Weeks of Guided Prayer
Weeks of Guided Prayer (WGPs) have been adapted from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. The complete exercises would normally takes 30 days away in a retreat house, or they can be done over a period of 12 months or so, under direction, in daily life. This latter form is known as the 19th Annotation.
WGPs offer a means of experiencing something of the exercises for those who are not able to undertake the full 30 days.
As a group we come together at the beginning of the week, our minds, are often preoccupied with all that is going on in our lives, with what we have left behind at home or at work, maybe even, with some anxiety about what the week will entail for us.
The week can be a bit like the disciples on their walk to Emmaus, they are downcast by what has happened and have failed to understand the message of Jesus. Jesus is inviting them to allow him to accompany them during their journey through the Week so that they might be enabled to let go of their preoccupations and come to recognize his presence with them in all the familiar circumstances of their daily lives. Father William Barry, Jesuit, says in a commentary on the spiritual exercises, “whether we are aware of it or not, at every moment of our existence we are encountering God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is trying to catch our attention, trying to draw us into a reciprocal, conscious relationship with Himself.”
What will be asked of us during this week? We will need to set aside a time for prayer each day, probably the most important part of the Week. There will be a daily meeting with the prayer-guide/prayer companion, who is there ti listen and help us to see and hear the how God is working in our daily lives. The amount of time for prayer each day will depend on the individual, however a half an our is considered a reasonable amount of time. This can be discussed with the prayer-guide.
There’s no right or wrong way to pray – ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’. We come to God as we are not as we would like to be. Participants in the week will be given guidance in various ways of prayer, particularly in imaginative contemplation of the Scriptures (an Ignatian method) and in ‘lectio divina’, an ancient method of prayer still widely used today.
The other main requirement is to meet with the prayer-guide/companion for between half an hour and an hour each day at a mutually convenient time. This is to report back on what happened during the time of prayer. It is not a soul-baring exercise, nor is it intended to be threatening in any way. Participants only share with their guide what they feel comfortable about sharing. Everything shared with the guide is strictly confidential.
Approaching the week with an openness of mind and a willingness to be surprised by the ‘God of Surprises’ is really important. An air of expectancy about the Week is encouraged and to try not to have too many preconceived ideas about what might or might not happen as this may block us from recognizing the presence of the Lord with us as did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
It is important to approach the Week with an attitude of grateful acceptance of whatever God wishes to give us, or shows us, or wherever he wants to lead us so that we may be enabled more and more to ‘find God in all things’.
It is also possible for Weeks of Guided Prayer to be adapted according to need, e.g. meeting your guide weekly rather than daily.