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Friday reflections – Living in the now

Writer Sheila Jacobs shares the lessons she has learned from Ignatian prayer

Recently I was thinking about my grandma. As I child, I knew there was something ‘different’ about her. She really loved Jesus. And in her later days, she was a real prayer warrior. I’m pretty sure I became a believer because she prayed for me. But she hadn’t had an easy life.

I remember her telling me about her own mother, who died in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. My great-grandmother was pregnant – the baby, a little boy, was lost too. My great-grandfather died two years later, possibly from the after-effects of the ‘Great War’, leaving my granny and her siblings as orphans. Grandma’s subsequent choices obviously affected me – who she married, why she married. Consequently, that pandemic had a very real effect on my family.

And of course, this pandemic is having a very real effect on all of us, now. The choices we make today will affect our tomorrows, and those of the people we love.

I tend to live anywhere but ‘now’. During lockdown and a time that is still quite isolating, I’ve thought a lot about how decisions I’ve made have brought me to where I’m at right now. I’m an editor. Frankly, I’d love to edit my past. But, irritatingly, it’s unchangeable. And if I switch my focus to tomorrow – well, there I find unknown territory. I waste so much time in both places, past and future, forgetting that I meet God in the now, the present.

Of course, that’s easy to say. My prayer life can be erratic, to be honest. There are days when I can ‘rest in God’ and there are days when life is hectic and by the time I fall into bed it’s: ‘Dear God, thank you for… Did I turn the light off in the kitchen? Back in a minute, God… Dear God, thanks for – oh, I need to pray for… zzzz.’ I need to focus.

That’s why it’s good to have some structure. I’m not going to say I always manage this, but the Examen, the Ignatian form of prayer, has helped me enormously at the end of the day. Here’s my version of it:

THANKS: Think of things (and people!) we’re grateful for, especially that day.

INVITING: Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything he wants to about the day.

RENEWING: Think over the day. When did we feel close to God? When did we feel far from him? What happened that was good? Were there any times where we felt uneasy, uncomfortable, unhappy? Avoid judging or condemning. Be objective.

SORRY: Are there any areas of the day where we know we messed up? Now’s the time to apologise to God (and make a mental note to say sorry to others too). Is there anyone we need to forgive? Receive God’s forgiveness. Jesus died for you. For them.

ASK: Ask the Holy Spirit to refresh and renew us. Imagine standing under a waterfall, a jug of pouring water, plunging into a river. Receive.

I find this works best when I’m not hurried. The more I get into it, the less hurried I feel. I guess it’s about being, not doing.

A while back, I asked Jesus what he wanted me to do. I felt he challenged me: ‘What did I do?’

I replied, ‘You spent a lot of time with your Father and you didn’t have your own agenda.’

‘Go and do likewise,’ he said.

I’m not there yet. But I want to be.

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