture previously prayed with when doing so, always attempting to discern God’s meaning.  

My prayer guide also helped me by posing a number of questions such as, How does God see you? How did it make God feel? What did God notice when you prayed? Does God always ask you to take the hardest path? Such questions encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach to prayer, to consider God’s view and to consider with greater depth the theme of discernment. The evening workshop on this theme was certainly a highlight of the retreat.

I certainly received from the retreat what I had been hoping for, the support to reignite prayer within my new daily life. However, I received more than this, a new awareness of Ignatian spirituality and a desire to find out more, knowledge of and opportunities to practise alternative ways and means of praying, a clearer understanding and desire for discernment and to discover ‘what makes...[me] feel fully alive?’ another question posed by my guide and,  now, at the centre of much of my prayer. I also realised throughout the week, when reflecting on my prayer, how little I had previously sought to consider what I am grateful for and shown God this gratitude within my prayer. The teaching of the examen prayer was, in this regard, another highlight and especially important to me throughout the week. It continues to be a practice that I am developing within my daily prayer.

Finally, to continue the theme of gratitude, I am immensely grateful for the week of guided prayer. The retreat was a supportive and positive experience. It was an opportunity to reactive my prayer life and the ease with which I was able to find time for prayer, despite my busy daily life, surprised and comforted me. I am also thankful for the opportunity to meet other members of the parish and to share in the experience with them. One such parishioner with whom I spoke in our final meeting said, ‘somehow everything else just fell into place’ and I agree. However, finding time to pray and participate in the retreat in daily life wasn’t always easy. There were moments of frustration, completing thirty minutes of focused prayer was often difficult and trying new methods of prayer such as visualisation took and are taking more practice.

However, I was comforted greatly by the words of the retreat leader and prayer guide who both suggested that just turning up on a cold January evening and intending and attempting to pray is as much as a prayer and gift to God, as the prayer itself. As a result I am not only still learning to pray and to be better at recognising and showing gratitude, but to be gentler with myself and my approach to prayer. The retreat has helped me to understand that there is not one way or a right way. In comparison to other retreats, this retreat has resonated deeply as it has enabled me to know with confidence that it is truly possible to maintain a fruitful life of prayer within my daily life.

Rebecca Bennett
11/2/17