Our first task in approaching
is to take off our shoes
for the place we are
approaching is holy.
Else we may find ourselves
treading on another’s dream.
More seriously still, we may forget…
was there before our arrival.
Max Warren, General Secretary Church Missionary Society 1942-1963
The key is whether or not we ‘trust the process’ (i.e. trust the Holy Spirit). If we seek to convert, evangelise, solve problems, or guide, we are taking God’s place. None of these activities have a place in a Week of Accompanied Prayer.
So love, listen, help the pilgrim review his/her experience. In this way you free the pilgrim’s own wisdom to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that (s)he can be led to exactly where (s)he needs to be.
“We have hope and expectation, not expectations.”
(John Govan, SJ)
Meeting your pilgrims at the opening session
· Reassure, affirm
· Ask how they’re feeling
· Remind them about the value of finding a place, time and space for their prayer. Don’t demand that they change an already established routine.
· Arrange the times you will meet on each day.
· Offer a passage of scripture for tomorrow’s prayer time (perhaps staying with the passage used in the opening session)
The First Individual Interview
· Put them at their ease. They may well be nervous. Focus on them. Mention confidentiality.
· Be as relaxed as you can, but explore areas such as:
· How they feel about this daily meeting;
· What they hope for from the Week;
· How did they find the guided meditation on Sunday evening?
(But note: it is best to avoid technical language like ‘meditation’ or even ‘prayer’ – which will often be thought of as ‘saying prayers’ – at least until you have clarified meanings with them.)
· Subject to the above note re technical language, explore how they normally pray.
· Talk about the method of using scripture – especially if you are giving a passage which requires a ‘lectio divina’ type of approach which they have not yet experienced.
· Stress the need for relaxation and gradual entry into the period, and for closing with a conversation with Jesus/God followed by a formal prayer (Our Father?) and a slow exit.
· Emphasise the importance of the review of the period spent pondering scripture – noticing what happened, what feelings were experienced – the value of making a few notes.
· The most important thing at the first interview is to affirm the pilgrim and his/her experience of God.
Other Interviews with Pilgrims
· Keep them on the track of their own experience – what is God saying to them?
· Listen for consolation/desolation. Use repetition where appropriate – always go first to areas where consolation was experienced, if possible.
· If nothing much is happening, explore:
· Are they entering the period of pondering slowly and relaxed?
· What is going on in the rest of their lives?
· When and where do they pray? -no quiet place? too tired?
· Are they giving God time to talk?
· If the method presents a problem, do a guided meditation with them.
· Is their ‘failure’ simply the inability to “see pictures’? Discuss imagination with them.
· Use handouts where thy will be helpful – but don’t overload and be careful that the handout is not just one more thing to study.
· The Review of the Day is an immensely valuable form of prayer for everyone. It may be appropriate to give the handout and talk about it at any point during the Week -as a supplement to scripture or instead of it. But don’t overload – those who don’t get it during the week will get it on the last evening.
At the Last Interview:
· Help them prepare to leave the Week and you – talk of possible “let down’ or grief.
· Give them a final scripture passage.
· Remind them of the closing meeting.
The Supervision Process
Key questions useful to reflect on before supervision meeting:
· What did you hear? (key facts, not all the detail).
· What did you feel, how did you react interiorly?
· What did you discern as the Pilgrim’s spiritual concerns, needs, grace?
· How did you respond?
And two other questions which it may not be possible to discuss in supervision because of lack of time, but which can be a valuable basis for reflection to help you become an even better Hearer:
· What were your strengths, weaknesses in this session? What were you grateful for?
· If you have made the Spiritual Exercises – what part of the Exercises came into play during this session?
Nothing that is shared with you during an interview must be told to anyone else – except one to one with your supervisor. It is essential that Pilgrims feel confident of this if they are to be able to share freely. In group supervision only your own feelings and attitudes should be discussed or – where appropriate – a generalised question that does not reveal what is happening to a Pilgrim, eg ‘How do I help someone get in touch with feelings?’
Many people taking part in Weeks of Accompanied Prayer discover the possibility of praying with Scripture in a very personal way which is different to studying it or using others’ interpretations (both of which have their place). This list of Scripture passages is simply a handy reference for Companions. The list follows the dynamic of Christ’s life (and The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius) but we are not suggesting every section should be used. It is not at all unusual for a pilgrim to spend the Week on only one or two passages or other meditations allowing plenty of time for deepening the experience (repetitions).
As Companions we need to be entirely open to the many ways in which God prays in the variety of people we accompany. Whilst the Weeks affirm and expand ways of being with the story of Scripture we are constantly reminded that God ‘speaks’ in many ways and in all aspects of our human experience, e.g., through nature, music, poetry, art and many other symbolic forms.
Too many pre-conceived ideas about giving ‘Prayer Methods’ can easily become a form of security for the Companion. Sometimes this can mask the possibility of life giving touches (God touches) the pilgrim feels e.g., in a slower walk to work, a long bath, the lines of a hymn, playing with pastels, or gardening with all the senses alive.
The Review of the Day is a key way of tuning in to where and how the pilgrim is being drawn in response to a loving God, whatever the content, length and form of the set prayer time. Quite often pilgrims need affirming in the kind of relationship with God which is helping them in the present. As Companions, we need to discern with them a focus and a way of praying which meets their desire and enables them to be more open and responsive to a God who meets us through all our faculties and in all experience.
The scope of approaches to prayer which are helpful to people is far broader than praying with scripture passages. Some pilgrims find that using suggestions from e.g., ‘Creative use of Imagery and Symbol’ and ‘Using Art in Prayer’ revitalises them and their relationship with God or unblocks ‘dutiful’ prayer and takes them back to the story of Scripture with deeper more meaningful engagement.
The encounter is the thing! How is the Creator God inviting us to become more fully human however we find ourselves reflecting on our story at this time in our lives?
Ezekiel 36:25-29 I shall pour clean water over you
Intimacy with Christ
Links to all the resources – suggestions for how to use them