Adoration: Coming to God as We Are
One of the barriers to the prayer of adoration or of contemplation is an inability to face up to ourselves, our pain or our anxiety. The following could be used with a group in an attempt to help people learn that it is safe to come to God as they are and that S/He can cope with them and all our feelings.
The exercise includes a period of silent prayer, and it is helpful if the meeting is held in a place where people can have some freedom, e.g. going into church or a quiet room, for a walk. It is important that the leader and at least one other are available to be consulted if needed during the quiet time.
- Begin by writing the word GOD on a large sheet of paper. Ask the group to think for a few minutes in silence, and jot down the words that come into their minds when they think about God. Then ask them to share their thoughts in pairs for five minutes or so. Next ask the group to read out the words and write them up on the large sheet of paper and allow some time to discuss these images and epithets of God.
- Then write ME on another large piece of paper, following the procedure as above, but emphasising that when it comes to sharing and discussion no-one should feel pressured to reveal anything they do not feel comfortable to share, though they may find it helpful to jot it down for their own use.
- There now follows a discussion on the contrast between the two sets of words. How did the group members feel about this contrast? Did they feel unworthy or inadequate in God's presence? Was this a barrier to prayer? Were they afraid of coming to God? Were they fearful of the pain, anguish, anger, etc they might experience in silence? The ultimate purpose of this discussion is to encourage members of the group to lay hold of the belief that God accepts them as they are; that in the incarnation God showed confidence in human beings despite their frailty. There is a wealth of Biblical material and wisdom from the Christian tradition and personal experience that the leader can feed in from his or her own 'treasures'.
- If the 'God words' emphasise transcendence and righteousness, it will be important to balance them with concepts of immanence (the closeness of God), of 'Abba', Father, of 'loving-kindness', of acceptance and confidence, of the feminine in God.
- After the discussion, encourage group members to go and pray for about 20 minutes, bringing what lay behind their ME words into God's presence with the trust that they are accepted as they are. Encourage them to do this where and how they like. Discourage them, however, from reading (except perhaps, the Bible) but suggest they do not try to force things if they find them too difficult or too long. It is helpful if the leader and perhaps another person are available to talk to if necessary.
- The session ends with a discussion on how people got on and on how this way of praying might be helpful in other areas of life (e.g. self-acceptance, enabling acceptance of others).
It is important to give the exercise a light and natural touch. It should not be a time of self-agonising but rather one of confident self-acceptance. Humour helps, as well as the realisation that the leader has 'been there before'.